Archbishop Spyridon

His Eminence was elected as Archbishop of America on July 30th, 1996 by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, presided over by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. 

The Enthronement Ceremonies were attended by His Eminence Metropolitan Ioakeim, senior member of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bishops and priests from throughout the Archdiocese, Orthodox hierarchs representing several jurisdictions, Catholic and Protestant clergy, members of the U.S. Congress and House of Representatives, and members of the diplomatic corps, among others.
Soon after assuming office His Eminence was appointed by Secretary of State Warren Christopher as one of 20 members of a Special Advisory Committee to the Secretary of State on Religious Freedom Abroad. He has also been invited to participate in The President's Summit for America's Future as one of 10 co-chairs and is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Archbishop Spyridon, the son of Clara and the late Dr. Constantine P. George, was born George C. P. George in Warren, Ohio on September 24, 1944. His father, a native of the Island of Rhodes (Greece) practiced medicine in Houston, TX, Tarpon Springs, FL and later, Warren, Steubenville and Mingo Junction, OH before moving back to Rhodes when George was nine years old. The Archbishop returned to the United States when he was 15 years old and lived for two years in Tarpon Springs, FL, the birthplace of his mother. He completed high school there, graduating in 1962.

He returned to Greece after high school to prepare for the priesthood and soon thereafter enrolled at the famed Theological School of Halki (Turkey) from 1962-66, where he graduated with honors. He subsequently pursued graduate studies in Switzerland (1967-68) specializing in the history of Protestant Churches. Awarded a scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he then studied Ecumenical Theology and Byzantine Literature at Bochum University in Germany (1969-73). Fluent in Greek, English, French, Italian and German, he is also extremely computer literate.

His Eminence served as secretary at the Permanent Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches (Geneva, 1966-67), and later as Secretary of the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Chambesy (Geneva), as well as editor of its newsletter, EPISKEPSIS (1973-76).

Ordained a deacon on November 30, 1968, and taking the ecclesiastical name Spyridon, he was ordained to the priesthood on February 1, 1976, and assigned to the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in Rome, where he served until 1985.

Through his long and direct contacts with the Roman Catholic Church, he acquired a down-to-earth realism in viewing inter-church relations, a fact which contributed to his appointment in 1984 as Executive Secretary of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

In recognition of his manifold services, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected him as Titular Bishop of Apameia on November 5, 1985. He was ordained as bishop at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George on November 24 of the same year and assigned as an auxiliary bishop to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Austria and Exarchate of Italy, as it was then known. In November 1991, upon creating the Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe, the Holy Synod elected Spyridon as the first Metropolitan for the newly created Archdiocesan See. During the course of four years as Metropolitan of Italy, he created various auxiliary departments, increased the number of parishes and provided them with a more sound structure.

His Eminence made a significant contribution to the cause of Orthodox unity by incorporating various Italian Orthodox communities, giving particular attention to the youth by creating the Union of Greek Orthodox Students of Italy. Following a lapse of many centuries, he reintroduced Orthodox monasticism in Italy.

In 1992 he was appointed chairman of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Lutheran World Federation, immediately giving renewed impetus to the dialogue with this preeminent Protestant body.

He has also represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate in various inter-Church missions and international meetings. His address to the Special Synod of the Roman Catholic Bishops in Europe (Rome, 1991) was of particular importance as he clearly identified the developments that were to follow in the relations between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

The first official pastoral visit of His Eminence was an emotional return to the city of his birth, Warren, OH, and Steubenville where he lived until the age of nine. Archbishop Spyridon, commenting on his visits to communities throughout the Archdiocese, has said that: "One of the greatest joys of being Archbishop is to visit the parishes . . . it gives me an opportunity to know the faithful and be a part of their community. A community in which clergy and laity, young and old, men and women, work together for the glory of God's name."

His has underaken  numerous initiatives in areas of adult religious education, inter-faith marriage and an expanded Internet presence for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the Fall of 1997, His Eminence hosted the Ecumenical Patriarch on his first official U.S. visit, which was a coast-to-coast visit spanning one month.
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To all the clergy and laity of the Holy Orthodox Church throughout the Americas

Beloved Children in Christ,

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is a celebration of a spiritual homecoming. In this feast we remember the restoration of the Holy Icons to their rightful places in our Orthodox dogma, in our Orthodox Churches and homes, and in the lives and daily piety of all Orthodox faithful.

The Holy Icons had been banished from the Church by the heretical Emperor Leo in 730 AD, but in 787 the Seventh Ecumenical Council, meeting in Nicea, upheld the Tradition concerning the proper veneration of the sacred images of our Lord and His saints. Bitter struggles followed between iconoclasts and Orthodox believers for the next half-century. In 843, though, Empress Theodora sealed a decisive victory for the Orthodox teaching and—on the first Sunday of Great Lent—restored the Holy Icons to the Churches in a majestic procession. Ever since that day, Orthodox faithful have re-enacted this mighty work of God by processions and commemorations of all who strove and suffered and died in that era for the fullness of the True Faith in our Incarnate God.

The Holy Icons are not mere decorative art: rather, they are a necessary component of our belief in the Word made flesh. The icons speak with unmatched eloquence of the way of salvation. They preach the high calling which is ours in Christ Jesus. They proclaim the Apostolic promise of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). They inspire us and exhort us to put aside all worldly cares so that we may receive the King of all within our very being, so that we may be transformed, so that we may radiate His glory and grace and mercy.

But according to our Orthodox Tradition, the Holy Icons do more than teach. The Holy Icons truly bless us as well. They bless us with power and healing, they bless us with conviction of sin and repentance, they bless us with assurance and hope and the grace of God. For, as the Apostle Paul declares, "God, Who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (II Cor. 4:6). Through every Holy Icon, the face of Christ shines forth upon us as well. Through every representation of His image—whether in depictions of the Lord Himself or of the saints in whom Christ Himself lives—the knowledge and presence of God is granted unto us.

Therefore, as Orthodox Christians we chant aloud this day, "Thy spotless icon, O Good One, do we venerate, beseeching the forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God" (Dismissal Hymn of the Sunday of Orthodoxy). For in beholding the beauty of the Lord, in receiving the grace of His countenance, and in recognizing the heights of His divine glory, we at the same time come to know the depths of our sinful condition, we realize how far we have fallen short of the glory of God. Like the Prodigal Son, we come to our senses and consider our former dignity, our present misery, and our future hope. We cherish the presence of God our Father. We yearn for the uncreated light of His countenance. We seek again the authentic personhood, the genuine humanity which we once had but now have lost through disobedience and sin.

And so in this sense, the Sunday of Orthodoxy celebrates a still more profound and spiritual homecoming. Humankind was fashioned in the image and likeness of God, but through sin and disobedience we have distorted and effaced the divine image which we were intended to bear. In our unique Orthodox understanding of sin and redemption, the work of salvation is nothing less than the restoration of the image of God within us (cf. Col. 3:10, II Cor. 3:18), through the grace of the Holy Spirit Who abides in us and heals us and renews us.

The Holy Icons depict human nature as it truly is meant to be: a reflection of the very energies of God.

By God’s grace we recover and purify the image of Christ within us—we become partakers of the divine nature (cf. II Peter 1:4)—through the Holy Mysteries of the Church, through keeping the commandments of God, and through prayer and fasting.

It is especially appropriate, therefore, that the annual remembrance of the homecoming of the Holy Icons falls in this blessed Lenten season, for the message of the icons and the purpose of the Great Fast are one and the same. We fast and pray and venerate the Holy Icons so that, like the Saints, we ourselves may become true icons of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We labor in faith so that we too may say with the great Apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and delivered Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20).

The powers of darkness oppose our efforts for salvation.

Like the iconoclasts of old who attacked the Holy Icons with axes and torches, the forces of the Evil One strive always to deface, destroy, and defile the image of God in humanity. For what portrays evil in our modern society better than the Orwellian image of a boot trampling a human face? All of the great crimes against humanity in this century—legalized abortion, genocide around the globe, racism, pornography, sexual perversion, child abuse—are not all of these a devaluation of the image of God in others? Are these not degradations of the dignity of God in our fellow human beings (cf. James 3:9)?

We the hierarchs of SCOBA exhort you as beloved spiritual children: honor the image of the invisible God which shines forth to bless us from the faces of the Holy Icons. Honor the image of God in yourselves by purifying and brightening it through this holy season of prayer and fasting. Honor the image of God in others by speaking out for the oppressed, by assisting the needy, by working for justice, and by helping the helpless. For those who honor the person of Christ in the least of his brethren (cf. Matt. 25: 40, 45) will be honored in the day of judgment with the eternal reward of beholding for eternity the face of their Immortal King and God (cf. Rev. 22:4).

With paternal love and archpastoral blessings for a blessed Lenten journey,

Archbishop SPYRIDON, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

+ Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice-Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

+ Metropolitan JOSEPH, Secretary
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

+ Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

+ Metropolitan THEODOSIUS
Orthodox Church in America

+ Archbishop VICTORIN
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada

+ Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

+ Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA