Metropolitan Alexios Talks about Clergy Laity, Finances, St. Nicholas, Autocephaly, Archbishop

His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta speaks at the plenary session of the 44 Clergy Laity Congress in Boston (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

BOSTON, MA – Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, the only hierarch who spoke at the Clergy Laity Congress even as he was booed, even by priests, spoke to The National Herald about multiple serious issues regarding the Church, including the Congress, the Archdiocese Finances, the St. Nicholas National Shrine, Autocephaly, and Archbishop Demetrios. The interview follows:

TNH: Your Eminence, which are your thoughts about the 44th Clergy Laity Congress?

MA: It was a successful Clergy Laity Congress for different reasons. First we had many delegates. Next year for the local Clergy Laity of our metropolis, I am hoping to present a problem in order to attract people, because it seems when there is a problem, many attend.

TNH: Some 357 parishes participated, almost half of them.

MA: Not half, of the 550, two thirds participated. The second success point was that there was an open dialogue. There was not a dialogue that was directed from somewhere. I didn’t see any who wanted to create problems or to impose their own agenda. I saw genuine people. Did they come out of concern, out of care, to make proposals? I don’t know. I think that because of the problem (finances), we had participation.

TNH: Since you spoke about success, I remind you that Archdiocesan Chancellor Bishop Andonios of Phasiane threatened to resign, and Treasurer Michael Psaros did resign.

MA: Yes, that shows that we had success because everyone wanted to express himself as he believed, either from the chair or from the plenary. Thus everyone expressed himself at that moment, at that time since things weren’t going well. If I had a position I would do the same to show to the people that we are sincere, especially we the clergy. We know that the problem was created because we had never a balanced budget.

TNH: Why wasn’t there a balanced budget?

MA: Simply because everyone wanted something, like this year the priests with Pension Plan. I am in favor of the priests and the Pension Program because when you get old, you should collect. But the moment that your family has a problem, should you ask for yourself and forget the others?

THN: How did you feel as a human being and also as a hierarch that you were booed, and unfortunately, even by priests during your intervention about the budgets of the previous years?

Part of the plenary session includes listening carefully to the speakers about the finances of the Archdiocese. Shown are Bishops Andonios of Phasiane and Apostolos of Medeia (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

MA: That is why I told some of them that they only care about money. If you became priests for the money you are on the wrong path. The disapprobation of their own hierarch because he spoke the truth is proof that we need education and spirituality. Instead of talking about those things as clergy with our wives and children, we care only about money.

TNH: Are you going to say anything to the priests who are under your responsibility?

MA: Of course, of course, I will tell them that I feel ashamed as a person not only as a bishop, and please I want you to write it. Regardless if they agree or disagree, was that appropriate behavior toward a spiritual father?

TNH: Your Eminence I want to assure you that I will write verbatim everything you are saying. Why do you think the archbishop and your fellow hierarchs were siting voiceless and you were the only one who spoke?

MA: I can’t say anything about it because each one expresses himself as he wishes. I spoke not to differentiate myself, but in order to present the situation and to praise the things that Psaros and others are doing, who were not involved in our own mistakes. All the rest of us were involved and those people came and put in some order. Say your opinion, say your thought, but the priests were saying we want money. Is it not a shame to repeat that demand, knowing that the Archdiocese doesn’t have money?

TNH: Why has the Archdiocese gone into this dire financial situation, to the point of taking out a bank loan just to survive?

MA: Simply because Nicholas Bouras and Michael Jaharis died, and they were the ones giving money for the balanced budgets. [Then-Director of Administration] Jerry Dimitrou had expanded and he was taking funds from other accounts and he never asked us. On the contrary, at least once a year we (the Eparchial Synod) had a meeting with him discussing these things. We asked questions and he had answers, but we never asked him did you get money from here and there? These things are shown only when you do an audit. We are not accountants to do audits.

TNH: Dimitriou didn’t tell you holy hierarchs that he transferred money from the St. Nicholas National Shrine account, etc.?

MA: No, never.

TNH: As a Synod you didn’t ask where the money was coming from?

MA: Supposedly we thought there were other Bourases and Jaharises who were giving money, at least that was in my own mind.

TNH: Don’t you think, as you said at the plenary session of the Clergy Laity Congress that all are responsible, the archbishop, the Synodic hierarchs, and the Archdiocesan Council?

MA: And the people. The budget is voted by the people, not from the Synod or the Archdiocesan Council. The Synod is obligated to execute the decisions of the Clergy Laity Congress. The people of the Congress are responsible and I said exactly that. Among the lay people there are individuals who deal with accounting, finances. Businessmen. Why didn’t they ask questions? I studied to be a priest; I didn’t study to be an accountant.

TNH: Would you recommend Archbishop Demetrios obey the ecumenical patriarch and depart in peace and nicely? The patriarch has told him to submit his resignation.

MA: We don’t know that. We haven’t received any letter from the patriarch or the archbishop. There is no announcement from the Synod. The archbishop, like the old hierarchs, has been elected to serve, canonically speaking, until the end of his life.

TNH: Don’t you think that the archbishop as the First also has the main responsibility?

MA: Certainly, and he explained it very well.

TNH: Do you thing that a detailed audit should be done in the metropolises?

MA: I have already started.

TNH: Since when?

MA: Since Christmas. Every year we post our finances on the Internet. We are clean in everything since the first year that I came here. I have found people who are accountants. One of them is from the government. Another one recently retired from the IRS; these are the people who are helping with the finances. Also, every five or six years we hire an accounting firm; this year we are going to pay $28,000 and we are going to have the report by the end of October because the second weekend of November we have a meeting of the Metropolitan Council and I have to present the report.

TNH: Why is Theological School in its current situation.

MA: I don’t want to talk about the Theological School because Christopher [Metropulos, the Hellenic College Holy Cross president] was my first assistant; he was also serving in my metropolis.

TNH: Would you talk about St. Nicholas?

MA: We spoke about St. Nicholas, they got the money. Everyone knows those who were involved, Psaros, etc., that we didn’t know what was going on with Jerry Dimitriou. That is why Psaros paid $140,000 to an independent firm to see what was in there.

Michel Psaros announces his resignation from his position as Treasurer of the Archdiocesan Council. Shown are Archbishop Demetrios of America and Metropolitan Maximos of Sylibria. (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

TNH: You didn’t know about the Archdiocese; you didn’t know about St. Nicholas, but for God’s sake, as a Synod, what you were discussing in the meetings?

MA: I didn’t say that I don’t know about the Theological School, but I said that I don’t want to say. Regarding St. Nicholas, we know that the money was taken from there but it has been returned, thanks to Mr. Psaros and George [Tsandikos]. I am not responsible about the architect. The archbishop and Jerry Dimitriou are. Dimitriou was the general manager. As far as the design is concerned, I personally don’t like it.

TNH: Please explain why.

MA: Because it is not a Byzantine church. They say it will be for everyone. I understand and I respect that. We have so many Greek and Greek-American architects and byzantinologists and we found someone to whom we paid so many millions?

TNH: As a Synodic hierarch, did you say that in the Synod?

MA: I can’t say what we said in Synod, the meeting is closed doors, but I told you how I feel.

TNH: Did you say these things to the archbishop? Did you voice your disagreement?

MA: Again that is my problem, personal. I am telling you in general how I feel about St. Nicholas. In the Synod everyone can express his opinion, but at the end we have to do what the majority wants.

TNH: How would describe the autocephaly talks: naïve, laughable, foolish, or all of the above?

MA: None of the above, because it is impiety to the office of autocephaly, we degrade it. This issue belongs to the time and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This doesn’t mean that that anyone can’t express himself and say whatever he wishes, always with respect.

TNH: What do you mean by saying it belongs to time?

MA: Like the time for the Church in Russia, it became autocephalous and after many years, many centuries it became Patriarchate. This is the time in the Church.

TNH: Please speak clearly, what do you imply that at some point the Archdiocese here should become autocephalous?

MA: Autocephaly as it became in Greece, as it in every country, but that it will happen in the time and the time is the thing that the Patriarchate works. When the Patriarchate feels that there should be autocephaly, then it will be autocephaly.

TNH: Since everyone is responsible, why don’t you resign all together you, the archbishop, the Synod, and the Archdiocesan Council, in order our Church here to do a new beginning?

MA: Your thought is beyond boundaries. We are hierarchs who have been elected by our Patriarchate; we have been ordained and you as a Theologian believe in the Holy Spirit. You shouldn’t think that at all. Second, the Church belongs to God and not to us. In the Synod and in the Church we need to have the spirit of humbleness and the spirit of wise men. You ask God in a humble spirit and pray God illumine me how to be and for what things. This doesn’t mean that I am worthy or unworthy; slimly the Church elected me and the Church charged me with this job. I am trying to it with the best possible way. I pray, I make mistakes, but in my life I want to make mistakes in order to do something, instead of doing nothing. In conclusion I want to tell you that Archbishop Demetrios saved the Church in America.

16 Comments

  1. The question asked about the budgets not being balanced never got answered. Why did past finance committees submit budgets to the Congress that showed that they were balanced, if they are saying that they really weren’t? Were the budgets deliberately altered? How can they blame past Congresses, who only saw the doctored budgets and not the actual numbers? It’s not like I, as a random parishioner at Saint X church, can call up the Archdiocese and ask for a YTD profit/loss statement whenever I want – they would probably hang up on me! Yet I’m responsible for an unbalanced budget, while the LEADERSHIP is not because they “are not accountants”? And the past Congresses didn’t ask the right questions, which apparently should have included, “Are these budgets phony??”

    If the truth is that actual spending ballooned way beyond the budget because spending was not controlled, then that is understandable (not excusable, mind you, but understandable). And that would be an easier explanation for me to swallow than that the hierarchs and lay leadership deliberately lied and deceived the faithful, which sadly seems to be the case, and they are continuing to do so now.

    1. So, here’s their whole previous financial strategy: “Messrs. Bouras and Jaharis died”. That’s the whole thing. And we continue to send money to these peasants?

  2. There are on only two hierarchs that I have deep admiration and respect for. His Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios is one and His Grace Bishop Sebastian is the other. In my humble opinion, and based on my experiences and interactions with both of them – I believe both to be faithful servants of Christ as well as faithful servants to the Greek Orthodox faithful.
    Metropolitan Alexios is right when he suggests that the modern day Orthodox priest should not be in the priesthood for the money. The priesthood is a life – not a lifestyle. I believe our priests should be compensated based on their drive for results (new ministries – new members – ongoing educational programs) and interpersonal savvy (how well they outreach to members of the parish and the surrounding community). But most importantly, they should do what they were called to do – serve the community.

    Follow the hours of the church, i.e the kairos service, matins, divine liturgy, small compline, holy unction, vespers and paraklesis on a daily basis – not just on sundays. We are not a two hour a week faith.

    #itstimetobeaChristcenteredfaithagain

    1. Are you joking? Alexios ‘s interview is immature, defensive, deceitful, embarrassing, and just plain pathetic. This isn’t a leader. This isn’t even a busboy.

      1. Alexio’s interview is an interview of a man of humility and spiritual strenght and faith in what unfortunatley, the remainder of the Metropolitans are clearly lacking. It has been said many times, the Archdioces should not entrust it’s finances to such men of humility and spiritual strength……the finances of our Archdiocese should be entrusted to a secular CFO who will be free to make deicisons on a monetary and on a fiduciary basis rather than on a spiritual basis……only when finances are separated and kept apart from the spiritual will the later prosper and and our church survive…..that is what this humble man of God IS saying…..unfortunately the situation is so dire the the financial imeratives have overcome teh spiritual in our church and only when the tow are spearated shall each survive and prosper….our church needs more men like Metropolitan Alexios and Metropolitan Nathaneal, both strong spiritual men of God on this earth……

    2. Alexios should listen to his own words, and himself not be so mesmerized by money and those who have it. His “Great” vision of the “Chapel” at the Diakonia Center, is a clear example of self adulation
      , mismanagement and expectations that others will pay for his “vision”

  3. to Michael Albano, Yes, make sure the Priest does the services for the one or two and maybe no one that shows up, we are lucky to get some on Sunday, When are you going to the Seminary? You seem to have all the answers!!!!!!!

    1. Semper Fi, USMC12, and roger that. GO faithful in full retreat mode due to bad leaders.

      The fake bishops need to be shown to the border, sooner the better.

    2. I already went USMC – I successfully completed the diaconate program at Holy Cross….and No! I do not have all the answers. Actually, I have more questions than answers.

      1. It’s an insult to the Corps to compare it to Holy Cross, but that’s par for the course with Greek Marxist Eco No Border Anti-American thinking of the denizens of the GOA. Holy Cross hasn’t the Honor or Reputation of the Corps and should not even appear on the same page as such.

        Separately, Alexios exposes himself as intellectually, linguistically, morally, and spiritually incapable. Can you imagine showing this interview to anyone outside the Greek Ghetto? Pathetic and laughable. Can you imagine a young priest having to build a ministry around his nonsense?

  4. More smoke and mirrors.

    Accountability and Transparency: Where is the “forensic audit” the faithful were promised? Will it be published and distributed to every parish and every delegate who attended the Congress? Who knew what and when? Who authorized withdrawals from the St. Nicholas restricted account? When was it authorized? Who knew about it? How much was taken? When was it taken? What was it used for? Same for the priest’s pension accounts. What other restricted accounts have been improperly used? Are we supposed to believe that Jerry Dimitriou (the designated scapegoat) made all of these decisions in secret? He claims that the Archbishop was aware of “everything”. Did the Archbishop withhold all of this information from the Metropolitans and the Executive Committee of the AC? Will the minutes of the Synod meetings be published? If not, why not? What about the minutes of the Executive Committee of the AC? In the past four years (2 budget-years) how many trips have Hierarchs or other Archdiocesan representatives made to Istanbul to meet with the Patriarch/Holy Synod? What did each trip cost (1st class airfare/hotel suites, etc.”?
    The UPR provides that no member of the AC should be paid.. and that they should not be reimbursed for “expenses”. It has been reported that at least one member of the AC (finance committee) received hundreds of thousands of dollars for reimbursement of ‘expenses’). IS that true? Who authorized it? Who knew about it? Did the forensic audit list all of those expenses and will that be published?

    Does any thinking person actually believe that the interview of Metropolitan Alexios (or the plenary session of the C-L Congress) provided any answers to any of the questions that should have been asked and answered?

    1. George, we do not expect answers and that’s why we need to be done with meetings, resolutions, statements and the like. It’s time for hard core action, starting with withholding ALL money at every level. Don’t want your priest to suffer? Take your fair share to his house in cash and tell him to pay his bills. HARD CORE, George. Nothing else will work.

  5. This interview is an insult to every rational person on the planet.

    Alexios has destroyed people’s lives; just look at the men who tried to serve as priests under him and he threw away once a wealthy person would complain. At first I thought such talk was just rumors, but now this interview shows that Alexios really cannot think well and is the pawn of those holding his pursestrings.

    All those priests he destroyed deserve an apology and reinstatement (or at least canonical transfer to another jurisdiction) from Alexios and his cronies.

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