The National Herald - September 27-October 3, 2014

Former Archbishop Spyridon Speaks with TNH

By Theodore Kalmoukos

Former Archbishop of America Spyridon speaks with his good friend George Safiol of Boston.

BOSTON, MA – Former Archbishop of America Spyridon, was in Boston to officiate at the funeral of Evanthia (Eve) Condakes, former President of the National Philoptochos Society of the Archdiocese of America, granted an exclusive interview to TNH.

“I came to Boston once again under sad circumstances,” he said, referring to the funeral. “However, I was happy to see dear friends such as Metropolitan Methodios, several local priests and, of course, the senior correspondent of TNH. I think this will be one of my last visits to your beautiful city. I no longer have a special reason to come. When Evanthia [Condakes] was alive, I had every reason to come more often.”

Commenting on good reasons to return to America, Spyridon said “there are certainly many people in America with whom I am still in close and frequent contact. They are all dear to my heart. The fact that I no longer have a position of status makes my relationship with them even more sincere and genuine.”

When asked if he would be willing to assume a new church position since he is still young, the archbishop observed that “everyone offers whatever they can and whatever they deem wise to make available. I said it in the past and I’ll repeat it again, due to currently-prevailing circumstances at the Phanar, I do not plan to accept any new position in the Church.”

But what if things change at the Phanar one day? “When things change, then one’s thinking and one’s disposition might change too, but for the time being I have no intention to work with persons who played a role in the events of 1999. Of course, no one knows what God has in store for our Church, but judging things from a human perspective, nothing will change at the Phanar in the immediate future and therefore I have no plans to return to Church service and assume a new ministry.”

He observed, however, that “if despite human calculations things do change one day,” he will eventually reappraise his position and will certainly explore how he can be as useful as possible in any position.

Archbishop Spyridon Grants Exclusive Interview to TNH’s Theodore Kalmoukos in Boston.

With regard to whether it was a mistake to resign in 1999, he avowed that “it was the only possible solution back then. How can a large church organization have a double-headed administration? The Sacred Canons as well as the centuries-old practice of the Church deserve more respect.”

Would he accept an invitation from Patriarch Bartholomew should the latter call him today and say: “brother Spyridon, come over and let’s have a cup of coffee”? “How can I refuse to dialogue? Of course I’ll go,” he said. “I always believed in dialogue and consultation, but in order for a dialogue to be successful there must be, at minimum, suitable conditions.”

As to the conditions of the Archdiocese today, he said “it is following the course we all expected it to follow. The old issues are still there and still waiting patiently to be addressed.”

Why does he think the creation of Metropolises was ultimately wrong? “You know my thoughts on this, I was always of the opinion that the unity of the Greek-American community should be cradled as precious treasure; this unity is certainly not enhanced by the creation of Metropolises. Of course, I can understand that the Phanar has deep reservations about a system of church governance without Metropolises, but I still maintain that it should have reasoned out another way to do so: one that would enhance the unity of the Greek-American community and at the same time satisfy the Phanar’s need to exert even greater control over its eparchy in America.”

Speaking to the question of succession in the Archdiocese of America as Archbishop Demetrios is already quite aged, Spyridon was very straightforward: “I said and I’ll repeat it once more, it is disrespectful to speak of succession when your venerable archbishop is still alive and able to minister But I understand thoughts and questions are human and everyone has a right to be concerned.”

As to whether he would be willing to come back as archbishop, he affirmed without hesitation: “never under the circumstances by which the Archdiocese is administered today.”

Regarding his thoughts on Patriarch Bartholomew’s succession, Spyridon remarked, “I think he’s still in good health; he still carries out the duties of his office and, of course, he still travels. For the time being, there doesn’t seem to be a question of succession.” But when asked if the Phanar has future plans in this regard, he noted, “I’m sure those at the Phanar have elaborate plans for their future; the question is whether these plans coincide with those of the entire hierarchy of the Patriarchate or not.”

Archbishop Spyridon, whose brief and controversial tenure as Archbishop of America included some well-received proposals on crucial matters that have yet to be acted upon.

Urged to comment on whether Hellenism is a lost cause, he sadly observed, “the more time passes the less we’ll be able to do to preserve our Hellenic roots.” With regard to Greek education and language specifically, he said: “I read your article entitled ‘What Education?’ My warm congratulations! Things are indeed as you described in the article. These issues have been discussed and rediscussed for years, but nothing has resulted from all this endless talking, nothing has been resolved up until this day. Now, we find ourselves at the sad point of revisiting the entire issue of Greek language education and asking ourselves whether it pays to persist on this path of decline or whether we should drop the whole issue once and for all.

“Be it as it may, I always believed that there can be no genuine form of Orthodoxy if it is not based on its Patristic Greek foundations. The Church Fathers were Greek. Patristic thought was Greek through and through. I do not understand how a Church can find its course, especially in today’s age, if it is not based on solid Patristic foundations. And this doesn’t come from me: Great Russian theologians, such as Florovsky and others, have clearly pointed this out.”

To Spyridon, “the Omogeneia is the expansion of Greeks in America, it’s another Greece. When I see a Greek-American I see a Greek friend. I too am a child, a genuine and authentic child, of the Omogeneia. So, understandably, it hurts when I see how we neglect our traditions or when our Greek schools lack in performance. I am amazed at how some people still insist that all in our Church should be “Americanized” as if everything Greek were of some inferior standard. I read in your newspaper that four Greek schools were shut down recently. This is indeed very disappointing. However, I was happy to read about the successes made by a charter school down in Florida.”

About how things are developing nowadays in Greece, Spyridon noted that “I follow the news and I regret the country is confronted with extremely serious economic issues. I read your interview with Michael Dukakis. I was happy to see that Mr. Dukakis shares the views maintained by other major politicians around the world. I just wonder why politicians in Greece can’t hear what everybody else seems to know.”

[ The National Herald - September 27- October 3, 2014 - pp. 1 and 4 ]
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  September 28, 2014 ]