Elpidoforos Lambriniadis, a distinguished member of the patriarchal family of the Phanar, was unanimously elected to the ecclesiastical throne of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America May 11 2019, carving a new day in the relations of the Patriarchate with its more powerful Province.
The selection of the Metropolitan of Brousa by Patriarch Bartholomew demonstrates that the need to strengthen the bonds of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with its Church in America was above any other consideration when it came to which candidate would inhabit the Archdiocese’s mansion on Manhattan’s 79th street.
In the days previous, circles in America feared that the election of the aforementioned, Turkish-born, abbot of the Monastery of Holy Trinity in Halki could negatively impact the already tense relationship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s strongman, Rev. Fr. Alex Karloutsos, with the Turkish government given the longstanding Gulen affair. However, it appears that the pressing need of the reunification of the Greek-American diaspora with its Mother Church in Constantinople prevailed.
Indeed, the Metropolitan of Brousa, Lambriniadis, equipped with brilliant theological studies from Thessaloniki and Bonn and with his multilingualism (given his fluency in Turkish, Greek, English, German and Arabic) may be the last opportunity of the Ecumenical Throne to solidify its relationship with the Church of America. Since 2011, he has held the position of associate professor of Theology at the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, specializing in inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations and demonstrating his passion for teaching.
Very polite and approachable, the former Metropolitan of Brousa enjoy
a very close relationship with Patriarch Bartholomew for whom he served as Chief Secretary for many years. The upgrading of the Theological School of Halki under his direction is proof of his administrative capabilities and the re-opening of this storied institution will be a major topic on his agenda upon his arrival in America.
The newly appointed Archbishop is not simply an ecclesiastical man who has rested on the laurels of his academic success. On the contrary, versatile and brilliant, he has made a point of cultivating his relations with the major powerbrokers of the Greek-American diaspora that he originally developed during his six month sabbatical at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline in 2004. At the same time, he has been reaching out to the priesthood in America, tightening his contacts with key individuals in its ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The election of Metropolitan Elpidoforos as Archbishop of America sends a strong message from Patriarch Bartholomew to both friends and doubters and indicates that:
1) he did not succumb to the pressures of certain “insiders” who desired to see the appointment of an American born leader who could become subservient to the few;
2) he had been preparing his own leader for the Church of America for quite some time;
3) he fully understands that the potentially devastating voices of “autocephalism” must be nipped in the bud;
4) the Phanar must have direct contact with the leader of its largest and strongest Province of the Throne without the intermediation of vested third parties.
On the other hand, newly elected Archbishop Elpidoforos has many outstanding issues to settle which must be undertaken immediately including:
1) the raising of 40 million dollars required for the completion of Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center with New York Mayor de Blasio strongly pressing for its inauguration before the end of his term;
2) the creation of a climate of peace between the pro and anti-patriarchal factions in America;
3) the economic and theological consolidation of Holy Cross College as the institution finds itself on the verge of being forced to cease operations;
4) the fomenting of the Patriarchate’s bilateral relations with Washington in its quest to bring about the re-opening of the theological school of Halki.
At the same time, the newly elected Archbishop of America will have an opportunity to promote the vital issues of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem which is in danger of having its properties expropriated by the newly re-elected conservative Government of Israel.
In all these endeavours, his Eminence Elpidoforos will be assisted by the powerful priest Fr. Alex Karloutsos, who enjoys a tremendously close relationship with all the political circles in Washington, in Athens and in Constantinople.
Many challenges, yes, but many attributes as well, for our new American Archbishop. Worthy, or “Axios,” is Elpidoforos from Constantinople!