Eseis - March 2001
The Book That Caused an Uproar
The Lonely Path of Integrity by journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris
reveals telling facts about the troubled period 1996-1999,
when Spyridon was Archbishop of America
By Panikos Panaghiotou
The three years which shook the Orthodox Church in America
could not be allowed to pass without comment by observers and historians looking
for a comprehensive picture of all elements pertaining to the administration
of public affairs. Journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris presents her own testimony
on the troubled period 1996-1999, giving the whole issue a new dimension through
the revelation of details and events that continue to have a strong impact
on the state of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in America.
With her Lonely Path of Integrity, Frangouli has written a book that serves
as an important point of reference for events transpired in the Greek-American
community. Already, the overwhelming demand for the new book has led Exandas
Publishers to bring out new prints. Based on the personal journal, the notes
and the archives of the former Archbishop of America, Spyridon, on the photograph
archive of the Papageorge family, on the author's own journalistic material,
and on interviews with figures close to the Archbishop and the events, the
book comes to reveal, confirm and call into question what has been said and
written about Spyridon's controversial ministry.
The book brings to light power games, economic interests, political expediencies,
personal ambitions and vindictive attitudes which to this day still plague
the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States.
In the book's introduction one reads:
"More than a simple portrayal of a religious leader, who from an early
age was destined for the cloth, the book endeavors to shed light on the journey
of a child who was born in America, grew up in Greece, was educated in Europe,
and served the Church for 25 years in Switzerland and Italy as a cleric of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate before coming full circle and ending up in his
native America as Archbishop.
A careful reading of his multifaceted life and ecclesiastical career reveals
a man who brought luster to the Orthodox Church in Italy and America as he
strove to preserve Byzantine Orthodox tradition and to ensure the survival
of Hellenism in the Diaspora. He lived by and ultimately fell defending the
banner of "Orthodoxy-Hellenism," intertwined notions on whose axis
his turbulent career was doomed to turn.
The book attempts to take a judicious, well-documented look at the personality
of a church leader assailed by exponents of an arrogant conception of church
governance. It dispels the illusion that the Greek-American community could
emerge unscathed from the incessant manipulation by the back rooms of power.
This biography focuses mostly on Spyridon's three-year ministry, from
the rise to the fall of the fifth Archbishop of America."
At another point, the author notes:
"The tactics that divided the Greeks of America into factions lay the
Ecumenical Patriarchate open to charges of neo-papism. This has caused nearly
irreparable harm to relations between Greek Orthodox and other Orthodox communities.
All during Archbishop Spyridon's tempestuous three years in office, power
brokers spun a web of Byzantine intrigue. Their machinations spread through
the Phanar involving Metropolitans, priests, laypersons, Greek-American media,
and major Greek and American newspapers.
Patriarchate cohorts in America played a decisive role in concocting and disseminating
a crisis throughout the Church of America and indeed throughout the entire
Greek-American community. Later, the Greek Government, aces up its sleeve,
entered the scene."
[Translated from Greek]