The National Herald - July 10-11, 1999

Speculation Is Rife on Who Will Replace Archbishop Spyridon


By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald

BOSTON. - A torrent of reports in the Greek press based on anonymous sources, said on Thursday that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to remove Archbishop Spyridon of America and replace him with Archbishop Stylianos of Australia. An unscheduled visit by Stylianos to the Patriarchate on Monday and Tuesday poured more fuel on the fire of speculation.

Meanwhile, faced with rapidly unfolding events and sensing that they might once again be cut off from the process of succession, the five Metropolitans of the Eparchial Synod of America asked the Phanar to accept a three-member delegation from their ranks, who will discuss the issue with the Church leadership in Constantinople.

Sources within the church and at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs cautioned, however, that talk about Stylianos becoming the next Archbishop of America, is anything but definitive and that the motivations of behind the leaks are still undetermined. They also said that the selection of Metropolitan Demetrios of Vresthena is still a possibility. Last week Demetrios was called to the Phanar for consultations, while Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong was reportedly in Constantinople as well.

What is considered almost certain is that the Patriarchate has decided to remove Archbishop Spyridon from America.

With the Phanar refusing to either quash the rampant speculation or clarify its intentions, Archbishop Spyridon's attempts to continue to execute his regular duties in the last few weeks have been surrounded with an air of futility. Nevertheless, Spyridon, who over the years has clashed with important members of the laity, and whose relations with both his fellow American hierarchs and a majority of the priests are anywhere from frayed to non-existent, has tried to rally his supporters in order to avert his removal.

A number of anonymous letters attacking Patriarch Bartholomaios in both Greek and English were distributed to parishes across the country in support of Archbishop Spyridon and the recently resigned chancellor Rev. George Passias.

The letters indirectly accused the Patriarch of accepting large amounts of money in order to remove Fr. Passias and Archbishop Spyridon. In the letters were included the fax numbers of several Athenian newspapers urging recipients to send letters to the editor in support of the Archbishop. The letters were also placed as advertisements in publications thought to be supportive of Spyridon as well as on the web page of the "Greek Orthodox Stewards" organization which was established a few months ago by an appointee of Archbishop Spyridon to the Board of Trustees of the Theological School.

The campaign was discontinued after the Patriarchate apparently expressed its displeasure in no uncertain terms, sources told The National Herald.

Other doses of support came from the Archdiocesan District Clergy-Laity conference in New York in late June. A resolution by the conference called for the "Archbishop to remain steadfast in his ministry here in America and to continue to defend the Holy Scriptures, Holy Tradition, and the Holy Canons of the Archdiocese as he has done so tirelessly since his enthronement."

Lee Rallis, the outgoing Supreme President of the Order of AHEPA, along with Chris Tomaras, president of SAE of North and South America Chris Tomaras, and Theodore. Spyropoulos, president of the Hellenic American National Council, also expressed support for the Archbishop along with their desire to see him remain in his post.

Finally, SCOBA, the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops of America, also came to its chairman's rescue by adopting a resolution put forth by Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Church: "It is regrettable that some laymen, influenced by the politics of their corporate board rooms, have brought to the Church and to His eminence Archbishop Spyridon, our Chairman of SCOBA, a secular and unecclesial mindset," the resolution said.

In addition, Archbishop Spyridon, who has been trying hard to placate the many constituencies of the church has been touting the recent report by a commission on the state of Greek education in America —the so-called Rassias report— as proof of his vision for the preservation of his culture in America. He also convened a Washington meeting of HALO (Hellenic American Leaders and Organizations) which discussed methods of promoting Greek American concerns in Washington. Both actions earned him some favorable mention in the Athenian press.

Meanwhile, the Greek government, which is very concerned about the cracks that have developed in the unity of the Greek American community due to the ecclesiastical problem, is equally weary of Archbishop Stylianos, who has had a stormy term in Australia.

Stylianos' implacable opposition to the recognition by the Greek state of the mysteries and rituals of the Old Calendrist Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, has repeatedly entered into embarassing clashes with Greek diplomats and even with the President of the Greek Parliament. As a consequence, he has also generated a lot of opposition among the large Greek community in Australia.

His relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate has also been tense in the last two years mainly because of his protests regarding a Synaxis (gathering) of the Orthodox hierarchy convened by Patriarch Bartholomaios. Stylianos had insisted that the Synaxis should have assumed the form of a Synod: As a result of Stylianos' protests, the Patriarch did not invite the Australian prelate to the Synaxis last August.

Archbishop Stylianos, who is considered a prominent theologian and dabbles in poetry-writing, in head of the Orthodox commission that participates in the Theological Dialogue between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

[ The National Herald - July 10-11, 1999 - pp. 1-2 ]