Athenagoras I of Constantinople

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Athenagoras I
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch Athenagoras (1967).jpg
Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1967
InstalledNovember 1, 1948
Term endedJuly 7, 1972
Predecessor Maximos V
Successor Demetrios I
Personal details
Birth nameAristocles Matthew Spyrou
Born6 April [ O.S. 25 March] 1886
Vasilikón, Janina Vilayet, Ottoman Empire (now Epirus (region), Greece)
DiedJuly 7, 1972(1972-07-07) (aged 86)
Phanar, Istanbul, Turkey
Denomination Eastern Orthodox Church

Athenagoras I (Greek : Αθηναγόρας Αʹ), born Aristocles Matthew Spyrou (Greek : Αριστοκλής Ματθαίου Σπύρου; 6 April [ O.S. 25 March] 1886 – July 7, 1972), initially the Greek archbishop in North America, [1] was the 268th Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, from 1948 to 1972.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Old Style and New Style dates 16th-century changes in calendar conventions

Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are terms sometimes used with dates to indicate that the calendar convention used at the time described is different from that in use at the time the document was being written. There were two calendar changes in Great Britain and its colonies, which may sometimes complicate matters: the first was to change the start of the year from Lady Day to 1 January; the second was to discard the Julian calendar in favour of the Gregorian calendar. Closely related is the custom of dual dating, where writers gave two consecutive years to reflect differences in the starting date of the year, or to include both the Julian and Gregorian dates.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.



Athenagoras was born to a Greek family as Aristocles Matthew Spyrou on April 6 [ O.S. March 25] 1886 in the village of Vasiliko, near Ioannina, Epirus (then Ottoman Empire). [2] He was the son of Matthew N. Spyrou, a doctor, and Helen V. Mokoros. [2] Athenagoras devoted himself to religion at an early age because of the encouragement he received from his mother and a priest from his village. [2] After completing his secondary education in 1906, he entered the Holy Trinity Theological School at Halki, near Istanbul, and was ordained a deacon in 1910. [2]

The Greeks or Hellenes are an ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus, southern Albania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world.

Vasiliko, Ioannina Place in Greece

Vasiliko is an aromanian village in the municipality of Pogoni, Ioannina regional unit, Epirus, Greece. It is situated at an altitude of 800 m. It is 3 km east of Kefalovryso, 13 km west of Konitsa, 16 km south of Leskovik (Albania) and 44 km northwest of Ioannina.

Ioannina Place in Greece

Ioannina, often called Yannena within Greece, is the capital and largest city of the Ioannina regional unit and of Epirus, an administrative region in north-western Greece. Its population is 56,574, according to 2011 census. It lies at an elevation of approximately 500 metres above sea level, on the western shore of lake Pamvotis (Παμβώτις). Ioannina is located 410 km (255 mi) northwest of Athens, 260 kilometres southwest of Thessaloniki and 80 km east of the port of Igoumenitsa in the Ionian Sea.

Upon graduating, he was tonsured a monk, given the name Athenagoras, and ordained to the diaconate. He served as archdeacon of the Diocese of Pelagonia before becoming the secretary to Archbishop Meletius (Metaxakis) of Athens in 1919. While still a deacon, he was elected the Metropolitan of Corfu in 1922 and straightway raised to the episcopacy.

Monk religious occupation

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

Archbishop bishop of higher rank in many Christian denominations

In Christianity, an archbishop is a bishop of higher rank or office. In some cases, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Church of England, the title is borne by the leader of the denomination. Like popes, patriarchs, metropolitans, cardinal bishops, diocesan bishops, and suffragan bishops, archbishops are in the highest of the three traditional orders of bishops, priests, and deacons. An archbishop may be granted the title or ordained as chief pastor of a metropolitan see or another episcopal see to which the title of archbishop is attached.

Returning from a fact-finding trip to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America in 1930, Metropolitan Damaskinos recommended to Patriarch Photios II that he appoint Metropolitan Athenagoras to the position of Archbishop of North and South America as the best person to bring harmony to the American diocese. The patriarch made the appointment on August 30, 1930.

Metropolitan bishop ecclesiastical office

In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis.

When Archbishop Athenagoras assumed his new position on February 24, 1931, he was faced with the task of bringing unity and harmony to a diocese that was racked with dissension between Royalists and Republicans (Venizelists), who had virtually divided the country into separate dioceses. To correct that, he centralized the ecclesiastical administration in the Archdiocese offices with all other bishops serving as auxiliaries, appointed to assist the archbishop, without dioceses and administrative rights of their own. He actively worked with his communities to establish harmony. He expanded the work of the clergy-laity congresses and founded the Holy Cross School of Theology. Through his capable and fatherly leadership he withstood early opposition and gained the love and devotion of his people.

Venizelism was one of the major political movements in Greece from the 1900s until the mid-1970s.

Archbishop Athenagoras consecrated the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity on New York City's Upper East Side on October 22, 1933. [3] He called it: "The Cathedral of all of Hellenism in America." [3]

Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Church in New York , United States

The Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, at 319–337 East 74th Street on the Upper East Side in New York City, New York, is a Neo-Byzantine-style Greek Orthodox church. It serves as the national cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and as the episcopal seat of Archbishop Demetrios of America.

Upper East Side Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

The Upper East Side is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, between Central Park/Fifth Avenue, 59th Street, the East River, and 96th Street. The area incorporates several smaller neighborhoods, including Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill, and Yorkville. Once known as the Silk Stocking District, it is now one of the most affluent neighborhoods in New York City.

In 1938, Athenagoras was naturalized as a United States citizen. [4] [5]

On November 1, 1948, he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople at the age of 61. [5] In January 1949, he was honored to be flown in the personal airplane of the American president Harry Truman to Istanbul, Turkey to assume his new position. [6] As Patriarch, he was actively involved with the World Council of Churches and improving relations with the Roman Catholic Pontiff, the Pope of Rome.

He was hospitalized on July 6, 1972 for a broken hip, but died from kidney failure in Istanbul (Constantinople) the following day at the age of 87. [7] He was buried in the cemetery within the grounds of the Church of Saint Mary of the Spring in Balıklı, Istanbul.

Ecumenical relations

Statue of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople in Chania (Crete). Statue of Athenagoras in Chania.jpg
Statue of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople in Chania (Crete).
Athenagoras with Paulus VI Paulus VI and Patriarch Athenagoras 1964 Paraguay stamp.jpg
Athenagoras with Paulus VI

Athenagoras's meeting with Pope Paul VI in 1964 in Jerusalem led to rescinding the excommunications of 1054 which historically mark the Great Schism, the schism between the churches of the East and West. This was a significant step towards restoring communion between Rome and Constantinople and the other patriarchates of Orthodoxy. It produced the Catholic–Orthodox Joint Declaration of 1965, which was read out on December 7, 1965, simultaneously at a public meeting of the Second Vatican Council in Rome and at a special ceremony in Constantinople. [8]

The controversial declaration did not end the 1054 schism, but rather showed a desire for greater reconciliation between the two churches, as represented by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. Not all Orthodox leaders, however, received the declaration with joy. Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad openly challenged the Patriarch's efforts at rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church fearing it would lead to heresy, in his 1965 epistle to the Patriarch. [9]

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  1. Goff 2010 , "Eastern Orthodox Christianity", p. 537.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Block, Rothe & Candee 1950 , "Athenagoras I, Patriarch", pp. 14–15: "Born March 25, 1886, in Vassilikon, near Janina in the Greek province of Epirus (at that time a part of the Ottoman Empire), the Patriarch, who is of Hellenic stock is the son of Matthew N. Spyrou, a physician, and Helen V. (Mokoros) Spyrou. His baptismal name was Aristocles Matthew Spyrou. Strongly encouraged by his mother and by "the humble priest" of his village (the quoted words are the Patriarch's own), the boy early resolved to devote his life to religion; and in 1906, after completing his secondary education at the Greek school on the island of Halki, near Istanbul, he entered the Holy Trinity Theological School on Halki. The thesis he submitted he submitted for ordination dealt with the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from the beginning up to the year 1453. On being ordained deacon in 1910..."
  3. 1 2 "Cathedral History". Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. 2014. Archived from the original on 7 December 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  4. Block, Rothe & Candee 1950 , "Athenagoras I, Patriarch", pp. 14–15.
  5. 1 2 Cianfarra 1950 , p. 87.
  6. Chrissochoidis 2013 , p. 131.
  7. Newsweek 1972 , p. 172: "Died: ATHENAGORAS I, 86, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, spiritual leader of 125 million Eastern Christians, of kidney failure while hospitalized for a broken hip, in Istanbul, July 6. The Greek-born, white-bearded, 6-foot 4-inch prelate became Ecumenical Patriarch in 1948 after seventeen years in New York as Greek Orthodox Archbishop of North and South America."
  8. "Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of his Holiness Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I". La Santa Sede (Vatican). 7 December 1965.
  9. Metropolitan Philaret (December 1965). "A Protest to Patriarch Athenagoras: On the Lifting of the Anathemas of 1054". Orthodox Christian Information Center.


Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of America
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Maximus V
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Demetrius I