Clergy & Staff
Fr. Spiro has a B.S. Degree in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire, Durham and a Master’s Degree in Divinity from the Holy Cross School of Theology. As a Youth Director, prior to ordination he led the Youth Ministries of 60 parishes for the Metropolis of Boston and the Boston Diocese Camp. As a previous business owner with an extensive background in sales and marketing, and with his time as a retail consultant, Fr. Spiro brings a diverse background to his ministry.
In January of 2001 he moved from his native New Hampshire to further develop the “Come Receive the Light Radio Program” which is now known at the Orthodox Christian Network. While working for OCN he took the role of pastoral assistant to Fr. Christopher Metropulos at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Fort Lauderdale. Fr. Spiro was ordained to the Deaconate in 2006 and subsequently to the Priesthood. After serving the Parish of St. Demetrios in Fort Lauderdale for 6 years he was assigned as the Dean of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in July of 2012. In 2013 Eminence Metropolitan Alexios assigned Fr. Spiro as Vicar to oversee the parishes of the Southeast District and has also served as one of four Camp Directors of Saint Stephen’s Camp for the past 5 years. Father’s ministry is enhanced by his Presbytera Lisa and their son John Gabriel .
Saint Sophia, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral for the Southeast Florida district, is a vibrant, Christ-centered parish in the heart of Miami that provides for the sacramental needs of Orthodox Christians in the community and offers a host of outreach ministries. It also has a long history of religious, social and cultural involvement in South Florida.
Many of the Greeks who arrived in the United States during the great wave of immigration in the early 1900’s eventually found their way to Florida. Some came to Miami because they heard of the warm climate and of citrus fruit growing in the winter. Henry Flagler’s railroad reached Miami in 1896 and had made travel easier. These immigrants came, liked what they saw, and brought their families here. A Greek community was beginning to emerge in Miami.
The Greeks needed a church where they could worship, and where Greek Orthodox religion, language, customs and culture could be taught to their children. However, before they could purchase property, church services were held at various locations. The Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Biscayne Bay at 464 N.E. 16th Street, Miami, at one time generously offered the Greek Community the temporary use of its elegant church for services. On November 15, 1925, the first group of Greeks met at the home of Stavros Petros to legally establish a Greek Orthodox community. Without hesitation, they pledged funds at this meeting, and a temporary committee was named to draft a constitution and find a suitable church. In the following two years, under the chairmanship and leadership of I.G. Delyanis, the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Community was organized into a functional entity. Finally in 1927, a constitution was adopted, and an election of the first parish council was held with Achileas Zapetis elected as its first president. A small church was eventually purchased at 1501 N.E. 1st Avenue, which was to serve the needs of the community for the next 20 years.
During these 20 years, both the parishioners and community suffered in the Great Depression, but it steadily grew and matured with the beautiful city of Miami. The Greek School and Ladies Philoptochos were established in the 1930’s, serving the young people and other members of the parish. In order to meet the needs of a growing community, a major decision was made in 1941 to purchase a new site and construct a new church and community center. Under the chairmanship of President John Colozoff, a committee was formed, which jointly and severally assumed this responsibility and did in fact purchase the land where the beautiful Cathedral now stands. The services of a young architect, Chrystoforos Kantianis, were retained to design and supervise construction of the Byzantine church, in addition to a community center, which was to house an auditorium/gymnasium and several classrooms. The cornerstone of the new church was laid at last on March 7, 1948, with His Grace Bishop Germanos officiating. On August 15, 1949, during the A.H.E.P.A. national convention, the first church services were held with His Eminence Archbishop Michael as celebrant, assisted by Fr. Demosthenes Mekras. The community center building was completed in 1952 under the presidency of another great leader and benefactor, George D. Karnegis, for whom the community center would be named in 1994. Later, the interior of the church was completed with the installation of imported marble and mosaic icons as well as beautiful iconography created by Stelios Maris in the Byzantine design—making Saint Sophia one of the most beautiful and impressive Greek Orthodox churches in the United States. A major highlight in the history of the church was the consecration of Saint Sophia Cathedral with the relics of Saints Andrew, Nestor and Haralambos by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos on November 25, 1973.
Since its founding in 1927, the St. Sophia community has been blessed with the service of twelve priests. The very first priest was Fr. Chrysanthos Kaplanis, followed by Fr. Karapiperis, Fr. Daniel Scarpas, Fr. Germanos Papapanagiotou, Fr. Tjomanis and Fr. George Thalassitis. Father Methodios Phousianis then assumed the pastorate at St. Sophia from 1939 to 1945, during the height of the planning phase of the new Cathedral. In 1944, Father Demosthenes J. Mekras came to Miami where he served as Deacon for one year before his ordination to the priesthood in 1945. In 1946, he assumed the spiritual leadership of the congregation. At the time, there was only four Greek Orthodox parishes in all of Florida. During his 43 years at St. Sophia, many of the churches on the East Coast of Florida were established. In the early years of his tenure, though, Father Mekras ministered to an Orthodox population covering almost half the state, from points south of Tarpon Springs and Jacksonville all the way to and including the Caribbean! Fr. Mekras served continuously at St. Sophia with piety, wisdom and dedication until his retirement in 1986. St. Sophia was then blessed to have Father George Neofotistos, a respected religious educator and counselor and former Director of St. Basil Academy, serve as Dean of the Cathedral from 1986 until his retirement in 1993. This was followed by Fr. George Economou and Fr. Maximus Moses. Since 1997, Saint Sophia welcomed Father Stavroforos Mamaies, whose spiritual presence continued that of his predecessors. In 2012 Fr. Spiro D. Bobotas was assigned as the latest spiritual leader of the community.
Saint Sophia Cathedral has grown with its surrounding community. It is a church blessed with many bicultural families, including many who are Greek,Hispanic, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian and more. All of these families serve to enhance the parish’s diversity and affirm the universality of the Orthodox faith. Tapping into the richness of all cultural traditions and the respective emphasis on both faith and family has proven valuable in maintaining a close knit and invigorated community.
With God’s help and our Orthodox Faith, St. Sophia Cathedral will continue to provide sacramental needs and spiritual guidance to all who seek God’s Blessings.
Evangeline Mekras Scurtis President
Angelo Marsellos 1st Vice President
Jose Godur 2nd Vice President
Aleco Haralambides Treasurer
Sheila Callesis Secretary
by Rev. Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald
The Orthodox Church throughout the ages has maintained a continuity of faith and love with the apostolic community which was founded by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that she has preserved and taught the historic Christian Faith, free from error and distortion, from the time of the Apostles. She also believes that there is nothing in the body of her teachings which is contrary to truth or which inhibits real union with God. The air of antiquity and timelessness which often characterizes Eastern Christianity is an expression of her desire to remain loyal to the authentic Christian Faith.
Orthodoxy believes that the Christian Faith and the Church are inseparable. It is impossible to know Christ, to share in the life of the Holy Trinity, or to be considered a Christian, apart from the Church. It is in the Church that the Christian Faith is proclaimed and maintained. It is through the Church that an individual is nurtured in the Faith.
God is the source of faith in the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy believes that God has revealed Himself to us, most especially in the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom we know as the Son of God. This Revelation of God, His love, and His purpose, is constantly made manifest and contemporary in the life of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Orthodox Faith does not begin with mankind's religious speculations, nor with the so-called "proofs" for the existence of God, nor with a human quest for the Divine. The origin of the Orthodox Christian Faith is the Self-disclosure of God. Each day, the Church's Morning Prayer affirms and reminds us of this by declaring, "God is the Lord and He has revealed Himself to us.” While the inner Being of God always remains unknown and unapproachable, God has manifested Himself to us; and the Church has experienced Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is central to the Orthodox Faith, is not a result of pious speculation, but of the overwhelming experience of God. The doctrine affirms that there is only One God, in whom there are three distinct Persons. In other words, when we encounter the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, we are truly experiencing contact with God. While the Holy Trinity is a mystery which can never be fully comprehended, Orthodoxy believes that we can truly participate in the Trinity through the life of the Church, especially through our celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments, as well as the non-sacramental services.
Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Together with the belief in the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of the Incarnation occupies a central position in the teaching of the Orthodox Church. According to Orthodox Faith, Jesus is much more than a pious man or a profound teacher of morality. He is the "Son of God who became the Son of Man.” The doctrine of the Incarnation is an expression of the Church's experience of Christ. In Him, divinity is united with humanity without the destruction of either reality. Jesus Christ is truly God who shares in the same reality as the Father and the Spirit. Moreover, He is truly man who shares with us all that is human. The Church believes that, as the unique God-man, Jesus Christ has restored humanity to fellowship with God.
By manifesting the Holy Trinity, by teaching the meaning of authentic human life, and by conquering the powers of sin and death through His Resurrection, Christ is the supreme expression of the love of God the Father, for His people, made present in every age and in every place by the Holy Spirit through the life of the Church. The great Fathers of the Church summarized the ministry of Christ in the bold affirmation, "God became what we are so that we may become what He is.”
The Holy Scriptures are highly regarded by the Orthodox Church. Their importance is expressed in the fact that a portion of the Bible is read at every service of Worship. The Orthodox Church, which sees itself as the guardian and interpreter of the Scriptures, believes that the books of the Bible are a valuable witness to God's revelation. The Old Testament is a collection of forty-nine books of various literary styles which expresses God's revelation to the ancient Israelites. The Orthodox Church regards the Old Testament as a preparation for the coming of Christ and believes that it should be read in light of His revelation.
The New Testament is centered upon the person and work of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early Church. The four Gospels are an account of Christ's life and teaching, centering upon His Death and Resurrection. The twenty-one epistles and the Acts of the Apostles are devoted to the Christian life and the development of the early Church. The Book of Revelation is a very symbolic text which looks to the return of Christ. The New Testament, especially the Gospels, is very important to Orthodoxy because here is found a written witness to the perfect revelation of God in the Incarnation of the Son of God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God's revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation. The Bible is viewed as only one expression of God's revelation in the ongoing life of His people. Scripture is part of the treasure of Faith which is known as Tradition. Tradition means that which is "handed on" from one generation to another. In addition to the witness of Faith in the Scripture, the Orthodox Christian Faith is celebrated in the Eucharist; taught by the Fathers; glorified by the Saints; expressed in prayers, hymns, and icons; defended by the seven Ecumenical Councils; embodied in the Nicene Creed; manifested in social concern; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is lived in every local Orthodox parish. The life of the Holy Trinity is manifested in every aspect of the Church's life. Finally, the Church, as a whole, is the guardian of the authentic Christian Faith which bears witness to that Revelation.
Councils and Creed
As Orthodoxy has avoided any tendency to restrict the vision of God's revelation to only one avenue of its life, the Church has also avoided the systematic or extensive definition of its Faith. Orthodoxy affirms that the Christian Faith expresses and points to the gracious and mysterious relationship between God and humanity. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, not to institute a new philosophy or code of conduct, but primarily to bestow upon us "new life" in the Holy Trinity. This reality, which is manifest in the Church, cannot be wholly captured in language, formulas, or definitions. The content of the Faith is not opposed to reason, but is often beyond the bounds of reason, as are many of the important realities of life. Orthodoxy recognizes the supreme majesty of God, as well as the limitations of the human mind. The Church is content to accept the element of mystery in its approach to God.
Only when the fundamental truths of the Faith are seriously threatened by false teachings does the Church act to define dogmatically an article of faith. For this reason, the decisions of the seven Ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church are highly respected. The Councils were synods to which bishops from throughout the Christian world gathered to determine the true faith. The Ecumenical Councils did not create new doctrines but proclaimed, in a particular place and a particular time, what the Church has always believed and taught.
The Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the Councils of Nicaea in 325 and of Constantinople in 381, has been recognized since then as the authoritative expression of the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church. The Creed is often referred to as the "Symbol of Faith." This description indicates that the Creed is not an analytical statement, but that it points to a reality greater than itself and to which it bears witness. For generations, the Creed has been the criterion of authentic Faith and the basis of Christian education. The Creed is recited at the time of Baptism and during every Divine Liturgy.
"I believe in One God, Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in One Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.
For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried.
On the third day He rose according to the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the age to come.
Treasures Of Orthodoxy is a series of pamphlets written for the non-Orthodox, especially those who are considering becoming members of the Orthodox Church and who wish to deepen their appreciation of her faith, worship, and traditions. The pamphlets are authored by Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald, a faculty member of Hellenic College-Holy Cross School of Theology. The pamphlet titles are as follows:
Introduction - Introduces the non-Orthodox to Orthodox Christianity.
House of God - Describes the interior of the church building.
Worship - Discusses the form and characteristics of Orthodox worship.
Liturgy - Describes the meaning and celebration of the Eucharist.
Sacraments - Describes the meaning and importance of liturgical life.
Special Services and Blessings - Describes the non-sacramental services which contribute to spiritual life.
Teachings - Outlines the salient points of doctrine and basic credal affirmations.
Spirituality - Discusses the meaning of theosis as the goal of Christian life.
History - Sketches the great epochs of Orthodoxy.
The Church - Outlines the procedure for becoming a member of the Orthodox Church.