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General News

Dr. Spiro Spireas to TNH: ‘I Am Very Worried for the Future of Our Church’

BOSTON – One of the grand benefactors of the Church and Omogenia in America, the scientist, inventor, and businessman Dr. Spiro Spireas, has broken his silence and in an exclusive interview with The National Herald, he discusses and opines about the situation that has developed in the Archdiocese of America, and the course and actions of Archbishop Elpidophoros. The voice of Dr. Spireas, founder and owner of the large pharmaceutical company Sigmapharm Laboratories, echoes the vast majority of his wealthy Greek Orthodox friends and acquaintances who belong to the lay body of the Archdiocese, as he reveals himself.

It should be noted that this is the first, robust and thorough statement of reflection by one of the most successful and select members of the Omogenia with a long activity in the life of the Church and Omogenia in America, and a tireless devotee of the national issues of Greece, Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Dr. Spireas is an Archon Actuarios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a fulfilled member of the Leadership-100 and also, a fulfilled founding member of the ‘Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’ Endowment.

The entire interview with Dr. Spiro Spireas is as follows:

The National Herald: What are your thoughts three years after the election and enthronement of Archbishop Elpidophoros to the throne of the Church in America?

Dr. Spiro Spireas in the reception area of his Pharmaceutical Company SigmaPharm in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

Dr. Spireas: First of all, I would like to thank you and your newspaper very much Mr. Kalmoukos for taking this interview. Before we begin, I should tell you that I have been paying close attention to the news reports about this matter. Therefore, any of my opinions that I am willing to discuss with you today, are solely based on the information contained in the news reports available to us all. By the way, I suspect that I am not alone in my reaction to these recent events as reported by the media, or in my opinions about the conduct of our religious leaders.

Now, let me continue with this interview and answer your first question.

Unfortunately, my thoughts on this matter are loaded with great agony and concern for the future of our Church and Omogenia in America. I am very worried for, and amazed at the actions and tactics of Mr. Elpidophoros that we have been learning as of late, which are unbecoming of a Christian Hierarch. I cannot believe how so many of us were mistaken to be thinking at first that this promising, cultured and young-aged Hierarch could become the springboard to a better era of our Greek-Orthodox Church in America and the entire Greek-American Community. On the contrary, and with great heartache, I now realize that all the optimists among us were falling into grave error thinking, then, that Mr. Elpidophoros (‘hope-bearer’) was one and the same with the meaning of his name. Very sadly, he neither was nor is!

Specifically, the first big disappointment came for me on October 8, 2020, when Mr. Elpidophoros using completely unknown and ‘magical’ ways which, as it now appears from your own revelations Mr. Kalmoukos, were most probably based on deceptive and premeditated methods, not only succeeded in improperly and acanonically nullifying the Charter of the Archdiocese and turning himself on the same day into an unaccountable monarch of our Church here, but, at the same time, he also managed to unfairly overthrow one of the most ardent supporters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and one of the most Hellenic-minded, creative and capable – proven capable – Hierarchs of our Church in America, His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey. In my humble opinion, this was one of the worst days in the hundred-year history of Greek-American Orthodoxy!

Dr. Spiro Spireas with his wife Dr. Amalia Spireas at the honoring ceremony with the Freedom Award from the Federation of Greek Societies of Philadelphia and greater Delaware. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

The second and bitter disappointment came for me when Mr. Elpidophoros went on September 20, 2021, to the inauguration of the Turkish House in New York and participated in the celebration and festive boasting of Erdogan and the Turkish-Cypriot leader of the pseudo-state, embracing the slaughterers of our Genos [Note: the Greek term ‘Genos’ encompasses all people of Hellenic origin]. Certainly, this matter was not only ecclesiastical; above all, it was a national one. I believe that that dreadful day contained the greatest and most despicable insult that the Greek-American Community and the whole Hellenic Nation have ever received from an Archbishop of America.

And, as if these gravely misguided actions of Mr. Elpidophoros were not enough, we learned just last week from your newspaper of a new ‘feat’ of his, which not only enrages and insults me personally, but also, it confuses, numbs and disorients the Greek-Orthodox Omogenia. In particular, it is unthinkable that a Christian Hierarch, let alone the Archbishop of America, should conceal the complete truth from another Christian Hierarch of another Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Antonios of Glyfada of the Church of Greece, in order to get his permission to enter the geographical jurisdiction of his Metropolis and baptize two children, in the church of Panagia Faneromeni in Vouliagmeni, without disclosing to him the full details of such baptism. Specifically, Mr. Elpidophoros described this event incompletely in his letter to Mr. Antonios as a baptism of two children of a Greek-American family, and failed to provide additional crucial and prudent information, which Mr. Antonios said would have caused him to refuse such permission.

I am truly baffled that an Archbishop of America would manipulate the truth to achieve his purpose to enter the Metropolis of Mr. Antonios and perform the sacrament of baptism. Unfortunately for Mr. Elpidophoros, however, “the end does not justify the means” in this case. Whoever misleads and deceives others does not secure bestowal of the Grace of God. After all, the old proverb of our people says: “he who tells lies drowns in blood, and he who tells the truth has God’s help.” I truly think that this misleading and deceptive action of Mr. Elpidophoros is a monumental error on his part and, obviously, completely unbecoming not only of a Christian Hierarch, but also, of an honest and virtuous human being in general. In fact, as we speak today, the entire Christian Orthodox Greece – clergy and laity – has caught on fire and is extremely upset with Mr. Elpidophoros precisely for this situation.

Dr. Spiro Spireas, a strong supporter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, visited His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar in 2013. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

One will certainly wonder, however, if this were the only time, a single unfortunate moment, that Mr. Elpidophoros had told self-serving lies. I am afraid that the answer to that question is very revealing of his character and, sadly, very disheartening for all of us and our future as Omogenia in America.

Just last Monday, we learned from an article of yours, Mr. Kalmoukos, that Hierarchs, members of the Holy Eparchial Synod of America, i.e., distinguished and experienced Metropolitans of our Church in America, in their recent meeting with Mr. Elpidophoros, complained very loudly to him and accused him directly and vehemently, together with his staff, of falsifying and signing the minutes of the meetings of the Holy Eparchial Synod of America without the knowledge and acceptance of the members of the Eparchial Synod, so that Mr. Elpidophoros could in turn be able to mislead the Ecumenical Patriarch himself, and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

If this accusation by the Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod of America is correct and well-founded, which I have no reason to doubt, then, this case you have revealed is very disturbing and indicative of the characters of Mr. Elpidophoros and his staff involved. And, I am very afraid, and also wonder whether this problematic behavior of the people-in-charge in this matter may actually do great harm, and ultimately result even in the loss of the tax-exempt status of the Archdiocese of America. Indeed, it is truly pure madness!

How can a Christian Hierarch, along with his staff, behave in this manner? How can a Christian Hierarch be immersed in such deception and self-serving lies? Where are we going? Where is this man leading us to? Is it possible that he has even misled the Ecumenical Patriarch himself? How many injustices has he created? How can we trust him with the future of Omogenia? Is it possible that he may irreversibly disorient our Greek-Orthodox Omogenia? Only God knows! It is truly mind boggling!

And this is why I am reacting today with this interview, which is essentially a reflection of my soul and pain for all this situation, because I am agonizing and worry so very much for the future of our Omogenia and Church in America.

Dr. Spiro Spireas with the former Metropolitan of New Jersey Evangelos at the Metropolis of New Jersey on Christmas of 2018. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

TNH: What do you hear on this topic from your businessmen friends and acquaintances, who support financially and in every way the Greek-American communities and the Metropolis of New Jersey to which you belong?

Dr. Spireas: The vast majority of my affluent Greek-Orthodox Greek-American, Greek, and Philhellene friends and acquaintances have similar thoughts to mine, which I briefly discussed in my answer to your previous question. They all feel confused and numb and, along with me, are immersed in a state of a private frustration, outrage and above all, anguish. All of them are waiting quietly and impatiently for things to change and for justice to be finally served so that our Church and Metropolis of New Jersey can return to the high progress rates of prior years, seen not so long ago. I assess that most of them are not dealing so much with the affairs of the Church anymore, and now they are offering negligible financial contributions as compared to what they used to contribute before.

TNH: How did you feel when you were informed of the removal of Metropolitan Evangelos from the Metropolis of New Jersey, since you have a close friendship with him, and also, since you have been one of the most generous donors and benefactors of the Metropolis?

Dr. Spireas: It was indeed a very dark day for me. I felt tremendous indignation and indescribable disappointment at the terrible injustice that was being done to one of the most ardent supporters of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, to one of the most creative, capable and Hellenic-minded Hierarchs of our Church in America, a native of the Greek-American Omogenia stemming straight from its very soul. I could not believe that this man who, by himself and with his own hands, had created from scratch and with great pride and Hellenic-mindset, one of the most robust, creative and successful Metropolises of our Church in America, was being punished in ‘cold blood’ and for unknown reasons, instead of being strongly praised for his great accomplishments and limitless love for our Church and our Ecumenical Patriarchate which he considers home.

Of course, and for full disclosure here, you should remember that, as you said in your question, His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos has been, is and will be my friend and, therefore, I was, am and will be sympathetic to his drama. Yet, as I see things now, and knowing the wisdom and fairness of our current Patriarch, I believe that, after the very recent revocation of the annulment of the Charter of the Archdiocese, the restoration of Evangelos will soon follow; not only because he is a serious, sincere, honorable, creative and Hellenic-minded Hierarch who is urgently needed by the Greek-American Community and our Church in America, but also because as you know: “injustice is not blessed.”

TNH: How do you react to the accusations of Elpidophoros and his staff against Evangelos?

Dr. Spireas: The latest shocking revelations that are published almost daily, clearly demonstrate now that, most probably, Evangelos was victimized by the deceptive tactics and methods of Mr. Elpidophoros and his staff. Therefore, I would humbly recommend to them to consider stopping immediately their mud-throwing, intimidation, false accusation and misinformation tactics not only against Evangelos, but also, against his friends. I truly hope they understand what I mean!

Dr. Spiro Spireas with former Archbishop Demetrios of America in a cordial meeting and conversation. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

TNH: Would you advise him to resort to Justice?

Dr. Spireas: With a heavy heart, I say yes. But I know, and I am not surprised at all, knowing his character and love for the Church, that he would in no way want to take legal action against the Mother Church. On this point, please take note of what it means to be a virtuous and holy man. While these individuals are vilifying and trampling on his name and endlessly throwing mud at him, he does not react and chooses to sacrifice his own reputation for the good of our Church. For this reason, I implore all of his accusers/mud-throwers, to respect the fact that he is not defending himself at all, and stop what they are doing immediately, realizing that love and light always prevail over hate and darkness! They must all understand that Evangelos is not alone “like the cane in the field,” as we say in Greek. He has so many friends who love and respect him. In any event, however, I have assured him that whatever decision he makes on this matter, I will be there for him; because, as you know, the ancient Greeks used to say: “a friend knows a friend, only when he is down and vulnerable.”

TNH: Do you still financially support the Metropolis of New Jersey?

Dr. Spireas: Of course not. Financial support to an ‘ungrateful’ Metropolis that, through Mr. Elpidophoros, his staff and courtiers, discharges, throws stones at, and falsely accuses its creator and natural leader, is certainly not appropriate.

TNH: Being always at the forefront of supporting the national issues of Greece and Cyprus, how did you feel seeing Archbishop Elpidophoros next to the slaughterers of our Genos, the Turks, celebrating with them at the opening of the Turkish House?

Dr. Spireas: As I said in response to your first question, I was completely and utterly outraged and ashamed. But I would like to expand a little more on this matter to send the following message directly to Mr. Elpidophoros.

This is America, Mr. Elpidophoros! We are proud Greek-Americans, Greeks and Philhellenes! We are free and not under siege! We accept no servitude to others! We are not janissaries and you should not threaten our falling and dilution with your actions! Here in America, free Hellenism is resurrected and lives every day! We love and protect our motherland and our Ecumenical Patriarchate! We are always proud of, and boasting for, the homeland of our ancestors, the homeland of our Religion and our “Holy Faith to Christ,” and the homeland of Democracy and Western Civilization! Period – End of story.

TNH: Do you think it is possible that the Greek Language will be ostracized by Elpidophoros, despite his pronouncements to the contrary?

Dr. Spireas: As we speak today, I do not believe it and I would not want to accept that he could do so. I truly hope and pray to God that the education and religious training of Mr. Elpidophoros will not allow him to make such a disastrous error.

Dr. Spiro Spireas at the gathering for the decoration of the Christmas tree at the Metropolis of New Jersey. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

The richest vocabulary in the world belongs to the Greek Language. If I remember correctly, the Greek vocabulary contains about three times as many words as the English vocabulary, almost half of which have Greek linguistic roots. By the way, there cannot be a Greek-American Church and a Greek Orthodox Holy Liturgy without the presence of the Greek Letters. The Greek Language is the language of the Gospel and our religion! Even if someone would like to ignore the preservation of our traditions, our history and our culture, the lack of Greek Letters from our religion will lead with mathematical certainty to the misinterpretation and dilution of basic religious concepts and principles, thereby causing heresies within our own Church. Therefore, any Hierarch who even considers ostracizing the Greek Language is making a grave error, which will surely create maximum instability in the very foundation of our Church and jeopardize the future of our Greek-American Omogenia.

TNH: Having studied, progressed, lived, and currently living, in our Omogenia and our Church in America, where are we really going as Omogenia and as Church?

Dr. Spireas: As I have said many times in the past, our Church and our Omogenia are intertwined and interdependent concepts and entities here in America. If our Church is declining, then our Omogenia will be declining as well. If our Church is progressing, then our Omogenia will be progressing as well. Hence, the success, creativity and Hellenic-mindset of our Church extrapolates directly to a robust, productive and successful Omogenia here in America that can help and protect Hellenism around the world. Therefore, the progress and maintenance of a healthy and flourishing Church in America is of paramount importance. However, for this to happen, the leadership of our Church must always be and remain very serious, astute, honorable and Hellenic-minded without drumrolls and fanfare for anyone’s personal promotion. All of us must only be tireless workers of God’s Wisdom and nothing else. We must all be willing to participate in the ultimate holy struggle for the backing and preservation of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, which connects us with all Hellenism around the world. Furthermore, we must all protect, support and respect our Motherland (Greece and Cyprus alike) and her Church, without expecting anything in return from them. I firmly believe that these are, and must always be, the fundamental principles for the success and preservation of the Greek-Orthodox Greek-American Church and Omogenia. Indeed, we have a sacred duty to nourish, preserve and pass on intact these fundamental principles to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

TNH: What needs to be done?

The new facilities of the pharmaceutical company SigmaPharm in Bensalem, Pennsylvania established by Dr. Spiro Spireas. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. SPIRO SPIREAS

Dr. Spireas: The first step has already been taken with the very recent reinstatement of the nullified Charter of the Archdiocese, which pleased me immensely. In my humble opinion, the second step should be the restoration and reinstatement of Mr. Evangelos to the Metropolis of New Jersey in order for the decline of our beloved Metropolis to finally stop and be reversed. And, as a third step, Mr. Elpidophoros and his staff should stop making decisions without the involvement and approval of the Holy Eparchial Synod of America and the Archdiocesan Council. Indeed, if Mr. Elpidophoros cannot improve, then he should be replaced.

At this point, I would like to assure your readership that this opinion of mine is in no way, shape or form influenced by my friendship with Mr. Evangelos. My long career in the fields of science, invention and entrepreneurship has taught me how to fully separate any friendship or other bias of mine from the solutions I must find and implement to the problems I am facing that need to be truly resolved in a substantive and sustainable manner.

Please note that my agonizing concern for the nourishment, preservation and passing on to our future generations of the fundamental principles I spoke about in my previous answer, was the only and sole reason and the actual motivation prompting me to give you this interview. It was neither Mr. Evangelos nor Mr. Elpidophoros. It was solely my great agony and anxiety for the future of our Church and Omogenia in America where my children live and – God willing– my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live as well.

But, because I am an optimistic person by nature, despite my anxieties, concerns and opinions on these matters, I firmly believe that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will work his miracle. This experienced, wise, righteous, God-Chosen and Holy Elder of the Church, the Patriarch of our Genos, will solve the problem and carve out the most promising direction and successful plan for our Church in America. I have no doubt that he will do what he must. What God always enlightens him to do!

He will provide the most constructive solution to the problem, and our Omogenia will once again shine brightly inside its luminously glorious Church!

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