Who is the Man of Love of Asbury Park?

On a recent visit to the beach and boardwalk at Asbury Park, I noticed and photographed this sculpture of “Patriarch Athenagoras, 1886-1972, Man of Love” which is near the Asbury Park Convention Hall. So my question is: who is the “Man of Love” and why is he here overlooking the boardwalk at Asbury Park, New Jersey? Scroll down for more …

Patriarch Athenagoras Asbury Park

The “Man of Love” was born Aristocles Matthew Spyrou in 1886 in the village of Vasiliko in Greece. He studied religion at an early age, entered theological school at age 20, and after going through several levels that are beyond my scope of expertise (deacon, monk, archdeacon, etc), he was appointed the position of Archbishop of North and South America in 1930 as part of the American diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church. In 1938, he was naturalized as a United States citizen.

So why is he the “Man of Love?” He is noted as making this statement: “Love is my personal creed. Love is my philosophy. Love is my policy. Love is my mission. Love is my task. Love is the substance of my joy. Love is my destiny.” That’s a lot of love!

And why is his sculpture in Asbury Park? Patriarch Athenagoras visited Asbury Park four times for Holy Cross day observances when he was in his position of Archbishop of North and South America. In addition, he blessed of the waters of the Atlantic at Asbury Park, and while I’m not aware of the significance of that act, I’ll take it.

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