Athens News - February 10, 1999

Spyridon: Critics target Hellenism, Patriarchate

ON HIS first official visit to Greece, Archbishop Spyridon of America arrived in Athens yesterday to begin a week of meetings with the country's top political and religious leaders.

Spyridon, head of the United States' almost two million Greek Orthodox Christians, was received at Athens airport at midday yesterday by a high-level delegation including Deputy Minister of Education and Religion Yiannis Anthopoulos as well as representatives of the Church of Greece and the Greek Pentagon, before a cordial meeting with Archbishop Christodoulos.

In the afternoon, Spyridon delivered an address to the parliamentary committee on Orthodoxy entitled Greek Orthodoxy in America Today, which outlined the accomplishments of and challenges confronting the Ecumenical Patriarchate's largest and most affluent eparchy.

The speech directly confronted the issue of lay opposition to his two-year tenure, most notably by an activist lay group calling itself Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL) that has persistently called for his resignation over what it considers his "autocratic" administrative style.

He accused his critics of "deliberate and studied negativity" aiming at "checking or disorienting the ascending path of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese". His opponents, he said, were battling against the "unshakable connection between Orthodoxy and Hellenism and between the archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate", suggesting that his critics sought the American church's separation from its Greek roots and from its spiritual authority, the patriarchate.

Spyridon identified Orthodoxy as the "the strongest force within America's Greek community". "This is the main news. Orthodoxy has become established in America as the fourth [largest] church and is constantly moving forward," he said, adding that the highest possible honours bestowed on Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos by both US President Bill Clinton and the Congress underlined the universal respect accorded to Orthodoxy.

Emphasising Orthodoxy's "leadership role", Spyridon spoke of the need to upgrade the teaching of both Orthodox religion and the Greek language. He also touched on the successful bridging of divisions with Old Calendarists, developing closer ties with other ethnic Orthodox jurisdictions and the archdiocese's missionary successes during his tenure.

[ Athens News -[...] - February 10, 1999 ]