The National Herald - December 9, 2005
New Book on Spyridon Discloses Correspondence with Patriarchate
By Theodore Kalmoukos
BOSTON- "The Legacy," a new book about Spyridon, the former Archbishop of America (1996-99), authored and edited by Justine Frangouli-Argyris, has been published in Greece. Evanthea and Leo Condakes of Boston underwrote the publication project (Mrs. Condakes served as President of the National Philoptochos Society under Spyridon, and also under his successor, Archbishop Demetrios).
The new book is 450 pages in length, and is written in both English and Greek and English in the same volume, and includes actual documents written by Spyridon himself.
Mrs. Frangouli-Argyris, author of "The Lonely Path of Integrity," the first biography of Archbishop Spyridon, is a journalist who resides in Montreal, Quebec. She is the former Archbishop's official biographer. Spyridon resigned as Archbishop of America after the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople exerted pressure on him to do so due to reactionary turmoil in the life of the Church in America at the time.
Speaking to the National Herald, Mrs. Frangouli-Argyris said "the book includes a careful selection of speeches, encyclicals and confidential reports of Archbishop Spyridon to the Ecumenical Patriarchate."
The former Archbishop "envisioned the unity of the Archdiocese of America, and he had voiced his opposition many times to the elevation of the Dioceses to metropolitical status. There is a confidential report to the Patriarchate in which he supports the unity of the Archdiocese, arguing with documentation, as to why the Archdiocese should not have been divided into Metropolises," she said.
According to Mrs. Frangouli-Argyris, Archbishop Spyridon believed that "the role of the Archbishop should remain centralized, so that a common policy be in place for all serious matters of the Archdiocese," adding that "an official presentation of the book will taker place sometime in the future in New York -if Archbishop Spyridon agrees to that because he does not like to bother."
Mrs. Frangoui-Argyris said she met with Spyridon, who currently resides in Portugal, as recently as one month ago. When she was asked why Spyridon preferred to live in Portugal, she said it was probably because he prefers to keep a low profile. "I think he went there in order to avoid the squall of people, and especially the people (ecclesiastical officials) of the Church," she said.
Concerning the monthly stipend the former Archbishop receives through the Archdiocese, Mrs. Frangoulis-Argyri said "some of his close friends, members of his Executive Committee have established an endowment fund for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from which he receives an allowance from its interest for his general living expenses." The former Archbishop reportedly receives a Patriarchal "allowance" of $80,000 a year.
In response to the Herald's question concerning the book's objective, Mrs. Frangouli-Argyris stated, "I am trying to make the great aims of Archbishop Spyridon known, and to explain why they were canceled. In the preface, I also write what has transpired in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America during five years following the resignation of Archbishop Spyridon."
When asked to elaborate, she replied, "Where do I start? The Theological School (Holy Cross Greek orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass.), which has lost its orientation as an institution of higher education for theologians and priests? The School has enormous financial problems."
COMPARISONS, NOT REVELATIONS
Mrs. Frangouli-Argyri also said, "The book is not a book of revelations, but of comparisons -a book which tries to shed light in a multi-dimensional matter- because I believe that there is a withering situation today at the Archdiocese of America; in administration; in Hellenic education; on Orthodox education at the Theological School. It was time to clearly state Spyridon's vision."
When asked why he did not make his vision manifest when he was still on the archiepiscopal throne in America, she stated that, on the contrary, "Archbishop Spyridon did make his vision known clearly on all levels."
In a confidential report contained in the book by Archbishop Spyridon to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew dated 27 August 1998, two years after his enthronement and just one year prior to his resignation, Spyridon records the state of the Archdiocese based upon his observations and his experience in America up to that time:
"It is generally admitted that our Greek Orthodox faithful in America have always made the most commendable efforts to preserve the Orthodox faith intact and the traditions inherited from their fathers, at least the most important of them, unimpaired and alive," adding that "nevertheless, their strong tendency to equate themselves with their fellow American citizens who belong to other denominations has led, little by little, to the neglect of many religious traditions, and has certainly blunted their Christian Orthodox sensor (the capacity to distinguish between what is genuinely Orthodox and what is not). This can easily be observed in the fact that the veneration of icons in our churches is almost completely neglected and our religious fasts loosened."
Speaking about Archdiocese personnel, Spyridon wrote that "it consists of 60 Greek Orthodox faithful, often enjoying not negligible emoluments and professional rights. Here, as everywhere, many members of the (administration are underutilized), and the burden of work falls on the shoulders of a few."
On Hellenic education, the former Archbishop observed "in our communities, (there is) a genuine and increasing interest in Greek education and a trend towards rediscovering the cultural roots of Greek Americans, regardless of generation. Those opposed to preserving the Greek language and Greek traditions and customs are now very few in number, and are confined namely to circles of the extreme para-ecclesiastical organizations, OCL (Orthodox Christian Laity) and GOAL (Greek Orthodox American Leaders)."
Spyridon writes that he believed "the Greek Education Department is undeniably insufficient to address the new situation that is taking shape, since it rests upon outdated bases, and still promotes an educational system regarded today as antiquated," noting that he appointed a special commission of 30 experts under Professor John Rassias of Dartmouth College in an attempt to "assess the whole situation."
Spyridon is also critical of the Archdiocese Press Office: "The Press Office headed by Mrs. Niki Stephanopoulos, the wife of the Rev. Protopresbyter Charalambos (Robert) Stephanopoulos (Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) is seriously hampered not only by her unsuitability, but also by her total unwillingness to cooperate," he writes.
On the subject of Archdiocese Finances, the former Archbishop writes that, contrary to widespread perceptions at the time, "in the last two years, the finances of the Holy Archdiocese have improved significantly. During this period, the deficit of the Archdiocese has been reduced from $2,238,000 at the end of 1995 to $476,000 dollars at the end of 1997. This was achieved, in spite of a deficit of $1.2 million resulting from the ineffective financial management of the Patriarchal visit to America."
In the book, Spyridon dedicates an extensive segment of his confidential report to Holy Cross: "Typical problems that the School has faced in the past have been a) the marginalization of the Greek language; b) the School's isolation from the Orthodox theological reality worldwide; c) the autonomous operation of the School without ecclesiastical supervision; d) the liturgical innovations introduced in the School's chapel; e) the promotion of the Greek Orthodox Church's independence from the Old World, that is, separation from the Patriarchate and the complete Americanization of the Church in this country; f) nepotism among the teaching and administrative staff; g) theological liberalism due to a Protestant influence; and h) systematic exclusion of would-be students from Greece."
On Saint Basil's Academy, Spyridon wrote that "the once-renowned St. Basil's Academy, which for decades had contributed enormously to the Archdiocese's ministry by training teachers of the Greek language, in 1972 ceased to operate as a college and was converted into a kind of orphanage and shelter for children from families financially underprivileged or broken or otherwise distressed. The Academy was unable to live up to this new task, and so as to justify its existence, was forced to accept even children from wealthy families who were boarded free of charge. In this spirit, the Academy also admitted children from non-Orthodox families, who were converted even before the age of eight to Orthodoxy. This fact might have given, and still may at any time give, rise to an enormous proselytism scandal to the detriment of our Church."
The confidential report also included assessments of the Astoria Greek Cultural Center, St. Michael's Home for the Aged, Order of St. Andrew-Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, National Philoptochos Society, Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, Monasticism and SCOBA (the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America).
The book is expected to be released for circulation in Greece within the next few days.