New archbishop of America faces daunting task

New archbishop of America faces daunting task

The enthronement of Archbishop of America Elpidophoros took place in New York on Saturday in what was a truly glorious ceremony. The newly appointed leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America received a very warm welcome from the Greek-American community, which is thirsty for a new beginning, yearning for a way to move forward to the “day after.” In this respect, it is placing a great deal of hope in the new archbishop.

The wounds are real and run deep; they need to be healed. The equation is not simple, but extremely complicated. There are no quick fixes. Moreover, the expectations of different groups and people within the diaspora are not only different, but often conflicting. However, it’s still early days and the mood is one of harmony. This was evident on Saturday. The speeches were full of enthusiasm and an emotional intervention by the former archbishop, Demetrios, sent a strong message of unity and continuity.

There was a moving address by the representative of Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, Metropolitan Augustinos of Germany, making particular reference to the powerful combination of Hellenism with Orthodoxy. He also extolled Elpidophoros’ particular gifts, expressing the hope that a lot can be accomplished during his tenure.

The ceremony was a grand affair, with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar representing the Trump administration. I remember the enthronement of Elpidophoros’ predecessor, Demetrios, 20 years ago, as being equally grand. In fact, the White House had been represented by the first lady at the time, Hillary Clinton.

America has many reasons – from the pursuit of domestic harmony to exerting influence abroad – to want a strong Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The question now is what the archdiocese itself plans to do and, by extension, how the future of the Greek-American community will unfold.

Once the initial enthusiasm ebbs, Elpidophoros will have to start planning for the “day after” for everything from tidying up the church’s finances and dealing with some very strong personalities, to maintaining fragile balances.

The wealthier members of the community can and should step in to contribute. However, situations that have been taken for granted for decades cannot change overnight and lingering problems cannot be solved in an instant.

That said, everyone seems to agree that change, radical change, is necessary. It does not have to be sudden or violent, but it can happen incrementally and through consensus. Everyone can come out a winner from such a process. Even those who will be leaving stand to win if the way they depart safeguards their reputation. For their part, they should not try to hinder the new archbishop’s actions.

Change in the right direction takes vision and courage. But it also requires discussion, compromise and concessions – from everyone. This is the only way to ensure a bright future for the Greek Orthodox community in America, and also for Hellenism.

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