Tachydromos - November 16, 2000
The Lonely Path of Integrity
Spyridon, Archbishop of America 1996-1999
By Fotis Haliotis
Within the month of December EXANDAS Publishers will put out
Justine Frangouli-Argyris' The Lonely Path of Integrity. In her book,
the author, a journalist and contributor to Tachydromos, gives an account
of the dramatic three-year tenure of Spyridon, former Archbishop of America.
The new book on which our contributor spent the last year in research and
writing, is not merely an authorized biography of Archbishop Spyridon, an
overview of his "works and days" as they unfolded during his tumultuous
three-year ministry (1996-1999) at the helm of the Church of America.
More than offering 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. From his very enthronement,
it became evident that his tenure bore an "expiry date." The heightened
interest in this Archbishop arises from the role he was destined to play in
events unique in the Orthodox Church's centuries-old history, events
that presaged the future of the Greek American community.
The frenetic schemes originating from Orthodoxy's center in Constantinople
wounded not only the Church of America but also the whole Greek-American community.
The ousting of two Archbishops, Iakovos and Spyridon, from the Archdiocese
of America within a span of three years is unprecedented in the annals of
the Greek Orthodox Church. These developments ultimately throw into question
the very foundations of her polity, structure, and canon practice.
The strategy used for the removal of both church leaders was also unparalleled.
Far from yielding to pressure, the Phanar instigated the events.
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.
Thus, the game quickly took on the color of money and power. It permeated
the Church's relations with the Patriarchate, the Greek State, the clergy
in America, and prominent Greek-Americans, threatening the unity of Orthodoxy
and Hellenism in America.
The clergy regarded the restoration of the Orthodox Byzantine tradition in
the Archdiocese of America as the thin end of the wedge. Equally, the Archbishop's
intent to redefine Greek-American identity in order to safeguard Hellenism
in the American melting pot alarmed the champions of the Americanization of
Orthodoxya movement that peaked in the 1970s with the introduction of
English into the Divine Liturgy.
The upshot of the three-year struggle was the consolidation of the autocephalous
movement in the Church of America, the revival of partisanship among Greek-Americans,
the marginalization of the vital issues facing this community and the now
firmly entrenched belief that the Patriarchate aims at all costs to diminish
the role of the Archbishop of America.
Archbishop Spyridon, now withdrawn from active ministry, has consented to
put on recordthrough his notes, diary, and archivesthe dramatic
triennium, which has left an indelible mark on Hellenism in America.
Sources for the recording and assessment of events include the Archbishop
himself, people closely associated with him on a personal or professional
level, the Greek-American and Greek media, as well as the American press,
and finally the author's personal experience from witnessing the events
as a journalist.
[Translated from Greek]