Archbishop Spyridon's Opening Statement
at the Press Conference of January 8, 1999
( Archdiocesan Headquarters - New York )
Good morning to all of you and thank you for coming.
I have called this Press Conference this morning to both announce some very good news for the Holy Archdiocese of America, and a new initiative that I believe will be important for the cause of religious freedom and human rights everywhere.
First as to the news of the Archdiocese. This year, through the efforts and the generosity of the good people of our Holy Archdiocese, the Stewardship offerings for the past year have again exceeded all expectations.
I am very proud to announce that for the third straight year, a new high was set in revenues received in support of the National Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The Department of Stewardship Ministries reported a revenue of approximately $8.87 million for the year 1998, shattering the old record set just a year ago by approximately $400,000.
Now I am sure that no one of us would measure the generosity of a person or a Church community by the amount they might give. I need not remind us all of the Lord's commendation of the widow's two copper pennies. But I do think that it is a sign of the robust health and vigor of our Church communities, that their support of the National Ministries of the Archdiocese is increasing year by year.
In making this announcement and thanking the communities across the great expanse of the Archdiocese, I would also like to thank the Very Rev. Archimandrite Gabriel Karambis, the Executive Director of the National Ministries and the Director of Stewardship Ministry, for his untiring efforts and the labors of love that his staff here at the Archdiocese have made. They continue to build on the firm foundations that they inherited from the ministry of my revered predecessor, Archbishop Iakovos, and they exemplify the very best in commitment to the Archdiocese.
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Secondly, I should like to take this opportunity to announce a major development in the life of the Endowment Fund for the Archdiocese, the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership One Hundred program.
As many of may know, this fund, established in 1984, has grown from its earliest goal of achieving ten million dollars to nearly forty million dollars today. For the past fifteen years, there has been an effort on the part of participants in the fund, to establish the fund as a separate ancillary corporation to the Archdiocese. Inasmuch as the fund did not begin this way, there have been some hurdles that needed to be overcome.
Shortly after I first arrived in the United States as Archbishop, I made a pledge to Leadership 100 that I would assist them in fulfilling this mission, and establish the fund as a separate corporation.
I am pleased and very gratified to be able to announce today, that this week, the transfer of the Fund from the accounts of the Archdiocese to the new Archbishop Iakovos Leadership One Hundred Endowment Fund Incorporated has taken place. The complete custody of the Fund and its administrative authority has been transferred to the new Board of Trustees of the new corporation. As had been previously agreed, the Board of Trustees of the fund as it was previously constituted will function as the first Board of Trustees of the new corporation, at least until their first annual meeting scheduled in April.
I am happy to report that the Endowment Fund, which is specifically for the seeding and promoting of initiatives and programs of the National Ministries of the Archdiocese, is in the same committed hands which have so wisely guided it through the past years. I should like to thank the chairman of the Fund, Mr. George Kokalis, the Board of Trustees of Leadership 100, the Executive Committee, and all the participants of this vital ministry in the life of the Church.
I should also like to make special mention of Mr. Michael Jaharis, whom I asked to be here with me today, but could not due to a prior engagement, for his tireless efforts to make this dream of Leadership 100 a reality.
The whole Archdiocese of America looks forward with eager expectation to the new initiatives and activities of Leadership 100 in the future, as they take their rightful place among the many national institutions of the Archdiocese.
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Finally, I should like to take this opportunity with you today to speak about something very dear to my heart. As you all know, I am a proud graduate of the beloved and venerable Patriarchal Theological School of Halki. I have not hesitated to speak out on behalf of its re-opening, of its right to exist, and the importance of its continuing its mission.
Now is the time to engage the resources that lie within our great American society to come to the forefront on behalf of the cause of Halki. We need to bring this righteous and just cause to the attention of the religious and academic community in a new and invigorated way. We need to engage our own Orthodox family, the ecumenical community, the inter-faith community, the associations of fellow theological schools, and the general conscience of our society at large.
Even our own Greek Orthodox people may not have the awareness that is commensurate with the need. But they are a freedom-loving and pious people, and I know that as we continue to bring the just cause of Halki to their attention, they will respond by making their fellow citizens aware, in whatever capacity that may be appropriate.
As I have traveled and spoken out on behalf of Halki, and spoken with fellow graduates and people of good will who are concerned about issues of religious freedom and human rights, I have found that there is a need for there to be a means -a vehicle, if you will, by which the cause of Halki can be advanced more and more in our society, and in the best possible way.
For precisely this reason, I am announcing my intention to seek the establishment of an independent foundation in the United States, to advance the cause of the re-opening and the continued operation of the Patriarchal Theological School of Halki. The mission of such a foundation would be to raise the social and academic consciousness of the world to the cause of Halki, and to work for the day when this vital institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will once again be able to serve the needs of the international Orthodox community.
I have spoken before of the history of this institution, the generations of Hierarchs, clergy, theologians and scholars who have passed through its august halls. The foundation would be dedicated to ensuring that this history continue.
As I prepare to move this process forward, I have sought the wise counsel of one of the most senior priests of our beloved Archdiocese, and a good friend, the Rev. Protopresbyter Basil Gregory. Father Basil has graciously agreed to advise me through the first planning and organizational steps.
In addition, I intend to call upon three very special alumni of the School: my revered predecessor, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, my brother bishop on the Synod His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos, and my brother Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, to be among the first to sit on the Board of this foundation.
I also invited two leaders of national institutions of our Church: Mrs. Eve Condakes, the President of the National Philoptochos, and Dr. Anthony Limberakis, Commander of the Order of St. Andrew - the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who have assured me of their support for such an enterprise.
Please allow me a few more moments to describe for you why I believe that this foundation is so important, particularly at this moment in history.
Halki has been closed now for nearly twenty years. Those same twenty years have witnessed dramatic changes in the way our world shares information. Halki is a veritable treasure-house of Orthodoxy, a treasure house that needs to be made available to the world. The possibilities for the cause of inter-faith and ecumenical advancement, through this unique institution poised at the crossroads of East and West, are limitless. Halki, even though it shares its name with the island upon which it stands, is an island no more.
It is my deepest prayer that this foundation may advance the possibilities for this venerable institution of the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople. I look forward to being able to bring you good news on our progress in the days ahead.
Now, as I am aware that you may have some questions for me, I will try to answer some of them, as my schedule allows. Thank you for coming.