The Lonely Path of Integrity
Stone Studio

Proini - May 26-27, 2001

Spyridon to "Proini" :

Unity of Archdiocese fragmented by elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates

An interview with the former Archbishop of America, Spyridon,

regarding the agreement reached at the Phanar on the charter.

He stresses the downgrading of the Archbishop's role.

The elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates breaks up the unity of the Archdiocese

By Apostolos Zoupaniotis

In an interview to "Proini" on the agreement reached at the Phanar regarding the revision of the Archdiocese's Charter, the former Archbishop of America, Spyridon, foresees the Archbishop's role as even more difficult following the elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates.

"It's difficult to understand how there can still be mention of semi-autonomy, given that the elevation of the dioceses of the Archdiocese to metropolitanates, instead of enhancing the Archbishop's role, logically and inevitably leads to the limitation of his administrative responsibilities", states Spyridon.

The elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates was one of the items on the agenda Spyridon had brought with him from the Phanar in September 1996, but, as is reported in his authorized biography, he did not accept the request for the elevation in question when he became aware of the downgrading of the Archbishop's role, as well as of the limitation of the Church's leading role within the Greek American community and in the promotion of Greek National issues. In his interview to "Proini" Spyridon repeats that the elevation to metropolitanates essentially fragments the unity of the Archdiocese.

"It seems that decentralization is emerging at the expense of unity, especially when you note the constant de-hellenization and the ever increasing assertion of congregationalism in the Church of America", he says characteristically.

Answering the question whether he himself, after all he went through due to the constant interference of the Patriarchate, is now convinced that autocephaly is the right solution, he gave a categorically negative answer. "Autocephaly will simply accelerate even more the total alienation of the Greek American community from the world it came from, cutting it definitively off from its roots".

Note that on June 11 at 7pm the presentation of Justine Frangouli's book "I Monaxia enos Asymbibastou" (The Lonely Path of Integrity), Spyridon's authorized biography, will take place at Terrace on the Park.

Spyridon's interview in its integrity:

On the basis of the "joint communiqué", how do you assess the agreement achieved at the Phanar, which includes the elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates? Does this grant semi-autonomy to America?

Nothing emerges from the "joint communiqué" in regard to the autonomy or semi-autonomy of the Archdiocese of America, longed for by some and rejected by others. Besides, in this specific case, the status of semi-autonomy will not be judged by the elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates, but rather, first and foremost, by the proportion and extent of the Archbishop's administrative responsibilities, and by the method applied to his election.

It's difficult to understand how there can be still mention of semi-autonomy, given that the elevation of the dioceses of the Archdiocese to metropolitanates, instead of enhancing the Archbishop's role, logically and inevitably leads to the limitation of his administrative responsibilities. Finally, can semi-autonomy be achieved with the responsibilities of the Archbishop being clearly curtailed?

As to how the Archbishop will be elected, i.e. the "who and how", this is a matter to be discussed in the immediate future. Yet, what emerges from the "joint communiqué" is that at present, there is neither a willingness nor an inclination to change the current election procedures.

Although the proposed plan elevates the dioceses to metropolitanates, it suggests that it consolidates the unity of the Archdiocese. Do you agree with this assessment or do you think that the Archdiocese is being dissected?

I always considered the elevation of the Archdiocese's dioceses to metropolitanates, i.e. the enhancement of the administrative responsibilities of the hitherto "diocesan" entities, as completely contrary to the notion of unity, a unity totally indispensable for the survival of the Greek American community in such a pluralistic country as America.

Logic dictates that the unity of the Greek American community is enhanced by supporting the Church's central and unifying axis, i.e. the primate, and not by upgrading those who surround him, who by their very nature tend to limit his role by enhancing theirs.

I do not see how this unity can be constructed through the elevation of dioceses to metropolitanates, i.e. through what is essentially a fragmentation of the Archdiocese.

Is the role of the Archbishop, as metropolitan amongst metropolitans (as the Phanar plans), downgraded or is he upgraded as chairman of a synod composed of metropolitans?

If the Eparchial Synod is composed of bishops or of metropolitans, this essentially does not change anything for its chairman. On the contrary one could justifiably argue that the role of a Synod's chairman, with limited archiepiscopal responsibilities, becomes even more difficult, given that he chairs over hierarchs with an enhanced role. Therefore, this cannot be considered an upgrading of the Archbishop's role, but rather a severe downgrading.

Would you have been able to accept such a realignment?

It would certainly be easier to accept a radical realignment inspired by the Sacred Canons, rather than one based on a worldly-minded temporary fix of dubious efficiency and duration.

Considering there have been threats of a new crisis, do you think that unity is ensured with this agreement and that the request by some for autocephaly is put to rest?

Time will ultimately show whether the new "agreement" is capable of forestalling a new crisis, especially since the protagonists this time will be the supporters of autocephaly, and their numbers are increasing day by day.

The only certain fact is that through the elevation of dioceses to metropolinates, stipulated by the new "agreement", the Archdiocese of America is placed under even more immediate control [by the Phanar]. At the same time, the elevation essentially fragments the unity of the Archdiocese, since the metropolitinates, already distanced from each other due to the sheer size of America, are heading irretrievably toward a kind of self-absorbed isolationism, given that the enhancement of their self-administration will essentially alienate them from each other, as well as from their central trunk, the Archdiocese.

Comparisons to other situations, which are in fact dissimilar, are unfortunate. This is not a case like the Church of Crete or of Greece, where the people are infused with a national and religious homogeneity, and where a self-sufficiency of metropolitanates is indispensable.

America, and all eparchies in the Diaspora for that matter, needs a strong axis and a common plan of action if Orthodoxy and Hellenism are to survive. It seems that decentralization is emerging at the expense of unity, especially when you note the constant de-hellenization and the ever-increasing assertion of congregationalism in the Church of America.

Have your bitter experiences with the Phanar convinced you that perhaps autocephaly is the best solution for the Church of America?

My personal experiences give me no reason to move from my firm convictions and unfaltering positions. Autocephaly --I always believed and still believe today-- is not a panacea. And while it is considered by some as ideal --perhaps for the solution of certain problems, mainly of ecclesiastical power-- it leaves in limbo the crucial problem of the Church of America: safeguarding an authentic form of Orthodoxy by preserving its Hellenic basis. This vital issue, which was never dealt with at its root, cannot be solved with administrative upgrades and will always dominate the Church regardless of her semi-autonomous, autonomous or autocephalous status. Autocephaly will simply accelerate even more the total alienation of the Greek American community from the world it came from, cutting it definitively off from its roots.

[Translated from Greek]