Athenagoras I (Spyrou) of Constantinople

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Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I (left) with Pope Paul VI

Patriarch Athenagoras I (March 25, 1886 - July 6/7, 1972) was the 268th Patriarch of Constantinople from 1948 to 1972.


Patriarch Athenagoras was born Aristokles Spyrou in Vassilikon, Epirus, Greece on March 25, 1886. 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 Abp. Meletios (Metaxakis) of Athens in 1919. He was raised to the episcopacy as the Metropolitan of Corfu in 1922.

Returning from a fact finding trip to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America in 1930, Metr. 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 Abp. 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 Venizelists that had virtually divided the country up into independent dioceses. To correct this he centralized the eccelesiastical 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 leadership he withstood the early opposition and gained the love and devotion of his people.

On November 1, 1948 Abp. Athenagoras was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. He was honored to be flown to Istanbul to assume his new position in the personal airplane of the American President Harry Truman. As Patriarch, he was actively involved with the World Council of Churches and improving relations with Bishop of Rome. He died in Istanbul on July 6, 1972.


His meeting with Pope Paul VI in 1964 led to rescinding the 1054 excommunications of the Great Schism. This was a significant step towards restoring communion between Rome and Constantinople. It produced the Catholic-Orthodox Joint 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 Istanbul. The declaration did not end the 1054 schism, but showed a desire for greater reconciliation between the two churches, represented by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I.

Succession box:
Athenagoras I (Spyrou) of Constantinople
Preceded by:
Maximus V
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by:
Demetrios I
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External Link

Another Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I dated 28 October 1967