The processes of succession and election of the next Archbishop of America has started to be discussed widely and more frequently within the Greek-American community judging from the many messages and questions I receive about the topic, particularly from readers of this newspaper.
Included among the inquirers are many members of the Archdiocesan Council, of the Leadership 100, of parish councils (including presidents), prominent academicians, and high-profile business leaders who are donors and great benefactors of the Archdiocese.
There are also many priests who ask and wonder, though they insist on anonymity.
I had written about this process in the past, but in a general sense. Now, a few days after Archbishop Demetrios celebrated his 89th birthday, I will be more specific.
The election of the archbishop of America is the exclusive privilege of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is an Ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Patriarchate.
If the Archdiocese becomes “widowed” or if the patriarch decides at any point, he can convene a Holy Synod at the Phanar and select a new archbishop.
That’s the way it happens, as it did in 1996 and 1999 with the elections of Archbishops Spyridon and Demetrios, respectively. No one from the Archdiocese will be asked, nor the Eparchial Synod, nor the Archdiocesan Council, and certainly not the clergy or the laity.
Patriarch Bartholomew will convene the Holy Synod and tell its members that this is going to be the archbishop of America “we wish him to please God and the people.” Immediately the triprosopon (the three-ballot ticket) will be formed in which Bartholomew will put his “chosen one,” and two more irrelevant hierarchs will be added as “filler.” The Synod members will go to the St. George Patriarchal Cathedral and vote, just to follow the formalities. The election will already have been decided and the Synod will simply rubber-stamp it unanimously. That in recent years most of the elections were unanimous says a lot.
The bells of St. George church will toll, the “Minima,” which is the acceptance announcement, will be read and accepted by the newly elected archbishop, whom the Patriarch will have housed in a hotel in Constantinople. He will be brought to the Phanar just in time for the announcement.
Shortly thereafter, an official news release will be sent to the media announcing to the world the new archbishop of America.
As far as who is going to be elected, the answer is simple: the one Bartholomew wants and whoever is considered more qualified “for the needs of the Mother Church.”
We should never forget, though, that God has the last word.