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Analysis: Is Anybody Listening?

It was an interesting and revealing interview – that of Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, Professor Emeritus of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology – which was published in last week’s edition of The National Herald. It was widely read here in the United States, in Greece, in Australia, and at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the computer hits – on our website – as well as the many messages we received from everywhere. Many clergy readers who were students of Fr. Theodore at Holy Cross expressed their joy and satisfaction because Fr. Theodore put things into a very serious perspective about the Theological School.

Let me note here that it was the first time that Fr. Theodore spoke publicly about it, and they all know his words carry a special weight because of the seriousness of his positions and statements, and also due to his high level of education, since he is a recognized and respected New Testament scholar. Also, he has much teaching experience at the School.

Fr. Theodore’s thoughts shouldn’t simply be read but studied carefully and in depth by everybody – and especially by Archbishop Elpidophoros, who even before he came here from Prousa (Bursa, in Asia Minor) and Halki had announced plans for the advancement of the School, its Hellenic identity, the teaching of the Greek Language, and the appointment of the best professors – but all these and many more statements proved to be just empty words and promises. I refer directly to Elpidophoros because, officially, he is responsible for the state of the School and since he has ignored the Eparchial Synod and the Synod also is ignoring him. Elpidophoros is the chairman of the Board of Trustees, a position which also holds legal responsibilities.

I won’t make any references to the current leadership of the School here since three years are more than enough for people to grasp what is going on, but as I happen to know persons and situations from within, I will leave that for a future Analysis.

Regarding Hellenic college, the School’s undergraduate level, it is really comical and extremely foolish to insist that we have a College with only 44 students in its entire body. Furthermore it is a tragicomedy for them to boast when Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology have a combined student body of 120 students. For God’s sake! Of course, the crucial question is this: How many out of the 76 students in the School of Theology will become priests?

There is one more thing which should be stated public: How, where, and how much was spent out of the two million euros Greece gave the School some three years ago for the advancement of the Greek language and Hellenism in general?

Here is what Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos said in his interview regarding the Greek language and other priorities: “First is the difficulty to impress on our students the value of the Greek language in study and practice pertaining to Orthodox hymnology, worship, patristic writings, and pastoral care. The ‘Greek’ in the title Greek Orthodox School of Theology has not flowered to full bloom for various psychological, cultural, and educational reasons.”

He continued: “The second is the repeated attempts over 60 years to establish and expand the College, a worthy and valuable project, but a heavy burden and a controversial task… The question of the College, housed together with the School of Theology, remains the most difficult issue, consuming energies and resources.”

He said that the third issue “is that of the administration itself, the standards by which it is selected, the frequent changes, often with controversy and deep personal hurts, and the lack of subsequent institutional accountability. I do not mean blaming individuals but rather ascertaining accountability regarding the working of the various offices and administrative bodies in applying the policies and procedures. We do have policies and procedures, but we still suffer failures because of improper application due to arbitrary actions – or inaction – at various levels. Assessments for new starts have not been decisive because, once again, they have been executed internally rather than by outside agencies.”

I have bit one final comment: Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, with this interview, said it all.

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