Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America

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The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America was the eparchy organized in the early twentieth century as the jurisdictional base to serve the communities of ethnic Greek Orthodox Christians in the Western Hemisphere. The eparchy was incorporated in 1921 under the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople. In 1996, the archdiocese was split by the Ecumenical Patriarchate into four parts, those of America, Canada, Central America, and South America.


After an initial missionary entry into the Western Hemisphere through Alaska by the Church of Russia in the late eighteenth century, a major expansion in the presence of Orthodox Christianity in North America began in late nineteenth century with the arrival of Orthodox Christian emigrants from various Eastern Hemisphere countries. While there existed an Orthodox ecclesiastical presence in the western United States under the Church of Russia, the emigrant population settled mainly in the eastern half of North America and looked to their mother nation jurisdictions for ecclesiastical support. While the early emigration tended to have been generated from economic reasons, political disturbances in the Old World became a significant reason for later arrivals.

Orthodox Greek merchants began arriving in the United States during the middle of the eighteenth century, of which some participated in the establishment of an Orthodox church in New Orleans, Louisiana in mid century. By 1892, a Greek community had established a parish in New York City that today is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity that is the see of the Greek Archbishop of America. During the early decades of the twentieth century, ethnic Greek communities formed in many of the major cities in the United States. As these communities began forming parishes, the Greek believers looked the Church of Greece for priests. Responding to the calls from the New World, in 1908, the Patriarchate in Constantinople issued a decree giving episcopal oversight of the Americas to the Church of Greece. After his appointment as Metropolitan of Athens, Metr. Meletius visited America in the summer of 1918 to survey the situation in America. In October 1918, Metr. Meletius appointed Alexander (Demoglou) his vicar bishop of the proto-archdiocese in the Americas.

In 1922, Meletius, now Patriarch of Constantinople, revoked the decree of 1908, and formally organized the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America on May 11, 1922 and appointed Bp. Alexander, the titular Bishop of Rodostolou, as his Patriarchal Exarch in America.

The foundation of the Greek archdiocese came at a time when a political dispute in Greece arose between the supporters of the royal house and that of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos in which Metr. Meletius and Abp. Alexander supported Venizelos. This dispute reflected in a division among the Greek parishes in America. The dispute continued until the 1930s after the reconciliation efforts of Abps. Damaskenos of Corinth and Athenagoras, Abp. Alexander successor, proved successful.

During the 1920s, a number of hierarchical sees were established, notably in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1968, these sees were replaced with nine Archdiocesan Districts that, in 1979, were re-organized into dioceses.

In 1996, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was established as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America was split into four separate archdioceses: those of America, Canada, Central America, and South America.

External link

Further Reading

  • Charles C. Moskos. Greek Americans, Struggle and Success. 2nd Ed.. Transaction Publishers, 1989. 204 pp. ISBN 9780887387784
  • Rev. George Pappaioannou. The Historical Development of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. In: F.K. Litsas (Ed.). A Companion to the Greek Orthodox Church. New York, N.Y.: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, 1984. (pp. 178-206).