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An introductory speech by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Hieronymos at the Convening of the Hierarchy

(on the 24-06-2008)

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Beloved in Christ holy hierarchs,

Finding myself among you today, in the honorific and afflictive post of Presiding Chairman of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, as a brother among brothers, as the least among people and - by the Grace of God, through your honest votes – first among equals, I am bound, but I also desire, to express my gratitude firstly to the all-surveillant Lord our God for His obvious and His more subtle gifts and benefactions, to my person and then to all of you and to each one individually, for the love and the trust that you have displayed towards my insignificant person.

Undoubtedly, the convening of the Hierarchy for the purpose of electing new bishops in the Holy Spirit is one of the apical moments in the life of the Church and is of course one of the most significant and the most demanding and responsible of our Synodic system’s functions.  

However, I would be inconsistent with myself and my convictions, but also towards whatever I have declared in writing and verbally, both in the recent and the distant past, if I did not boldly state in advance that my objective and my desire is that the Synods of the Hierarchy not be convened with the election of bishops as their sole objective.


I must confess that for a very long while, I have been tormented by the dilemma of whether the Synod should be convened at this point in time, or the elections be postponed, for a later date. 

In the short period of time that has passed from the assumption of my new duties as Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and to this day, I have been working intensively, studying in depth all the accumulated, immense problems that we are facing  - or will be called upon soon to confront - both inside the Church as well as in our relations with the contemporary, rapidly evolving and de-Christianized world, with its cultural and social developments, with the unprecedented moral and bioethical dilemmas, and at the same time, with the agony of the people of God but also of all those who are positioned well-meaningly and critically opposite the Church and are waiting for words and acts from us that will exude the fragrance of Divine Grace; that will reveal God’s love and will show the people that there continues to be comfort and hope in the resurrected Christ. 


The more I update myself and the recording of all the problems become imprinted inside me, the more I realize their magnitude; the more evident the existing pending issues become, the more transparency they demand in their administration; the more demanding the need becomes for resolving issues that touch on moral, financial and administrative oversteppings and deviations, and at the same time, the more we realize the magnitude of the challenges that our rapidly de-Christianizing era spawns, the more these two basic convictions are strengthened inside me:

1, that current events do not permit us the luxury of segmental, rough, forced and unconsidered responses to the provocations and the pending issues that have accumulated both within and without our walls. Today, perhaps more than ever before, a sober, substantial, theologically consolidated, thorough and realistic planning is required as to how we must place ourselves before these events; in other words, how to stand with consistency in the face of the demands of this mission that God has entrusted to us, but also how we should minister to the needs, the agonies and finally, to the salvation of our flock, and how we shall confront History’s crisis


2, that there are no margins for individual planning and isolated initiatives of an autonomous nature. Our era, but also the ecclesiastic ethos and custom do not allow personal projections of a self-important nature or displays of personal choices on matters that are pending and demand a synodically processed and theologically substantiated handling - especially when these are matters that have accrued numerous questions and doubts with regard to the manner that we have handled and continue to handle issues that demand moral integrity, an ecclesiastic conscience, transparency, legitimacy and with respectfulness towards political and state authorities.

I want it to be clear, that my silence so far was not a passive one, but a willful and conscious choice, in a state of profound meditation and realization of the problems and the challenges that we are called upon to administer. There is a time for speaking and a time for remaining silent.


The Church has never been afraid, nor is She ever afraid to stand up for Her truth, opposite any institution or person that presents itself as undermining or threatening Her; however, any isolated, “Don Quixote” types of overstatements and interventions, and autonomized, militant displays (and especially when it is not absolutely clear if they reflect mostly personal ambitions or objectives, which in the long run do not serve the best interests of the Church) are not considered positive input. Phenomena such as these endanger and undermine the validity and the seriousness of our positions opposite the current reality, inasmuch as they will be presumed to be among the ecclesiastic views and positions found in the various populistic or reactionary opinions – such as the ones offered by the Mass Media for consumption.  The Church is not legitimized when uttering vacant words that make noises like a reverberating cymbal, but is obliged to offer a loving and salvific word, and certainly not a sloganeering, secular and disruptive one.

In short, we have an obligation to abandon the “I’ and move within the framework of “We”. It is necessary to be aware that there is no other path, and personally speaking, I do not feel that I have any other choice before God and the people, but to invite you all and each one personally, to a non-negotiable commitment for a sincere collaboration, for unity and for an incessant endeavor to understand each other “in a paroxysm of love and good works”. I want to invite you to utilize –in words and in actions- the blessed potentials that our synodic system offers and guarantees us, which we have an obligation to activate fully, and even more, to safeguard it.

This is precisely where the core of my aforementioned major dilemma is located, with regard to the convening of the Hierarchy at this point in time:

On the one hand, we had to respond to the commitment we had towards the Law, which demands that the vacant positions of Metropolitans be filled within six months of their vacancy at the latest, but also to the pressures caused by the accumulating problems of the unoccupied Metropolises.

On the other hand, we were overcome by the feeling that we were not yet ready to fully and soberly confront all the major, “hot” issues and challenges which have either already emerged or are visible in the far horizon.

To avoid any misinterpretations, I hasten to clarify what I mean by not yet being ready, by posing two, simple questions:

1. Can we claim, with our conscience at ease, that we are truly functioning synodically, when there are some who hasten to formulate positions on matters on which we have not previously secured any documented theological proposals, even utilizing other members of the ecclesiastic corpus (laity or clergy)  -and more so, the pertinent synodic committees- and that we are not persisting in our presumed self-sufficiency, overlooking how crucial the issues are and ignoring the theological prerequisites of those problems and how they should be handled, as well as the possible dimensions and extensions that an unconsidered opinion on our part might entail?

2. Isn’t the non-essential utilization of synodic committees as well as other members of the Church who are more knowledgeable than ourselves in legal, national, inter-church, social, political or civil matters, who are supposed to enable us with their expertise and advice to opine synodically and appropriately, a sign of a shrinking synodicity, which, instead of being the Church’s way of life, has now become a mere administrative procedure of a pseudo-democratic character, thus making us appear in the eyes of the people as wiseacres, ad-libbers, or as ones who are totally oblivious, both to contemporary reality, but also to our very theology?

This deficiency in substantial synodicity – in its broad and essential dimensions that I alluded to previously – makes its consequences obvious, with phenomena that are already evident in our day and are preoccupying me personally, as I am afraid that they will eventually damage our credibility seriously, or else they will cause confusion in the people of God. Characteristic examples of this are the issuing of announcements and the urge to make statements which are frequently governed by problematic theological views; or when expressions and formulations are adopted, which raise legal issues or divide God’s people by summoning them to group themselves around individuals who project themselves as ethnically or morally more sensitive than all the others.   

Naturally, in matters that pertain to the poemantic governing of Metropolises, the absolute jurisdiction of the local Metropolitan is a fact.  However, when there are broader issues that concern the Church collectively, shouldn’t we perhaps be more self-controlled in what we say and in every case, be induced to behave in a more synodic manner?

I believe it is time we transcended our bad habits, our personal effusions, and rise up to the height of the circumstances and meet together at the point of “we”.  This, I believe, can be accomplished and be facilitated institutionally, if we were to agree on certain basic principles, which I will try to summarize, in four areas:

1. I believe –as stressed right from the start– that the Synod of the Hierarchy should not be convened for the sole purpose of electing bishops, but systematically, twice a year, in order to process and to opine collectively and in a documented manner on more important issues.

2. We need to re-examine seriously and responsibly the manning, the structure and the function of synodic committees, so that they will actually function in a preparatory and substantial manner, by preparing the subjects in the Hierarchy’s agenda.

3. We must prepare and co-decide in time on the issues that need to be discussed, so that prior to the convening of the Hierarchy, the major part of the list of topics for the next Synod of the Hierarchy will have already been drafted. 

4. It is necessary for us to be aware that we are not omniscient, and also that contemporary reality is far more complex, more demanding and far different to what we were familiar with and even to how we used to converse with in the recent past. Therefore, the utilization of as many members of the Church as possible to assist us in our difficult task is not only required by the synodic ethos, but also by objective reality.

The topics therefore of the forthcoming, regular convention of the Hierarchy in October will cover two areas: the manning of the Church and especially the Law pertaining to Ecclesiastic Education, and the utilization of the opportunities provided for the development of material infrastructures that will assist ecclesiastic ministry overall – these are matters that may seem technocratic, but in reality are profoundly theological and ecclesiastic.

At any rate, the issues that spring up on a daily basis are many and massive; issues that are ecclesiastic, inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian and inter-religious; issues that are social, or related to the quality of life and morality, or environmental issues.  Harsh reality increasingly challenges us and beckons us, on a daily basis.

Each one of us has an obligation to submit these issues to the corpus of the Hierarchy, with a full awareness of the theological prerequisites and the handling of the problems involved, and the corpus should not merely record them or expound them or process them theoretically, but should enrobe them with Christ’s robe and render them useful for our ecclesiastic needs.    

I thank you.

Translation by A.N.

Article published in English on: 11-7-2008.

Last update: 11-7-2008.