October 22, 2014

Former Archbishop Spyridon Breaks A Long Silence

by Theodore Kalmoukos, The National Herald H/T Orthodox News

BOSTON – In his first interview with The National Herald since his resignation ten years ago, former Archbishop Spyridon of America said he believes that “the creation of metropolises inevitably diminishes the Archbishop’s role and by definition undermines the necessary unity of the homogeneous body of Greek Americans.”

The former prelate reveals that he did not seek on his own to become Archbishop of America but he was actually drafted. He said that, “I personally did not seek such election and that I was indeed directed to accept the appointment. The way I assess things today is that my ministry was meant to be temporary and served the ulterior design of those in charge at the Phanar.”

The former Archbishop has not visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate since his departure from the Archiepiscopal throne of America and he does not intend to do so.

He came to Boston and officiated at the funeral service of his dear friend Leo Condakes, as the Herald reported in its last edition.

The entire interview with former Archbishop Spyridon is presented as follows:


TNH: Your Eminence, what brings you to the United States and to Boston in particular?

Spyridon: I returned to the United States for one purpose only:  to bid a last farewell to my beloved friend Leo Condakes, Archon Depoutatos of the Great Church of Christ. I wanted to be with his family as we brought him to his final resting place.

TNH: When did you first meet the late Leo Condakes and his wife Evanthia? 

Spyridon: I first met Leo and Evanthia Condakes on a visit to Constantinople in the early 90s. Their invaluable service to various boards of our GOA institutions gave me an opportunity to witness first hand and appreciate their integrity and total commitment to the Church. We have ever since been close friends and shared frequent communication.

TNH: How does it feel to visit Boston ten years after your departure and to officiate at the Cathedral?

Spyridon: Since I left the USA in September 1999 I have visited Boston three or four times to see Leo and Evanthia. I am deeply grateful to His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston for arranging for me to officiate at Leo’s funeral.

TNH: Would you like to tell us where you reside, how  you keep busy and how you spend your time?


Spyridon: I lead a calm and solitary life, something that I aspired to all my life. I finally have the luxury to follow important events, ecclesiastical and other, with the comfort and objectivity that distance and time offer. The days and months lapse with long walks on the Atlantic coast, continuous reading and meditation.

TNH: Why did you select Portugal?

Spyridon: Ever since my childhood I was intrigued by the history of the ruler of the seas that was Portugal. Later, on a transatlantic trip, I became enchanted with the country’s beauty and the warmth of the Portuguese people.

TNH: Do you visit Rhodes, the island where your family comes from?

Spyridon: In the last decade I returned to Rhodes only once, to see my family. I wish I could visit more often, because I still have strong bonds with many dear people there.

TNH: What thoughts go through your mind ten years after your resignation from the Archiepiscopal throne of America?

Spyridon: I’m happy the Archdiocese of America continues to remain a large and dynamic eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne. I pray it will be able to enhance, despite all difficulties, its efforts to preserve the purity of our ancestral faith, to keep our Orthodox traditions robust and maintain vibrant its Hellenic character. The Archdiocese has the potential to become a powerful testimony to Orthodoxy, the most persuasive of all, in the western world.

TNH: Are there any things you wish you would have done differently during your archiepiscopal ministry?

Spyridon: I still believe that the archiepiscopal initiatives undertaken at that time could not have been different, given the two major objectives of my administration: 1) to safeguard a traditional form of Orthodoxy in a multi-cultural and multi-religious country such as America, and 2) to bring the rapid de-hellenization in the Greek Orthodox community to a halt and promote Hellenism. One should also keep in mind that we had limited time to accomplish these goals.

Of course, one can always question the positions taken but I still maintain that given the same circumstances I would still make the same decisions.

TNH: Let us go back to1996: would you like to share some details with regard to your election as Archbishop of America? Did you seek such position yourself? Were you directed to accept the appointment by the Patriarchate? Did the then Metropolitan of Chalcedon, Joachim, support you?

Spyridon: I am not in a position to know what exactly took place behind the scenes and who supported my election or not. One hears so many things…, so many conflicting rumors… What I am certain of is that I personally did not seek such election and that I was indeed directed to accept the appointment.

TNH: Did you ever try to contact the Patriarchate after your resignation?

Spyridon: To this day I did not seek to contact any Patriarchal officials. There was no serious reason to do so. Whatever had to be discussed and settled at the Phanar was addressed during my last visit there in the summer of 1999 when an agreement was reached. Now, whether the agreement was upheld by both parties or not is another matter.

TNH: Do you intend to contact the Patriarchate in the immediate future?

Spyridon: I have no such plans.

TNH: Don’t you think you are young enough that you are able to offer further service to the Church?

Spyridon: I offered my Church whatever I had to offer her, indeed without any reservation. I believe the future of the Church belongs now to the younger. The time has come for them to take the torch.

TNH: What are your feelings for Patriarch Bartholomew?

Spyridon: He’s struggling untiringly to re-elevate the prestige of the Patriarchate on a Pan-Orthodox and international level. For this most difficult task he is in the prayers of every Greek Orthodox believer.

TNH: Do you believe that he betrayed and abandoned you in the last analysis?

Spyridon: He neither betrayed nor abandoned me. He simply implemented the plan he always had for the eparchy of America, a plan developed long before my election.

TNH: What are your feelings about the Greek American community?

Spyridon: I can only love our Greek American community and I take a sincere interest in its progress and prosperity. After all, I come from this very same community and I am proud to be one of its genuine and authentic offspring.

TNH: Do you miss the Greek American community?

Spyridon: Although I served as the religious leader of Greek Americans only for a few short years, I was blessed to have made a great number of loyal friends. I look forward to sharing time with them again.

TNH: In what direction is the Greek American community moving?

Spyridon: The Greek American community is a vigorous body with immense possibilities at all levels – religious, educational, social etc. It can also play a most significant role in the promotion of Greek national issues. Let us hope that one day it will be suitably equipped to have such possibilities materialized.

TNH: Where do you think the Archdiocese is how heading?

Spyridon: America, it is said, is the country of great and unlimited opportunities. In the case of our Archdiocese there is still an infinite number of unexplored opportunities. I can only pray that those responsible will be blessed with an inspiring vision, the “political will" and the ecclesiastical boldness to undertake a brave initiative of reform and renewal. Without such revival the Greek Orthodox community in America seems to be destined to decline and inevitably shrink.

TNH: Has the creation of metropolises proven detrimental or beneficial to the Archdiocese in the final analysis?

Spyridon: There are those who advocate the usefulness of numerous metropolises, mainly at the Phanar, and of course amongst the metropolitans themselves. On the other hand there are others who question the practicality of such a divisive structure.

It is my opinion that the creation of metropolises inevitably diminishes the Archbishop’s role and by definition undermines the necessary unity of the homogeneous body of Greek Americans. As many are aware, the establishment of metropolises serves only ecclesiastico-political designs. Perhaps some other solution should have been considered in order to reconcile both concerns.

TNH: If you had here before you the bulk of the Greek American community, what you would say to them?

Spyridon: The Greek American community will prove to be a vehicle of unique historic possibilities as it becomes more and more aware of the treasure that is Orthodoxy inspired by her Hellenic soul.

Contact Theodore Kalmoukos at kalmoukos@ekirikas.com.

Originally published on December 17, 2009.

Comments

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    Andrew says:

    Many moons ago, I remember reading that Spyridon was to receive a very generous pension from the GOA. I remember even seeing a figure but cannot recall the amount.

    Is it true the GOA faithful are paying for the Archbishops retirement in Portugal?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    AS I remember it, yes. In my estimation, he should have been paid a pension, although the amount is rather scandalous if I remember. Having said that, the salaries of GOA bishops in general is a little over $100K which is excessive in my opinion. Especially when you consider that priests with families are paid half that.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    when all is said and done, this interview is much ado about nothing. I know byzantine games are being played here, that’s the nature of the phanariote beast. However I believe the GOA is largely irrelevant to the debate. The bishops of the GOA must come to their own conclusions regarding ethnicity on the one hand and loyalty to the American people. +Spyiridon represents one wing and I give him credit in that he has the courage of his convictions.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    George, why credit +Spyridon for having stong convictions? Satan has even stronger convictions. Not that the bishop is Satanic, but if he is wrong, he is wrong. Persisting in a wrong belief and practice is not admirable, in fact it receives the condemnation of the Church when such wrong persistence touches on matters of the faith.

    Ethno-centric Orthodoxy is not what the Church is about. When taken to its logical conclusion it has already been offically condemned as the heresy of phylitism.

    I am so tired of Orthodox Christianity being modified by ANY ethinic identifier whether it is Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Lebanese/Syrian or American. Even the word Orthodox before Christian is more often a mark of pride than genuine faith.

    Fr. Seraphim Rose of blessed memory frequently stated that it was more important to acquire the mind of the Fathers than to know the Fathers. If, by the grace of God, we are able to do so, we will have the Church in whatever land in which we dwell and truly be in communion with one another and we will be know as Christians because of our love of one another.

    That, however, requires humility a virtue in short supply in my heart for sure, but one we desperately need to cultivate.

    Through the intercessions of the Blessed Theotokos, I pray that we reach that point.

  5. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    John Panos says:

    More omogenia.
    Always concern for the omogenia, omogenia, omogenia.

    When will it end?

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Michael Bauman says:

      Omogenia may only end with the destruction of the GOA as we know it. Just as Met. Philip has put great strain on the Antiochian archdiocese with similar tactics.

      Why retrench in America? Why not tackle our blasphemous, heretical culture head on? In other words, evangelize.

  6. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Dean Calvert says:

    Personally, I found these statement to be incredible:

    Spyridon: I still believe that the archiepiscopal initiatives undertaken at that time could not have been different, given the two major objectives of my administration: 1) to safeguard a traditional form of Orthodoxy in a multi-cultural and multi-religious country such as America, and 2) to bring the rapid de-hellenization in the Greek Orthodox community to a halt and promote Hellenism. One should also keep in mind that we had limited time to accomplish these goals.

    followed by:

    TNH: Do you believe that he betrayed and abandoned you in the last analysis?

    Spyridon: He neither betrayed nor abandoned me. He simply implemented the plan he always had for the eparchy of America, a plan developed long before my election.

    So, in other words, the Phanar had been waiting to implement a plan for some time? and the “plan” was to bring the rapid de-hellenization of the GO community to a halt?

    Wow…so this is what they do over there?

    Unbelievable!

    Best Regards
    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Michael, I totally agree with you. My take was that at least +Spyridon is honest about the heterodoxy of the Phanar/GOA axis, whereas the GOA is not. And before anybody comes down on me too hard, I simply don’t know what else to call it when the Gospel is subsumed into a racialist critique.

  8. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Dean Calvert says:

    George,

    I often wonder…What would the outcome have been in Russia, had the Ecumenical Patriarchate attempted to follow the same strategy there…in the 1300’s and 1400’s?

    Would Russia have ended up Muslim? Jewish?

    You have to wonder.

    Best regards
    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Dean, very possible. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  10. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Very good question Dean. It shows too how elevating ethnicity is not part of Orthodox tradition but more so a (reflexive?) political habit.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, it certainly would not be the Jews since the Hasomenian period prior to the Roman Period, the Jews only control two countries in about 2,000 years, they once control Yeman in the early 6th century until christians overthrew them. And they killed some christians during that brief reign and of course they control the state of Isreal. I bet if Russia, lost christian control prior to the commmunists, it would have went Moslem since Moslems have had conrol of many countries since the middle ages. Also, an interesting note is the other Jews-the Samarians. They still exist unlike regular jews there is only 700 in the world today in Isreal. They still dwell near Mt Gerzim but suffer a lot from interbreeding since their numbers are very low and some are arranging marriages with Russian Jews to prevent these deformities or health issues.

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      Dean Calvert says:

      Cynthia,

      Ever hear of the Khazars?

      They were a Turkic people who lived in what is now southern Ukraine stretching to the Caucasus.

      I think they were eventually wiped out, probably by the Muslims, but I’m not sure.

      In any case..they played an important and dynamic role in Byzantine foreign policy during the 8th 9th and 10th centuries. For some unknown reason they chose Judaism as their state religion. It’s a fascinating, and very little understood civilization, but one which was quite cultured for it’s time.

      That said, and although I do think the analogy of the EP’s policy in Russia from 1000 – 1400 and the policy in the US is interestingly similar in some ways, I was speaking “tongue in cheek”. But for all modern Orthodox in America, I’ve always thought a thorough understanding of the way Russia became Orthodox is very instructive. A close reading of that history (in any of Meyendorff’s books or particularly in Dmitri Obolensky’s “The Byzantine Commonwealth”) shows a desire on the part of the EP to follow almost exactly the same policies as in the US today…but a sober realization that “there were too many Russians” to think that hellenization was an option. On the other hand, the EP did attempt to control the Russian eparchy for as long as possible, much like has occurred in the US. Interestingly, there was a period of approximately 300 years (1100 thru 1400) during which the Byzantines and the Russians alternated in selecting the metropolitan. This was ended by the election of Metropolitan Jonah, following the disastrous Council of Florence.

      During the last 100 years (leading to 1453) it is obvious that the Russians discovered that the Byzantines could be bought off, and you read of several instances where Russian gold paid for things in C’nople, most notably the repairs of the dome of Hagia Sophia following a fairly major earthquake in the late 1300’s.

      My personal favorite, though, is the story related in Dmitri Obolensky’s book, in which the Russians apparently paid to have a certain (presumably pro-Russian) Greek elected as the new metropolitan of Russia. The metropolitan elect, and his entourage, started off on the voyage to Kiev. Apparently the metropolitan elect died along the way. so what did the Greeks do? Apparently refunding the money was not an option…so the small group caucused, and decided one of the others would impersonate the metropolitan elect. The imposter was subsequently enthroned in Kiev as the new metropolitan.

      This little vignette serves to allow us to understand why, while the Russians to this day have an enduring respect for the Greeks….their literature of the Middle Ages is filled with unflattering descriptions of the Byzantines…who they described as lying, cheating thieving, two faced and untrustworthy. That’s not me talking..but their literature. It’s actually pretty funny when you read it…any modern Greek American can relate to the essence of the “compliments.”

      By the way…keep in mind the other two embassies that were sent out by Prince Vladimir – one to the Roman Catholics and the other to the Muslims. So it probably would have been one or the other – and most likely Roman Catholicism. For some reason, I think the Russians would have made very poor Muslims…LOL

      In any case, I think the real answer is provided by Fr. Hans above: “It shows too how elevating ethnicity is not part of Orthodox tradition but more so a (reflexive?) political habit.”

      He’s absolutely right….this is NOT an Orthodox tradition. It is simply a bad habit that the Phanariots fell into, and never came out of. One that is about as diabolical as communism if you ask me, and probably inspired by the same demons.

      Best Regards,
      Dean

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    cynthia curran says:

    I think your right on the religion, a little lazy here on the Khazars. I think Justinian the 2nd, the one who had his nose slit to prevent him from becoming emperor again, married one of their women and changed her name to Theodora. Afterall, Justinian II no relation to Justinian I fancy himself after the first one. This was in the 7th century. Its true that the Byzantnes believe that some lying and double dealing was necessary to survive politcally. The Russians as well as westerners observed this in the medieval period.

  13. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Dean Calvert says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    Just happened tonight to bump into this in Wikipedia in the Khazar section:

    “A letter in Hebrew dated AM 4746 (985–986) refers to “our lord David, the Khazar prince” who lived in Taman. The letter said that this David was visited by envoys from Kievan Rus to ask about religious matters — this could be connected to the Vladimir conversion which took place during the same time period. Taman was a principality of Kievan Rus around 988, so this successor state (if that is what it was) may have been conquered altogether. The authenticity of this letter, the Mandgelis Document, has however been questioned by such scholars as D. M. Dunlop.”

    Thought it was funny because of our discussion, had never seen this before.

    As far as the Byzantines believing that double dealing was necessary to survive…it’s a well known fact that there foreign policy was one of, first and foremost, playing enemies off against one another. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” seems to have been the modus operandi..but I’ve never seen any references about the Byzantines which come even close to the Russian sources…it’s really hysterical…they just considered them (the Greeks) double talking thieves…and it seems to have been a pretty widely held point of view. There’s a book, Fourteen Russian travelers to C’nople, published by Dumbarton Oaks…has quite a few different stories in it, each written by a different author. One of the few consisteny themes seems to be the fairly low esteem in which the Byzantines were held in by the Russians.

    Best Regards,
    dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    The Khazars are a fascinating study. Many think that they are the basis for the Ashkenazic Jewish population. Arthur Koestler thought so and wrote a book called “The Thirteenth Tribe.” Many modern anti-Semites today have lobbed onto this. In truth, there is a substantial Khazar contribution to the DNA of modern Ashkenazim (“German” Jews) but it is not nearly to the extent put forth by Koestler (who was Jewish) and the others (perhaps 35% at the outside). So the idea that they were the replacement population for the European Jews is fanciful. Still, a fascinating study.

    St Cyril went to the Khazars to debate their rabbis in an effort to convert them to Christianity. For this reason, he had to learn Hebrew. Although his mission to them came to naught, his knowledge of Hebrew gave him insights in formulating the Cyrillic alphabet, which is mostly Greek but has about 6 letters borrowed from Hebrew for sounds that did not correspond to any of the Greek letters.

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    Peter says:

    Long Live Archbishop Spyridon…..

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