The National Herald - July 10-11, 1999


Unfortunate summer rituals

Changes at the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of America are in danger of becoming a periodic summer ritual. It was three years ago that the Ecumenical Patriarchate surprised most (but not the Herald which broke the story days in advance) with the election of the then Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy to head the Archdiocese of America. Our persistent inquiries with the Phanar prior to that election met with silence punctuated by the persistent refrain that Greek Americans "should not worry" and that "the mother Church would act in the best interests of the Church in America."

We had no reason to doubt those statements at the time, although we were mystified by the fact that the Patriarchate had not settled on a successor to Archbishop Iakovos days before the latter was preparing to depart and an entire year after he had announced his resignation. Indeed, the selection of the new Archbishop was shrouded in such secrecy that it resembled a conspiracy. The Greek American community was, unfortunately, completely cut off from the process. And the Phanar's choice, as the rush to replace Archbishop Spyridon now makes clear, was a mistake.

Yet, these days, we see the process repeated down to almost the smallest detail, as if no experience was gained in the interim. Secretiveness and the idea that those thousands of miles away know what is good for us, Greek Americans, better than we do ourselves, are again the order of the day. The only difference is that, this time, they will at least notify the Greek government, which is keenly interested — and rightly so — on major matters affecting the Greek diaspora, (and which, let it be noted, tried unsuccessfully to forestall the appointment of Spyridon back in 1996). The Phanar then, is behaving as if it has learned nothing from its misadventure with Archbishop Spyridon, as if the unfortunate Spyridon never existed. Meanwhile, the time left for proper decisions is running out fast.

We use the term "unfortunate" to characterize Archbishop Spyridon on purpose. This newspaper often criticized the Archbishop not out of personal animus but rather out of a sense of respect for its history and of responsibility toward its readership, the Greek American community. In fact we sympathize with the Archbishop's personal plight since his is the case of a man whose duty is beyond his powers to discharge of properly. In other words, he, too, along with our community, fell victim to the insecurity and the inability of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to live up to the role it insists on reserving for itself.

[ The National Herald  -  July 10-11, 1999 - p. 8 ]