A crucial moment for the Archdiocese

By Justine Frangouli

Montreal.-  The Phanar has come to an impasse following its decision to remove the Primate of the Church of America, Archbishop Spyridon, without having found a replacement who would guarantee the unity of the Greek-American community. Therefore, it is now striving to involve the Greek government in the matter at hand.

Phanar officials have asked to meet immediately with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in order to update him on the issue of Spyridon's succession, and, at the same time, place the responsibility for whatever may follow on the PASOK government.

The new scenarios regarding the replacement of Archbishop Spyridon have triggered intense reactions in the Greek-American community inasmuch as such scenarios are being connected to donations made for the purchase of the Patriarch's new home by an influential group of wealthy Greek-Americans strongly opposed to the current Archbishop.

Many other members of the Greek-American community are certain the new crisis in the Church of America (which this time seems to have been orchestrated by the Patriarchate itself) is a result of the Phanar's disapproval of Archbishop Spyridon's interventions in matters of Greek national interest. Such interventions made by the Archbishop of America on the anniversary of Cyprus' invasion by Turkey culminated in drafting a common petition of the Greek-American lobby to President Clinton. Not few are those who believe the Patriarch, possibly under Turkish pressure, wishes to get it over with Archbishop Spyridon before the sad anniversary.

In any case, the Patriarch seems to be in a very difficult position since he has not yet secured the unanimous consent of the Synod's hierarchs for the removal of the Archbishop of America. The successor will undoubtedly have to face the strong opposition of Archbishop Spyridon's supporters. Therefore, he must comply with the following requirements:

1) He must have the approval of Fr. Alex Karloutsos, a powerful priest who is connected with the influential financial circles of the Greek-American community.

2) He must be accepted by the five Metropolitans of America who in a recent letter to the Patriarch have asked to have a say in the election of the new Archbishop of America implying one of them should be Spyridon's successor.

Since the Phanar does not trust the five Hierarchs of the United States in that several of them have also voiced their preference for the establishment of an autocephalous Church, it seems it will have to deal with the succession issue in segments. Initially, it will have to reassign one or two “troublesome” Metropolitans and then proceed to the replacement of Spyridon with a cleric in whom the Patriarch has absolutely faith.

This time, the Patriarch will not allow for an Archbishop with broad responsibilities who could represent a danger to him, such as Iakovos or Spyridon. Thus, he will give Spyridon's successor (who could be Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong-Kong or Metropolitan Michael of Austria) a new package with revised bylaws that will provide for an Archbishop with reduced authority, a "primus inter pares," basically a Metropolitan of New York.

Given that the Patriarch has already moved to fragment the Archdiocese of North and South America into four Eparchies, following the fall of Iakovos, he is now said to be determined to further reduce the role of the next Archbishop of the United States. This time, though, he will have to pay the cost, as the Archdiocese of America has matured and is well aware of its possibilities.

{ Translated from Greek }

[ ΕΘΝΟΣ  -  July 8, 1999 ]