Voithia - January 21, 1999

Spyridon Unleashes New Attacks Against Clergy

Demotes NY Cathedral Dean and Threatens NJ Priests

By Dr. George Stevens, Voithia Managing Editor

Unleashing a new wave of attacks against his critics, embattled Archbishop Spyridon of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has demoted the Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York City and threatened two New Jersey priests.

Spyridon's action against the Cathedral Dean, Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos, came by way of a letter today from his Chancellor informing Stephanopoulos that he had been "relieved of all administrative and liturgical responsibilities" at the Cathedral. This new action was apparently in retaliation for Stephanopoulos having recently signed a letter, along with over 100 other leading priests of the Archdiocese, publicly criticizing Spyridon. In place of Stephanopoulos, Spyridon named Archimandrite Fr. Gabriel Karambis to head the Cathedral.

The effect of Stephanopoulos being relieved of his liturgical responsibilities is that he is no longer responsible for celebrating the Divine Liturgy, but instead is to serve as Karambis' assistant. Stephanopoulos is the father of George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton White House advisor who is now a popular national television commentator.

The two New Jersey priests, Fr. James Moulketis of Wyecoff and Fr. Demetrios Antokas of Westfield, had also signed the letter criticizing Spyridon. Spyridon acted against them before a Vesper service this past Sunday in Paramus, NJ.

Spyridon told the two priests they could not vest to serve with him at the Vespers unless they apologized to him in writing for signing the letter. He went on to threaten them that if they did not tell him who had contacted them and asked them to sign the letter, he would remove his antiminsion from them and not let them serve in the Archdiocese.

An antiminsion is a liturgical cloth given to a priest by his ordaining bishop, which bears the name of the ordaining bishop. A priest cannot celebrate a liturgy without an antiminsion. Although Spyridon did not ordain the two New Jersey priests, last year he recalled the original liturgical cloths from the priests in his district and issued them new ones bearing his own name.

Spyridon appears emboldened by being sent back to America from Istanbul last week by Patriarch Bartholomew, with his backing. He has been telling the clergy he is threatening that Bartholomew has given him permission to "discipline" them for speaking out.

Bartholomew had summoned Spyridon and the five Metropolitans of the Holy Synod of the American Archdiocese to Istanbul, ostensibly to give the Metropolitans a chance to present their case against Spyridon. The Metropolitans went armed with a lengthy report demanding Spyridon's removal.

However, Bartholomew "double-crossed" them by holding a meeting of his own synod, and deciding to send Spyridon back to America, before the U.S. Metropolitans even arrived in Istanbul. After they arrived, Bartholomew reportedly told the U.S. Metropolitans that "he [Spyridon] will be your Archbishop until the day he dies."

Bartholomew named Spyridon as his Archbishop in America in 1996, after he unexpectedly announced the resignation of revered former Archbishop Iakovos, who had served as the Archbishop in America for 37 years. Spyridon's actions since then have polarized the previously united Archdiocese into two opposing factions.

The five Metropolitans and delegates representing a majority of the clergy and laity across the country have expressed their opposition to Spyridon's actions. Spyridon's support is centered in New York, including many of the clergy directly under his jurisdiction there, and two formerly schismatic and anti-Semitic bishops whom Bartholomew accepted into the Church last year.

Up until Bartholomew's move in Istanbul last week, the opposition to Spyridon in the U.S. had not publicly encompassed Bartholomew. But since Bartholomew sent Spyridon back to America with his backing, opinion leaders in the U.S. Church are openly turning against Bartholomew as well.

Spyridon's most recent attacks against his critics come just days before he is scheduled to meet with the five Metropolitans in New York on January 26. Some observers believe the recent attacks are an attempt to frighten the opposition and weaken the resolve of the Metropolitans.

But the Metropolitans show no signs of weakening. In their report to Bartholomew, which was published in Greek this past Saturday in a leading Greek-American newspaper, they conclude that Spyridon is incapable of changing his destructive behavior. His recent wave of attacks is not likely to change that view.

[ Voithia - - January 21, 1999 ]