On This Day February 24, 1931: A New Greek Orthodox Archbishop in America Sent to Unite a Divided Community


When Archbishop Athenagoras assumed his new position as Greek Orthodox Archbishop of North and South America on February 24, 1931, he was faced with the task of bringing unity and harmony to a community that was racked with dissension between Royalists and Venizelists— Greeks who had brought with them their political ideologies from the old world and had virtually divided the country into separate dioceses with different political affiliations.

To correct that, he immediately moved to centralize the ecclesiastical administration of the Archdiocese offices in New York City 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 involvement of the laity by expanding clergy-laity congresses and founded the Holy Cross School of Theology, a place where American priests could be trained.

Athenagoras was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1938 and famously registered for the draft in 1941 the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor to show his patriotism and love for America. (the U.S. Army turned him down). Athenagoras would go on to become Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.


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