The National Herald
Omogeneiaka - May 6, 2000

Semi-Automony Requested of the Phanar by our Church

A special register of payments, including those to Spyridon, is being created

By Theodore Kalmoukos

Boston -  A regime of administrative semi-autonomy, on the model of Crete, is being requested by the Church in America along with the new constitutional document from the Patriarchate in Constantinople. It is a significant historical development, occurring for the first time in the ecclesiastical life of the Greek Diaspora, and aims at the possibility of making decisions on the spot.

Specifically, among other things, the following are provided: The Metropolitan Bishops of America will be chosen here by the Holy Synod of the Province, while the selection of the Archbishop will continue to be a prerogative of the Patriarchate, but with substantial and active participation and input from the Church of America

The three candidates for the Archbishop's throne will be nominated by the Holy Synod, preferably from among native hierarchs rather than foreigners, while the Synod of the Phanar will be called upon to choose one of the three. Further analytical explanations follow.

This development peaked on Wednesday, during a broader conference which took place at the Archdiocese, chaired by Archbishop Demetrios, attended by Metropolitans, Bishops and including one clergyman and one lay person from each diocese, representing the clergy and the laity. The new constitutional document was first formulated, based on the one in force until 1996, by a special committee of hierarchs, experts in canon law, and lawyers, as well as representatives of the clergy and laity of each church. There were three sessions of the Synod in which the subject was discussed extensively and attentively, and with the conference on Wednesday the procedural path was completed. All that remains is to make a few stylistic corrections and then to send it to the Phanar.

Meanwhile, beyond the subject of the new constitutions, other deliberations were held between the Archbishop and the hierarchs, informing them of financial trends, the matter of the financial demands of former Archbishop Spyridon, the presidency of the School, and the subjects covered at the meeting of the Executive Committee the previous day.

The deliberations developed in the following order: at first the representatives of the clergy and laity of each diocese, led by Metropolitans or Bishops reached agreement in the broad conference which convened suddenly on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Archbishop Demetrios with an extensive debate exclusively on the new Constitution of the Archdiocese.

Absent form the deliberations which took place that day were Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco, who is still visiting Greece, and Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, although they did send representatives from their respective dioceses.

There was a reading of the text of the Constitution, followed by a dialogue and the exchange of viewpoints, while certain other changes made were basically matter of style rather than substance. Representatives of the clergy and laity who participated in the discussion told the National Herald that Mrs. Helen Hadjiyannakis-Bender, Professor of Law at Fordham University, was particularly vocal and posed the topic of the use of the term "Hierarchical Church," while asking why it was necessary for the Archbishop to be an expert in both languages, Greek and English, sending the message that English was good enough. She also suggested that the people should have a substantial say in the choice of the hierarchs, not merely giving advice, but this was rejected.

Protopresbyter Peter Salmos of California, in response to Mrs. Bender's remarks suggested that the committee should adhere to the line prepared by the competent committee and extensively reviewed by the Constitutional Synod.

As it has been reported in the National Herald, the new Constitution is essentially an adaptation of the constitution of 1878, which was valid until 1996, with the departure of former Archbishop Iakovos of America, the Archdiocese of North and South America was divided into 4 branches. The final dissolving blow to the Constitution came in November 1998, with the development of the scheme for making Metropolitans of the then bishops, who had been chosen in the now non-existent Metropolis of Asia Minor and Pontus, and simultaneously naming them "chairmen" of the Bishops of America.

As it was discovered by the National Herald, the new Constitution provides for the elevation of Diocese to Metropolises and the election of the Metropolitans in the similarly named Metropolises, which, it emphasized, will not be autonomous or self-governing. It is made clear that the Metropolises will not be directly subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but will compose the one single undivided Archdiocese of America under the Provincial Holy Synod, chaired by the Archbishop.

The new Constitution provides for the ecclesiastical and canonical subordination of the Archdiocese of America to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, while simultaneously providing a sort of autonomy, taking its example from the Church of Crete, which has a semi-autonomous regime.

The selection of the Archbishop will continue to be the prerogative of the Patriarchate, but with substantial input from the Church of America in the nomination of the three candidates, who will come preferably from the native hierarchs rather than from foreigners.

The lay element maintains its proper position in the total life of the Church, just as if flows from the ecclesiastical and canonical laws into the length tradition of the Church. Sources leaning toward the Patriarchate considered that the Phanar would continue along the line of "the possessor holds on," which would seem to signify rejection of the suggested Constitution. "Therefore we will be led into a new crisis," they predicted.

Meanwhile, high-ranking ecclesiastical sources and lay people alike noted in the National Herald, that ""t would be sensible on the part of Patriarch Bartholomew, to accept the suggested Constitution of semi-autonomy in order to prevent other crises.." underlining this with meaning.

It was decided during the deliberations that upon making the adjustments in the formulation and the final version is to be sent afterwards to the Patriarchate. The copies of the Constitution, which were distributed at the beginning of the deliberations to the participants, were collected again at the end, in order to prevent leaks.

In any case, on Wednesday afternoon Archbishop Demetrios invited the participating prelates to a sort of unofficial deliberation, and informed them of the issues discussed at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocese the previous day, which were concerned mainly with financial matters.

It became known that certain members of the Executive Committee, such as Mr. Behrakis of Boston and Mr. Bouras of New Jersey, will handle, partly through personal donations, the economic relief of the Archdiocese, which is facing an acknowledged deficit of up to 5 million dollars, accumulated during the three years under the leadership of Archbishop Spyridon. The arrangements for a loan have not yet been finalized, although it is not improbable that Archbishop Demetrios will request form Leadership 100 during its meeting in Washington, which begins today, to essentially support getting the Church out of this blockage.

Regarding the demands of the current Metropolitan Spyridon of Chaldea, the subject seems to be on the way to a solution, with the creation of a special register in the name of the Patriarchate, the Patriarchal Fund, with generous contributions from rich natives some of whom are friends of former Archbishop Spyridon and members of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocese, led by Mr. Michael Cantonis of Florida, who has contributed the sum of one million dollars towards this goal. Former Archbishop Spyridon will derive his monthly allowance, which will range between 60 and 80 thousand dollars yearly, from the interest on this Patriarchal Fund. It is pointed out that the Archdiocese will not be burdened financially by the payments to Archbishop Spyridon.

The question arising from ecclesiastical sources is who will benefit from the Patriarchal Fund, if use will be made of a number for tax exemptions for the Archdiocese, hoping the donations are exempt form taxation, and whether the fund, as has been mentioned, has its own tax exemption number.

Sources informed the National Herald that in prior years, during the time of Archbishop Iakovos, Protopresbyter Alexander Karloutsos, the current director of Leadership 100, connected with Patriarch Bartholomew in a close friendship, had founded a Patriarchal Fund, without the knowledge or advice of the then Archbishop Iakovos.

Regarding this solution, it appears that it has also been agreed by the Patriarchate, which has set as a necessary condition the visit of former Archbishop Spyridon there and the handling first of the ecclesiastical and canonical crisis, and then the beginning of payments for Archbishop Spyridon, since in the last analysis this money will be coming from Patriarchal funds.

As a reminder, former Archbishop Spyridon, in a letter last September, informed Patriarch Bartholomew of withdrawing from ecclesiastical duties as a pretext not to accept his transfer to the Metropolis of Chaldea. As far as the National Herald can determine, former Archbishop Spyridon as of now does not appear to be enthusiastic about transferring to Constantinople, and therefore the uncertainty regarding his pension will continue.

Furthermore, Archbishop Demetrios officially informed the Synod about the proposal of the search committee for the president of the School of Theology, and about the selection of Mr. Van Koufadakis. It is recalled that on the same day, Wednesday, the National Herald broke this news in a report.

The Archbishop told the members of the Synod that he would invite them to a meeting including Mr. Koufoudakis, regarding the exchange of viewpoints before the official announcement of the appointment of the president of the school. Enough bishops expressed positive views of Mr. Koufoudakis. The Archbishop also said that it was not of the question that the deans of both the Greek College and the School of Theology would be chosen from the clergy.

[ Orthodox Truth |  -  May 6, 2000 ]