BOSTON – The newly elected Dean of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki Chrysotomos Stamoulis, a prominent professor of Dogmatics and Symbolics spoke to The National Herald about Theology and contemporary man, the administration of the Church in general, as well as the prospects for cooperation with Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline.
Regarding his recent election to the Deanship of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, he said, “my election to the office of the Dean of the Theological School of Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki is a great honor. The position has been served in the past by excellent academic teachers, making my responsibility huge. The higher the honor, the greater is the responsibility. I believe that I will rise to the ocassion and the challenges of the position, and with the help of all colleagues and coworkers we will take our School one step further.”
He explained the process of the election: “Faculty members of both Departments of the rank of Professor and Associate Professor can apply for the position of Dean. With the current law for the election of the Dean, only faculty members vote. The elected dean is whoever gets the absolute majority of valid votes. Voting is electronic and secret. In my case, I received 45 positive votes out of a total of 52.”
Asked about the interests of people today, especially young people, in Theology, he said, “numerous people are interested in Theology. Many of them are young. For some young students, applying to the School of Theology is their first choice; for others not. However, we are often faced with surprises – students whose choice of Theology was secondary show great interest in their studies. This fact is crucial for us. It offers us feedback against static views claiming that only students who have chosen theological studies from the beginning can progress in the field. The act, however, as I told you, gives other fascinating facts.”
Dean Stamoulis, when asked if Theology have something specific and essential to say today and in what ‘language’ can it be communicated, said “of course, it has. Theology is not a dead science. It is a living organism, which is renewed, evolves, and is in dialogue with real life. It concerns humankind – it belongs to the field of human sciences – and therefore is the foundation for forming citizens with a democratic conscience, solidarity, tolerance, and acceptance of otherness. Man/woman reveals God. He/she reveals God’s face and the meaning of real ecclesial life. When religions and theologies function authentically, they are the cohesive fabric of society and its joints. When they become a tool in the hands of the authorities, they become disoriented and disorient society. I would say that the languages used by theology are many or should be many. Let us not forget that the Church, from its foundation, has proceeded to receive all those cultural elements that could reveal the word of God. That is, the Church proceeded to the reception of every language that can become the vehicle and the means of meeting and creating a relationship between man and God and between people among themselves. ‘From the point of view of the Christian salvation of the person,’ writes Christos Malevitsis, in his Introduction to Paul Tillich's excellent book The Courage of Existence, ‘modern man is led to loss. Theological thought must rise from its dogmatic lethargy and look at the language in which it will enable today's man to realize his condition, to elevate him to wider horizons, the culmination of which is the Christian way of living in the world.’”
He also spoke about how the institutionalized administration of the Church understands Theology, judging from the Church’s preaching that is manifested either as ‘ideological preaching’ or as a ‘moralistic’ way of prompting good deeds. He said “unfortunately, as time goes on, the gap between the institutionalized Church and Theology deepens. Sometimes it seems that absolute Church institutionalization angrily attacks theology. One sometimes has the feeling that the Church has quarreled with theology. I believe that the biggest problem of our Church today is the absence of catechism. The pandemic wildly highlighted this. Many times, I have heard members of the church community wonder if they belong to this ecclesial body. I believe that if we want to change things, we have to start from the beginning and the basics. Otherwise, extreme individualistic ideologies and fundamentalism will prevail. As Pentzikis says, we must demolish the house we built to find the real Church at the foundations. There we will see ‘the buried Christ.’”
Regarding the scheduled meeting in Thessaloniki with the President of Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, George Cantonis, and if there is a specific plan for cooperation between the two theological Schools, and in which areas, Dean Stamoulis said, “the President of Holy Cross School of Theology, Mr. George Cantonis, is a great person and a strong leader. He honors me with his friendship. We will meet in Thessaloniki shortly after mid-July and discuss all possible forms of cooperation. Besides, the Theological School of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki has been collaborating for years with the Holy Cross School of Theology, which has produced good results. Because of this collaboration, I came to the United States for the first time a few years ago. Good colleagues from both institutions have worked hard over the years for all that we have achieved. So, we already have the know-how that we will use to lay the groundwork for a new and hopefully even more creative era. I also believe that with the cooperation of Mr. Cantonis and the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (one of our own academic professors in Thessaloniki who shows an interest in strengthening these ties), we will move forward, dreaming and achieving educational goals”.