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FABRICATIONS ABOUT PROF JOHN S. ROMANIDES
by CAPUCHINO PRIEST IANNI SPITERI
Response by Prof. George Metallinos of The University of Athens
A. The question before us.
1) Grievous fabrications about Father John S. Romanides, retired professor of the University of Thessaloniki, come from the pen of the Capuchin Priest Prof. Yannis Spiteris in his recently published book in Italian entitled LA TEOLOGIA ORTODOSSA NEO-GRECA (Neo-Greek Orthodox Theology). 1) The author was born and lives on the Greek Island of Corfu. 2) He teaches Theology at a theological school in Rome. 3) He is the personal advisor to the Pope himself on Greek Orthodox Theology. Father Spiteris writes with the intention of not only informing Latins, but also the Orthodox WHICH theologians they should follow. Evidently the Vatican has problems with J. Romanides' theological and historical research.
2) Prof. Spiteris devotes half of his chapter VII to Prof. J. Romanides. The Fabrications herein reported could have been easily avoided had Father Spiteris taken the trouble to meet with Prof. Romanides, who like himself, also lives in Greece. Such a meeting is usual procedure when one undertakes to write about the personal and public life of others. The fact that Prof. Spiteris did not do so is an indication of his being involved in a plot, rather than in an academic endeavor.
3) After dealing with Greek theology since the beginning of Neo-Greece, just before 1821 till today, he arrives in chapter VI at the more recent University of Athens theology. Here he deals with Professors P. Trembelas and J. Karmiris to whom he adds P. Nellas who was not a member of a university faculty of theology. It is indeed strange that Father Spiteris should terminate his interest in the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens with the death of Prof. Karmiris. He thus gives the impression that not one of the living members of the Theological Faculty of Athens is worth a little sub-chapter.
4) His next chapter VII, entitled “LA CORRENTE DEI 'NEO-ORTODOSSI (The Current of the Neo-Orthodox)”, deals in two sub-chapters, first with some of the works of Prof. J. Romanides, and then with some of those of Prof. Ch. Giannaras, a professor of philosophy at the Pantenos School of Social Sciences. In this chapter he writes the following inaccuracies about Father J. Romanides:
B. Deliberate (?) Fabrications.
5) A. We translate from the biographical sketch page 283.
a) "The only ones who speak about Romanides today are his most ardent admirers and his students. Although still alive he has passed somewhat into the shadows, not because of his theological ideas, which remain significant for those of his entourage, but because of his political ways. Indeed he was entangled in the fascist right during the time of the colonels and, after their fall, he appeared as a candidate of a extreme right party. This was enough to cause his disappearance also from the theological scene."
b) The last paragraph of this biographical sketch on the same page is as follows:
"Actually he has abandoned teaching and has retired to private life. It is to be noted that although he was an ordained clergyman he never exercised his priesthood."
C. The facts
6) Father Romanides was ordained in 1951 while studying at Yale University Divinity School. During this time he served at the Holy Trinity Church in Waterbury, Connecticut, from 1951 till 1954. After finishing his studies at Yale he was transferred for the summer of 1954 to Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City until he left for studies at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological School in Paris (1954-55). There he celebrated Liturgy every Sunday either at the School's Chapel or at various Churches. For several months he served as the priest of a Russian monastery for nuns whose priest had passed away. While working on his doctorate at the University of Athens (1956-1957) he ran into the tradition whereby parish priests took turns celebrating, instead of concelebrating, the Sunday Eucharist except during the great feast days. In this situation Father Romanides simply took communion and concelebrated on feast days. He was appointed professor at Holy Cross, Brookline, Mass. where he taught between 1957 and 1965 while continuing his studies and research at the Harvard Divinity School and then at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. All this time, between 1957 to 1968, he was also a parish priest. He was appointed to the parish of Newport, New Hampshire in 1958. Then in 1959 he was appointed the first priest of St. Athanasius The Great Orthodox Church in Arlington, Mass. which he helped found and organize. He resigned from Holy Cross in 1965 in protest over the removal of Father Georges Florovsky from the faculty by Archbishop Iacovos. Between 1965 and 1968 Father Romanides served as the pastor of Holy Apostles' Parish in Haverhill, Mass.
7) Prof. Romanides taught at the University of Thessaloniki during 1970-84. Because Metropolitan Leonidas of Thessaloniki did not allow his priests to have two positions Father Romanides has been a celebrating non salaried priest.
8) Prof. Romanides did not abandon University teaching. He retired from the University of Thessaloniki with a full pension in 1984. Besides he continues to teach at the University of Balamand, Lebanon, where he has been a Professor since 1970.
9) Two professors of the Theological Faculty of the University of Thessaloniki where dismissed permanently for their co-operation with the government of the dictators. The last Minister of Education of the colonels' dictatorship was Prof. P. Christou. It is to be carefully noted that THIS SAME PROFESSOR CHRISTOU WROTE THE FORWARD OF PROF. SPITERIS' BOOK IN QUESTION. Perhaps Prof. Spiteris got Prof. Romanides mixed up with Prof. Christou and so asked the wrong person to preface his book.
10) Another two professors of the theological faculty were dismissed for a period of a few years for their activities on behalf of the colonels and returned to their chairs upon completion of their sentences.
11) Prof. Romanides was never even accused, let alone punished, for any complicity with the colonels.
12) On the contrary, the very same set of laws by which the aforementioned professors were punished (III), Prof. Romanides was legally recognized as one of the victims of the colonels as follows: He had been elected full professor with tenure July 12, 1968. But because he had been accused by person(s) unknown to him of being a communist, the colonels refused to appoint him. He was cleared of these accusations partly by a lecture he delivered about Ecumenical Movements in Boston April 9, 1964 in honor of United States Senator Soltonstall of Massachuchetts. In this lecture, which was published (The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, vol. X, no. 1, 1964, 7-14.), he analyzed the dangers the USA faced from Communism.
13) After the fall of the colonels and by means of this same aforementioned law (III) Prof. Romanides was declared a victim of an injustice perpetrated by the colonels and was retroactively appointed since his election July 1968 instead of 1970 when he had been actually appointed.
14) Prof. Romanides' father was an active member of the Democratic Party in New York City and raised his son accordingly. Spiteris' effort to create the impression that Father Romanides is anti-Western and undemocratic is an insult to the imagination.
15) With the fall of the colonels from power, Greece had an interim government which turned out to be a period of evening scores. Finally elections were announced. Anti-Junta Royalists approached Prof. Romanides to become a candidate in their party. As is well known the then King was the first to revolt against the colonels. Being not a royalist, but a democrat, Prof. Romanides refused. In his book on "Romanity" (1975) he had emphasized the fact that as Romans we do not have a tradition of hereditary royalty, since the Roman Emperors were elected. In any case Prof. Romanides saw his name listed as a candidate of the party in question in the newspapers. He sent a telegram to the leader of the party demanding that his name be removed. Then members of the party worked on his sentiments claiming that the party would be hurt if he insisted on withdrawing. The result was that he ran for office and enjoyed it, especially since the leader of the party assured him that he is still a socialist and had never changed his political ideology since the time he was a colleague of Prime Minister George Papandreou, the father of the current Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou, and member of his cabinet.
16) The very fact that Prof. Romanides still represents the Church of Greece as member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and in the dialogues with the Lutherans and the Oriental Orthodox and that he still teaches at the University of Balamand and that he is still active at age 68 is not what one has the right to call vita privata or "disappearance...from the theological scene."
17) The total of those who passed degree examines with Prof. Romanides in Dogmatics and Symbolics number more than at least 2,000. They are now divided among at least 10 bishops, many priests, monks, high school teachers and civil servants.
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