The National Herald - February 18, 2003

Ex-Prelate Spyridon Inaugurates Foundation

By Demetris Tsakas

NEW YORK, February 8, 2003 (NH) -- Ending a three-and-a half-year absence from the Greek American community’s public eye, former Archbishop Spyridon of America attended an event last Saturday that marked the inauguration of a foundation named after him.

The inauguration of the Archbishop Spyridon Foundation for Hellenic Education and Culture was hosted at Terrage on the Park in Flushing, Queens, and was attended by more than 1,000 members of the Greek American community of New York, and representatives from the communities of North Carolina, Florida, and Montreal, Canada.

“It is with great hopes and expectations that I stand before you this evening to introduce the Foundation for Hellenic Education and Culture that I am honored to say will bear my name,” Archbishop Spyridon told the audience in his speech, adding that he stands with those who believe that you cannot take the “Greek” out of Greek Orthodox.

“There is no room for parochialism or narrowness of vision in our quest to perpetuate our culture,” the former Archbishop said. “The fact is that Greece is the mother of all Western civilization,” he added. He pointed out that the authentic and original Orthodox Christianity, as he called it, was born, has grown, and ultimately matured with the Hellenic spirit and within the Hellenic world.

Spyridon noted, however, that no one should be excluded from the Hellenic culture since the Greek spirit embraces the world.

“As the great philosopher Isocrates stated most elegantly, formulating for all time the answer to the question-who is a true Greek? ‘We call-we name someone a Greek-a Hellene-who partakes, who shares, who participates in or culture, our paideia.” Therefore, whoever partakes in the culture of Greece, is a Greek,” he said.

Cardiologist William Tenet, brother of the current CIA director George Tenet, was the master of ceremonies and offered a warm welcome to Spyridon, saying that “he was never absent from our hearts.”

Philanthropist and chairwoman of the event Georgia Kaloides expressed her satisfaction with the participation and praised the foundation’s mission saying that Greek language and culture should be sustained at any cost. “This foundation is the torch that will perpetuate our language and culture,” Kaloides said.

Dr. Ioannis Rassias, who during the former archbishop’s tenure headed a commission to study Greek American education, recalled that the archbishop’s last-minute resignation had cancelled the effort to reform the system.

Former National Philoptochos President and the foundation’s new vice-president, Evanthia Condakes, told the crowd that the event was organized in Spyridon’s honor in an effort “to support our culture and preserve our identity.”

Justine Frangouli-Argyri, author of a book about the former archbishop, said that, “he was wrongly accused and shut out because he supported Orthodox-centric and Hellenic-centric policies.” She then called on him to “abandon his isolation.”

The foundation’s president, businessman John Catsimatidis outlined the foundation’s goals, which include financial support of Greek American schools, funding of Hellenic studies at the university level as well as establishing scholarship funds. He said the idea for the foundation was born after a visit to the Montreal Hellenic Greek Day School “Socrates.”

As Spyridon stated in his speech, the school is an educational model for Greek schools outside of Greece.

Catsimatidis’ original aim was for the foundation to create a platform that will prompte Hellenic cultural heritage.

Catsimatidis called to the podium Montreal community president, Bill Katsambanis as well as the community board members and handed them a $100,000 check for the Socrates school.

Katsambanis expressed his gratitude and proceeded to offer plaques to Archbishop Spyridon and the foundation’s leading members Kaloides, Catsimatidis, and Condakes.

As Catsimatidis pointed out, donations to the Foundation for Hellenic Education and Culture have already exceeded $1 million.

Catsimatidis also bought $10,000 worth of Frangouli’s book about the event’s honoree that would go straight to the foundation’s treasury.

At the event, Greek American Yiannis Amorgianos offered Spyridon a painting, which the former prelate accepted.

[ The National Herald - February 18, 2003 ]