Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

The new archbishop of America

COMMENT

TAGS: Religion, Diaspora

The new leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Elpidophoros, will be tasked with dealing with a slew of existential issues that have been testing the Greek-American community for the past couple of decades. These range from the degree of the Church’s involvement in the community’s secular activities or the thorny matter of language, to cooperation with other Orthodox communities in America, chiefly with regards to the degree to which they will project the same message and the scope of the Greek Orthodox Church’s role.

There is also the question, which is brought up every so often, of the degree of the Archdiocese of America’s dependence on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, particularly as the latter is based in Turkey, as well, of course, as the very important matter of the archdiocese’s finances.

The 52-year-old archbishop will have to take careful stock of the issues at hand, assess the environment and decide on who and what he needs to change. The choices he makes – hopefully with respect for the past, but also with an eye on the future – could signal a new start. His relative youth allows him to design and implement a long-term plan for the Archdiocese of America, but also for the Greek-American community more generally, as – for better or worse – the Church’s role in the affairs of the diaspora is not restricted to the flock, but extends to matters of the entire community, of which it is a pillar. The new archbishop will be called upon to have a unifying role, to limit rivalries between individuals and groups, and to help heal wounds that have harmed the community.

For their part, the diaspora’s secular leaders need to give the archbishop their full support so that there can really be a new beginning that will respect, and in some cases utilize, the abilities and connections of some of the older members, but will chiefly aim to inject the institution with fresh momentum so that it is more representative and, at the end of the day, effective.

The fact that the new archbishop does not come from the Greek-American community may help to this end, as he is protected from infighting.

The former abbot of the Monastery of Holy Trinity in Halki is considered among the Church’s most active clerics, has a distinguished academic career, speaks five languages and has spearheaded a multitude of initiatives, both locally and internationally. He also has the added advantage of a close bond of trust with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.

The outlook for Elpidophoros’ tenure appears positive. Still, the task at hand is not an easy one. His success will be a success for the whole Greek-American community, the most powerful segment of the Greek diaspora.

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