March 3, 2010

Dr. George Bebis Interviewed About the Greek Archdiocese

The Metropolis' Brought "Fragmentation", says Professor George Bebis

Theodore Kalmoukos
January 10, 2010

"The creation of Metropolis' has brought much fragmentation to the Church of America," remarked the professor of Patristic Theology at Holy Cross Theological School, Dr. George Bebis, in an interview with the National Herald, adding that "it is impermissible to not hear the commemoration of the name of Archbishop Demetrios."

Almost ten years after his official retirement, the professor of Patristic Theology of the Theological School in Boston, Dr. George Bebis, not only teaches two courses a year, but he insists on teaching in the Greek language.

He is the only professor who teaches courses in Patristics in Greek, and furthermore receives a minimum nominal tip for one course and the other he teaches totally free. For the past six months he was teaching a class on the Lives and Sayings of the Fathers. Speaking with the National Herald, he said, "Of course I taught it in the Greek language, and occasionally I say and write certain things on the board in English."

Dr. Bebis graduated from the Holy Cross Theological School as well as from Harvard University, and in Athens he received his doctoral degree. With particular satisfaction he mentioned how "this year I didn't see many older aged students, but young students, and that is a good sign. I would like young students to continue coming from Greece. In fact, I have one student in my class from Greece named Konstantinos Vasilakis."

He went on to say, that "it is also good for Greece that students come from there to our School, and it is good for our School and our Church if they stay here and get ordained or take a path towards Theology." Professor George Bebis came to the Theological School in 1950 as a poor orphaned boy from Crete and he succeeded and distinguished himself on his own. To the question on how different and how similar the Theological School is from back then to today, he answered how "it was very much different; we spoke only Greek." He went on to say: "I remember I had a Greek typewriter and I wrote all my academic work in Greek."

When the National Herald pointed out how in half a century we found ourselves where we are today, Professor Bebis agreed, saying, "Yes, unfortunately." He further said: "Last year the Chief Secretary of the Patriarchate, Fr. Elpidophoros Lambrianidis, addressed this problem of opposition to the Greek language, because young students from the Antiochian Archdiocese and many of our own protested that his speech was too Greek. And Fr. Elpidophoros, to his honor, said 'What is this here, is it not a Greek Orthodox Theological School?'"

Speaking of the chanting in the chapel, Dr. Bebis said: "I haven't seen Mr. Ketzetsis (chanter and professor of Ecclesiastical Music) at the School since September. They invite him elsewhere and he goes and chants, and even during Holy Week he is absent even though he should be present to give an example at the chapel." He said: "Of course there is always room for improvement to make things better, but the Greekness is missing; I would like more Greekness. I emphasize that the chapel is the only place where they will learn to chant in Greek, but we gather the converts, the married, etc. instead and they begin to chant in English."

He also made the point how "since the Gospels were written in Greek, and the Fathers were written in Greek, the School is the only center where the future priests will learn Greek. If they don't learn it at the School, where will they learn it?" Furthermore he said: "And I do not emphasize this out of fanaticism or carelessness, but I believe it is the only place where the Greek language should be taught, the tradition of course." He insisted: "The School must remain Greek."

Speaking about Hellenic College, Dr. Bebis revealed: "When Archbishop Demetrios came to the first meeting some professors of the School stood up and asked for the elimination of Hellenic College, and it was the first time I saw Demetrios get angry and say, 'Hellenic College will remain.'" Mr. Bebis believes that "it must remain; we must support Hellenic College and make it a Center of Hellenic Studies." When asked if it was a failure of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who recently visited America, to not visit the Theological School, to do a Memorial at the tomb of Iakovos, he said, "I sent him a gift and a letter in which I asked "are you not going to come to beautiful Boston?'"

To the question if in the end it was wrong for the Archdiocese to be split into Metropolis', Professor Bebis believes that "it is impermissible to not hear the commemoration of the name of Archbishop Demetrios."

He elaborated saying: "The creation of Metropolis' has brought much fragmentation to the Church of America." He explained how "the way the system is today, it is not right because there is only one Archbishop. Furthermore, the Metropolitans are in communion through the Archbishop with the Patriarch, and this is another proof that the chief shepherd is the Archbishop of America." When asked if today's hierarchs are something like helper bishops or Titular Metropolitans, he said: "Obviously, but they don't want this and there was a mess, and Bartholomew said 'ok, ok, I don't want a mess.'" Today the greatest fear of Mr. Bebis is "a split".

[For another interesting read, I recommend you read this piece about how Dr. Bebis and Fr. George Dragas, the two Holy Cross Patristic's professors, were excluded from being a part of the Pappas Patristic Institute and a Jesuit was chosen as it's chairman instead, though it should be an Orthodox Institute. - J.S.]