ERA 5 - January 13, 1999

Phanar Meeting Ends in Compromise

Patriarch Supports Spyridon

By Justine Frangouli

The last act of the Archdiocese crisis, played out yesterday in a five-hour meeting of the US Hierarchy with the Patriarchate Holy Synod and Patriarch Bartholomew in the chair, ended in compromise.

In fact, according to the Synod's press release, no powers were conceded to the five Metropolitans in the end. Nevertheless, the synodical institution is to be restored and re-activated in America, i.e. the Archbishop will see to that the Eparchial Synod is regularly convened over issues of major importance for the Archdiocese of America.

The Archbishop who took his stand on the letter of the Archdiocese Charter in essence won the day. A committee will now be set up to interpret and examine unclear points of the 1977 Charter currently under review. Furthermore, it was decided that the individual differences the five Metropolitans have with the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America should be discussed in detail at the next session of the Eparchial Synod on January 25.

It is worth noting that the attack launched by the five Metropolitans on Archbishop Spyridon was extremely vehement. In their joint 22 page "indictment" the Metropolitans were very critical not only of the actions but also of the person of the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. On the other hand, the Archbishop did not consent that his own report on the activities of the Metropolitans be read out publicly.

The five Metropolitans had asked for Spyridon's head on a plate, but the Patriarch, counting the cost of the Archbishop's eventual removal, stated in the end that the issue of replacing him does not arise and that he stands in support of Spyridon. Naturally, in a gesture of reconciliation between both sides, Patriarch Bartholomew urged both the Archbishop and the Metropolitans to learn to work together constructively and to serve as a good example to the laity.

The Holy Synod, moreover, decided that the three vacant US dioceses should be filled as soon as possible through the consecration of three bishops, while the Archdiocese Charter's revision should also be a matter of urgency.

In the evening, again in a spirit of reconciliation, the Patriarch of Constantinople offered an official dinner in honor of the US Hierarchy and the journalists covering the meeting. Also present at the dinner were Metropolitan Ioakeim of Chalcedon and other hierarchs of the Throne.

A victory for compromise

In the last analysis, there are no victors from the confrontation at the Phanar. The victory went to compromise. As far as perceptions go, all sides were losers:

The Patriarch and the Synod, because they were forced to resort to arbitration as they proved unable to effectively handle the crisis in America from the Phanar, a crisis which would never have broken out if matters had been handled by the Patriarchate in a more direct and timely manner.

Archbishop Spyridon, because he has been forced to re-activate the Eparchial Synod and to take into account the Metropolitans' views on major issues, while at the same time he must proceed with the revision of the Archdiocese Charter.

The five metropolitans, because they failed to achieve the removal of Spyridon, to have their dioceses elevated to metropolitanates and to have a whole list of other demands satisfied.

Finally, this last act of compromise was a victory for the logic of equilibriums.

[ Translated from Greek ]

[ ΕΡΑ - - January 13, 1999 ]