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Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople

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Athenagoras I
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
Enthroned November 1, 1948
Reign ended July 7, 1972
Predecessor Maximos V
Successor Demetrios I
Personal details
Birth name Aristocles Spyrou
Born 25 March 1886(1886-03-25)
Vasilikón, Ipiros, Greece
Died July 7, 1972 (aged 86)
Phanar, Istanbul, Turkey

Aristocles Spyrou / Αριστοκλής Σπύρου) (March 25, 1886 - July 7, 1972) was the 268th Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 1948 to 1972.


Patriarch Athenagoras was born Aristocles Spyrou in Vasilikón, near Ioannina, Epirus, then Ottoman Empire, on March 25, 1886, the son of the village doctor. His mother died when he was only 13. He attended the Patriarchical Theological School at Halki, Turkey, graduating in 1910. Upon graduating he was ordained to the diaconate taking the name Athenagoras. He served as archdeacon of the Diocese of Pelagonia before becoming the secretary to Archbishop Meletius (Metaxakis) of Athens in 1919. He was raised to the episcopacy as the Metropolitan of Corfu in 1922 while still a deacon.

Returning from a fact-finding trip to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America in 1930, Metropolitan Damaskinos recommended to Pat. Photios II that he appoint Metr. 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.

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 (Venizelloi), 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.

On November 1, 1948, Archbishop Athenagoras was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. 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. 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 died in Istanbul (Constantinople) on July 7, 1972.

Ecumenical relations

His 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 joint Catholic-Orthodox 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.

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's 1965 epistle to the Patriarch openly challenged his efforts at repproachmant with the Roman Catholic Church fearing it would lead to heresy.

Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of America
1931 – 1948
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Maximus V
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
1948 – 1972
Succeeded by
Demetrius I


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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