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FW: New York Daily News: For Orthodox, not all Greek

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  • Fr. John-Brian
    ... From: harrygcoin New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com For Orthodox, not all Greek Saturday, July 31st, 2004 At a $50-a-plate breakfast that
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2004
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: harrygcoin
      New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com

      For Orthodox, not all Greek

      Saturday, July 31st, 2004

      At a $50-a-plate breakfast that kicked off the city's biggest
      religious convention of the year, Mayor Bloomberg got off a one-liner
      that seemed uncannily appropriate to some diners.
      "Kalimera," he said, using the Greek term for "good morning" at the
      beginning of his welcoming remarks to 1,720 delegates to the national
      conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Then,
      switching to English, he joked, "Now, since some of you don't speak
      Greek, I will continue in English."

      There were appreciative chuckles from his audience at the Marriott
      Marquis Hotel in Times Square, but at one table, there also were a
      few tight smiles and nods of a different kind of agreement.

      "He [the mayor] didn't know it," a priest from a Chicago suburb
      said, "but he just hit the nail on the head."

      The language issue is, in fact, only part of a double-edged challenge
      that confronts not only Greek Orthodox leaders but the heads of all
      ethnic churches - from Albanian to Ukrainian.

      The challenge is to maintain cultural and communal identities, which
      the Orthodox churches represent as much as they do religious
      traditions, without denying their flocks the rights and advantages of
      full integration into American life. For the Greek Orthodox church,
      whose 1.5 million members make it the country's largest Orthodox
      body, it is an especially sensitive issue.

      It was something Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox
      Archdiocese of America, included in a state-of-the-church address
      that opened the five-day 37th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, which
      ended yesterday.

      "The Hellenism we are talking about is not a nationalist, chauvinist
      entity," he said. "It is a designation of a superb synthesis of
      language, history and culture, an indispensable component in building
      for a lasting future."

      To educate Greek-Americans about such timeless Hellenic principles as
      democracy and freedom, the advancement of knowledge and science, and
      cultivation of the beauty in art is to make them both better Greeks
      and better Americans, he said.

      Before the conference, Demetrios was asked what he considered the
      main problem of the archdiocese, which contains 550 parishes reaching
      from New York, its administrative headquarters, to San Francisco.

      He said it was the struggle by immigrants to keep their identity
      while, at the same time, adapting to their new environment. A related
      issue, he said, was combining the deep, elaborate spirituality of
      Orthodoxy and the materialism and technology of the secular society.

      Thus, a dozen workshops and seminars were devoted to dealing with
      various issues inspired by those dilemmas, including one that
      promoted the idea of teaching Greek in public schools and another
      that explored the impact of pop culture on Orthodoxy.

      But there were some ironies - Demetrios spoke in English, and a 42-
      page proposed overhaul of rules governing the organization and
      administration of the archdiocese was printed in English, with a
      footnote calling it the official language of the text.

      Another major concern came up in sessions devoted to luring religious
      and cultural dropouts back into church life.

      "There are thousands of people, nominally Greek Orthodox," Demetrios
      said, "who have been disconnected, who have been lost in the turmoil
      of modern life. ... It is totally unthinkable and unacceptable to
      have parishes with only 1,000 members when they are surrounded by
      thousands of unchurched Orthodox people."

      The Clergy-Laity Congress is the church's highest legislative body,
      with authority to debate and decide everything from budgets to
      educational and charitable priorities. The presiding officer is the
      archbishop, and the only thing delegates cannot change is dogma.

      Demetrios, the sixth spiritual leader of the American flock since the
      establishment of the archdiocese in 1922, seemed at ease in his
      various roles at the convention. He is 76, and has spent nearly four
      decades coping with the secular society and his own role in it. He
      was born in Greece, but has worked mostly in the United States since
      1965, a year after his ordination. He was installed as primate five
      years ago.

      At the clergy-laity conference, he turned up at all kinds of
      liturgical and social events and conducted several religious
      services, two in the hotel's Broadway Ballroom. One of them, before
      the opening-day breakfast, kept Bloomberg waiting for nearly 30

      "The mayor's lucky," a New Jersey delegate said. "The service
      yesterday lasted three hours."

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