The GreekAmerican - July 28, 2000

Former Archbishop Breaks Silence

Spyridon speaks of his resignation, Church strife under his administration

By Yiannis Fasoulas

ATHENS -  In a recent interview given to the Athens daily Eleftherotypia, former Archbishop of America Spyridon spoke to U.S. correspondent Ioustini Frangouli about (his tenure as Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and his resignation from that post) and everything and everyone.

After declining the appointment of Metropolitan of Chaldia, Spyridon was withdrawn from active ecclesiastical duty and today resides in Portugal.

Spyridon said he felt that keeping his silence and his remoteness from the prevailing ecclesiastical situation were the best consultants, as he underwent a period of self-concentration to regain his strength.

"I owed this silence and this appropriation of time to myself and to my successor," said Spyridon. During the interview, Spyridon explained the reasons that drove him to resign saying that: "The attempts for the Church of America to revert to a more pure image of Orthodoxy, the initiatives to restrain the degeneration of Greekness of the younger generations, and the interventions for the vital issues of the generation, indisputably touched upon some centers and para-centers of power" and he added that "faced with either compromise or resignation, I simply chose the latter."

He refers to the "Mother Church," when asked about January 12, 1999 [the day that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew announced he would be the Church's "Archbishop for life"] and the events of a few months later, when he drove him to his resignation. "It constitutes a sign of speculation for a large part of the 'omogenia' in America until today," says Spyridon.

He underlined that there is no information to substantiate the rumor that Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis lobbied for his resignation from the Patriarch, noting that: "On the contrary, at a time when there were persistent efforts made to involve the prime minister, he stated that the issue was solely an ecclesiastical one, and consequently, he avoided involvement in an issue that wasn't under his jurisidiction."

After all, the prime minister had no particular problem with the ecclesiastical governing body of the Church in America, since during his tenure, he was made an offer for the first bridges, for a substantial cooperation between Greece and the 'omogenia' of America particularly in the educational sector and that of the promotion of the national issues, and they [the bridges] were built.

He explains that he didn't accept his appointment as Metropolitan of Chaldaia because, as he said, that the issue of the acceptance or not of his appointment as Metropolitan of Chaldaia could cause a rift in his relations with the Phanar.

Spyridon blames the war against him both on the status quo of the 'omogenia' and to personal interests, stressing that this war was unreasonable "if one realizes that this circle has been essentially disarmed after a certain point in time. The war, if one wants to look deeper, is irrelevant with the developments that followed, and as it proved, it was systematically guided from other centers."

He nods when asked if he connects the movement of the war against him with his predecessor saying: "my respected predecessor never hid his views for his succeeding situation and his actions were always in harmony with his views."

Asked at this point if there is a "patriarchal directorate" in the U.S. and he answers: certainly, there is a circle of clergy and laity in the U.S. that has particular ties with the Mother Church and they try to initiate developments by bypassing the regular ecclesiastical authority. "I'm not sure of what the exact role of this circle is right now," he said. "It is the obligation of the Mother Church to reestablish the prestige and the authority of the regularly elected ecclesiastical authority."

On his relationship with his successor, Archbishop Demetrios, Spyridon says that he cannot have an objective opinion because his remoteness from the ecclesiastical issues didn't allow him to get to know Demetrios personally.

On the issue of his pension and where this issue lies today, he says that for a long time he hadn't followed the issue especially now that, as he is informed, a lawsuit was filed against the Archdiocese of America for violation of the bylaws regarding said pension. Now the issue has clearly taken legal course.

On the issue of autonomy for the Church in America from the Mother Church, he believes that something like this would have grievous results for the survival of a purely Orthodox ecclesiastical form in America.

Referring to the survey under the coordination of Professor Rassias concerning the issue of Greek education, he mentions that the findings for the problems of Greek education in America are repeated and no specific proposals have been set for any improvements, a whole year after the publication of the results of the survey made by the committee.

Concerning the present lack of intervention for national issues, and if it is true that the Phanar was annoyed with his position on the Cyprus and Kosovo issues, he indicates that he acted according to his conscience as a Hellene and as a Christian, adding that "I think that the Greek-American community was by now mature enough to get out of its immigration ghetto and to raise its voice for the unalterable rights of Greek - or any other nation that has been treated unjustly.

On the issue of the identity cards, Spyridon mentions that it's a very sensitive subject and that the extremities don't match with the contemporary face of Greece. For Archbishop Christodoulos he expressed his warmest words, saying that he is a worthy ecclesiastical leader, with a pan-orthodox and universal brilliance.

He is sure that because of his leadership qualities, the Church in Greece will see better and brighter days.

Lastly, he mentions that he returned and settled in the country that he was first fascinated with 38 years ago, which combines all the elements that he knew as a child in Rhodes.

He adds that he reads books, surfs the net, and he will remain there until new signs reappear on the horizon.

(Translated from Greek by Eleni Daniels and Kostas Christoforatos)

[ The GreekAmerican - July 28, 2000 - pp. 1, 3, 13 ]