Elpidophoros: From Halki to Bursa and Now to America

Photo Courtesy of Anita B. Kartalopoulos

In 1998, when visiting Constantinople for the first time, my spouse, Stamati and I met a young deacon so filled with energy, faith and love for the church that he was memorable from the first introduction. He had a ready smile and was an exemplar of the amazing hospitality that the Poli is known for. Years
passed and, at almost every one of our over 20 visits to Constantinople, with pride and thanksgiving, we watched the progress of Deacon Elpidophoros to Presbyter to Metropolitan of the Throne, and now to Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.

Photo Courtesy of Anita B. Kartalopoulos

Every step of the way, we observed a man who seeks out opportunities and rises to meet them; who has the ability to look at any challenge from a unique perspective and who seems to possess an endless energy to tackle and solve problems. The depth of his faith is immediately apparent as is his ready
smile, easy demeanor and overwhelming kindness and practicality. He has demonstrated that he has the charisma of drawing people to him to complete a task—without ever making himself the center of the mission–always preparing the way for others, building, as a good steward for his διάδοχο, and never forgetting the obligation to give an accounting of what he has done. His ability to get results and progress in adverse circumstances can easily be seen in two striking examples: Halki and Bursa. Reawakening HALKI.

Photo Courtesy of Anita B. Kartalopoulos

The transformational change that Archbishop Elpidophoros accomplished at Halki is nothing short of amazing. I remember Halki that first summer of 1998 and for many years thereafter. It was in a state of suspended animation: asleep; waiting for someone to rouse it up from its lethargy. The Seminary
was forcibly closed by the Turkish government, the monastery was not active and all waited and prayed for the day that the place would be bustling and fulfilling its mission again.

In 2011, then-Metropolitan Elpidophoros became the Dean of Halki Seminary Philoptochos as well as the Abbot of the Monastery located there. When he surveyed the scene, he recognized the constraints but also discerned the opportunities. As he told us early on, the government may have stopped the operation
of the seminary per se, but use of the property itself was not prohibited. With that in mind, he began an academic collaboration not only with European Erasmus programs but also began to digitize the vast collections of the library, so that Halki and the extensive collections would be accessible to all
now.

Photo Courtesy of Anita B. Kartalopoulos

With the University of Thessaloniki, where he was a professor, he instituted a highly successful collaboration to transform the land around the buildings into spectacular ecologically appropriate and biblical gardens with the goal of hosting cultural events in a magnificent setting as well as protecting
the environment. The result, featured in numerous articles and the subject of peer-reviewed academic presentations, is extraordinary. The celebration and hosting of numerous cultural events on the grounds proves that where there is vision, faith, energy and a collaborative spirit, the results can be
amazing.

When I chaired the National Philoptochos Pilgrimage to Constantinople in 2013, our group traveled to Halki and traveling along with us was Metropolitan Elpidophoros. All were so impressed– he was so interactive, enthusiastic, inspiring. They loved him because he connected with them from the first moment. Our entire group of over 35 Philoptochos members was amazed at what they saw in Halki. The biblically-themed gardens, the sparkling, renovated building, a working monastery, plans for a visitor and conference center and an array of cultural events with music filling the air were all a joyous sight. Halki again was a vibrant place, still awaiting and praying for the reopening of the theological school, but surely no longer asleep.

Photo Courtesy of Anita B. Kartalopoulos

Setting the goals and putting Halki on a road to progress and development took vision and enthusiasm
as well as an ability to encourage volunteer service. That’s what we need in America and thankfully, His Eminence brings those skills with him.

Meanwhile in BURSA…

In 2011, His All Holiness and the Holy Synod elevated then-Father Elpidophoros to Metropolitan of Bursa (Προύσα). Bursa, an area located in northwestern Anatolia, within the Marmara Region of Turkey, was once a great See of the church. At the time of his elevation, it was a titular See only. At
the time, I recall Metropolitan Elpidophoros saying, “I don’t want to simply be a metropolitan with a title. I must find a way to produce results in Bursa.” He traveled to Bursa twice. The first time, he found nothing in terms of either churches or a flock.

Undeterred and after much prayer, he traveled there again and found that there were many workers in factories who were Russian Orthodox. I recall
him saying, “I found a flock. There is a ministry there.” And so, began the reawakening of the Church in Bursa. He found not only a flock but the remains of two churches there which were in private ownership and which could be purchased and renovated.

Thereafter, Metropolitan Elpidophoros came to the US, to California, to raise money to purchase the dilapidated church property in Bursa. He raised the money, purchased the properties and renovated the now-operational churches. Then something unheard of occurred: he returned to California, not to raise more money, but to report to the donors what he had done with their donations so that they might know see the fruits of their giving and spiritual labor. Today the churches are operational, staffed with clergy and serving the flock in Bursa. The accountability and transparency were well received and truly welcomed. It was new, refreshing. That’s what we need in America.

America is now experiencing a “reset”. America needs some fresh air, an openness to new ideas, a leader who has shown progress in adverse circumstances, someone who has shown transparency and accountability, who is academic while being practical, someone who respects and loves us as Americans but who has an unquestionable bond with our Ecumenical Patriarchate. All these qualities abound in our new Archbishop.

I am confident that under Archbishop Elpidophoros’ guidance and leadership, our beautiful Church in America will truly find its path and προσανατολισμό, figuratively and literally as we begin this new chapter in the life of our Greek Orthodox Church in America.

Εις Πολλά ¨Ετη Δέσποτα!

36 Comments

  1. RE: “Today the churches are operational, staffed with clergy and serving the flock in Bursa. The accountability and transparency were well received and truly welcomed. It was new, refreshing. That’s what we need in America.”

    You mean these churches? Who are Priests who serve at these ruins? How large are their flocks?

    http://www.omhksea.org/2012/09/ecumenical-patriarchate-purchases-8th-century-church-in-bursa/

    https://pemptousia.com/2017/06/ecumenical-patriarchate-purchases-ancient-church/

    1. Halki to Bursa to America is similar to saying one room schoolhouse to rural county middle school with 150 kids to Chairman, IBM.

      Good luck with that.

    2. The latest out of NYC is that the Greek billionaires boys club members are going to ask Gov Andrew Cuomo for state money to bail out The Shrine of National Disgrace at Freedom Plaza. This time the taxpayers will pay. That’s the Hellenic Way, yes?Make the government pay for it.

  2. The only functioning church in Bursa is the French Church Cultural Center, a building shared by four Christian communities: Protestant, Catholic (2), and Orthodox.

    The Orthodox “fellowship” meets for a service once a month.

    1. In September 2010 the EP purchased the Byzantine Basmelekler Church (also known as the Taksiyarhon Church) in Bursa.

      Who is the Priest that serves in this ruin? How large is his flock?

    2. Correction: EP purchased the Byzantine Başmelekler Church, or Taksiyarhon Church in 2012 not 2010.

      It would seem that GOA has the right man for the job of fixing the St Nicholas church-shrine-welcome center if Elpidophoros made not one, but two church ruins operational in so short a time.

      Less than 7 years for Taksiyarhon Church? ? wow

  3. Where is the other Bursa church ruin that the EP purchased?

    How much money did Elpidophoros raise to renovate these Byzantine church ruins?

    Were these churches truly renovated to “now-operational” status? If so, let’s see some pictures!

    For comparison purposes, how do these churches compare “operationally” to the St. Nicholas church-shrine-welcone center?

    1. Turkey backs down on closing Bursa’s only church
      World Watch Monitor
      February 24, 2016

      “ In 2013, city officials and church leaders hosted a delegation of Christian and Muslim theologians from Germany as part of an inter-religious dialogue initiative. Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Bursa, has praised the Catholic congregation for allowing Orthodox Christians to worship there.”

  4. In 2014 Mustafa Şahin, head archaeologist at Bursa Uludağ University in Bursa, discovered the ruins of a massive Byzantine church lying under10 feet of water and about 160 feet from the shore of Turkey’s Lake Iznik.

    Perhaps Elpidophoros knows this man? It would be great if he did, then he would have expert on underwater churches to consult him.

  5. Nice article on the new Archbishop. Hopefully his enthusiasm will bring some hope for all the critics. Loan ? Are you replying to yourself or are their 2 loans ? Some of these critics along with yourself act like so many great things can be achieved by Christians in Turkey , as if the Turks make it easy for Christian to do anything at all there. One must be brave and have the courage of a lion to attempt to openly practice Christianity in turkey let alone try and re-open a college , rebuild churches , or gather crypto – Christians and try and tell them it’s ok to worship openly amongst the barbarians. Loan and others must think our priests in turkey are wealthy people living in mansions flying in private jets, either calling them losers and failures or wishing they would fail before they’ve even started. Who would want this job ? He has a mess to clean up in the US and if he dares hold the fat bishops accountable God help him along with all the haters he’ll be dealing with telling us “I told you so” with every mistake he’ll make.

    1. Not replying to myself. Just posting information on the new archbishop’s fictitious “now-operational” churches.

      Reply just stacks up the posts most coherently.

    2. Replying to Niko’s: “ Some of these critics along with yourself act like so many great things can be achieved by Christians in Turkey , as if the Turks make it easy for Christian to do anything at all there.”

      No my act was to point out the very opposite of what you ascribed to me. It is very difficult for the Orthodox Christians to accomplish anything in Turkey, yet the breathless author of this piece describes Elpidophoros’ buying-renovating-staffing-and shepherding church properties in Bursa like it was “easy.”

      Too easy, it seems.

      I found (please anyone correct me if I am wrong as I know the web is limited in its content) that no such church Bursa Orthodox “now-operational” churches exist.

      I think it is important to highlight this fact as the author of this piece is trying to sell the notion that if he could perform such wonders in Turkish Bursa, then he is our savior in the US of A.

      I don’t buy it.

    3. Awhile back I had read of the Turkish oppression of the EP and how they try to humiliate him. The example that was given was that he couldn’t even remodel a bathroom in his residence without going through a lot of humiliating red tape from the Turkish authorities.

      Contrast this humiliation with what we read in this piece about how Elpidophoros has accomplished such wonders in the buying and restoration of Byzantine church ruins.

      What’s he got that the EP don’t got?

      It’s as if the new archbishop has got some extra pull in Turkey almost as if he was one of “them” more so than the EP. This makes me suspicious.

      In America we have a dish called turducken, the unholy trinity of a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken.

      Maybe who we have before us is a Greeturican. A Greek Turk filled with American State Dept-CIA interests.

  6. Though this article seems to highlight some of Elpi’s better qualities, I stil do sense a Christian vision for the church. From what he has said and written he seems to have a Hellenic vision of the church. His writings have no mention of evangelization, social outreach or Orthodox unity. His primary message is fidelity to the Patriarch. The GOA is not an homogenia, a Greek community or a Greek diaspora. We can’t live in the past and believe we will exist in the future. The GOA needs to return to its firest love-Jesus and this can only be through repentance both corporately and individually. The Shrine, transparency, restoration of the clergy pension and charisma will not revitalize the church.

    1. RE: “His writings have no mention of evangelization, social outreach or Orthodox unity.”

      One cannot expect writings of “unity” from the chief architect of the Ukrainian schism which threatens to splinter the Body of Christ into pieces, the whole Orthodox Church, of which the GOA is still a part.

      The Greek Orthodox in America deserve better. Why settle for less?

  7. Boy the old GOA Madison Avenue public relations shop is working overtime this week. Reinforces two things:

    The new Archbishop’s door is always open to the well heeled money class. At $250 a ticket there won’t be many middle class Greek American families at his enthronement.

    And he is much more interested in “restoring” old Churches reminiscent of Byzantine/Hellenic glory in cities devoid of any Christian population than he is of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    But look at the bright side. He did discover that His All Divine Imperial Holiness Whose Light Causes Sunflowers to Flower is even more important to the Church than Christ himself!

  8. Why do you think the Turks allowed him to restore old churches and the patriarch can’t even renovate a bathroom ? Because theirs money in ruins. Tourists will come to see what was restored and the Turks know theirs money to be made. It’s not that he’s got side deals with the Turks but even if he did that’s how things get done. He took care of the areas he was assigned to take care of.
    Also, some people seem to have a problem with the Greek in Orthodoxy. Naturally this is Christ’s church first and foremost but let’s not forget that it’s was the Greek language that is in the New Testament. Theirs a reason for that. By far it was the richest and most advanced language of the time, and still is today. Our institutions were set up in the US and all over the world to combine Orthodoxy and Hellenism. For those of us in the tri state area were their are so many Greeks, we are the Omogenia. We are the diaspora. We live it everyday. Our church satisfies the needs of both. Our church’s in the New York / New Jersey area are no where near ready to relinquish this. As Is evident every year at Greek parade on 5th ave with tens of thousands cheering on and marching hand in hand with Priests and Evzones

    1. RE: “Also, some people seem to have a problem with the Greek in Orthodoxy. Naturally this is Christ’s church first and foremost but let’s not forget that it’s was the Greek language that is in the New Testament.“

      No one, including myself, has a problem with the Greeks in Greek Orthodoxy nor do I have a problem with the koine Greek of the New Testament.

      What I and others have a problem with is that the author of Church schism and the author of the Orthodox Church destroying “first without equals” teaching (couched in Greek nationalist verbiage yet still used as a club against the autocephalous Hellas Church!) is the new archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

      He is a Greek-Turk, yes, but I don’t see why the big “G” part of his hyphenated nationality should make him above criticism.

      So please stop trotting out the straw man that I and others who are against Elpidophoros are doing so because he is Greek.

    2. I can assure you I have nothing against Greeks. Probably because I am one, born here in America but with grandparents from four different Greek islands including the sacred island of Patmos. I am proud of my ancestry and proud to speak (some) Greek even though I am third generation. I still on occasion try to stumble through the Gospel in its beautiful original koine Greek. So let’s put that behind us.

      I dislike this guy because the only thing I love more than bring Greek is being Orthodox. And this clown is the author of the heretical “First Without Equal” nonsense that has torn the unity of our precious faith around the world. I also suspect he was in full knowledge of the Ukrainian thirty million pieces of silver that worked their way into Black Bart’s greedy pocket.

      As my yiayia told us as little kids when we would squirm and giggle in Church – tropois!!

    3. Spiro, “You can not serve 2 masters because you will love one and hate the other” said Jesus. Mixed marriages are the norm in the GOA, thus there are few that can identify as part of an homogenia.

  9. Looks like the author has commenced her campaign to be national philoptochos president. So transparent and sad.

  10. The late Anthimos Zois went to Flushing saying he visited the marbled monastery in Bursa which made them laugh because he was describing the one in Turkey the icon fled from during iconoclasm but their Prussos (where the icon chose to domicile itself) is in Evrytania as in Prussiotissa.

  11. Did Elpidophoros buy and rejuvenate this church?

    From July 2015

    Historic church in Turkey’s Bursa for sale on Internet

    The 700-year-old arched church in the northwestern province of Bursa’s Mudanya district has been put on sale on the Internet for $1 million, news website T24 has reported.

    The Internet advert on a real estate website said the church’s relief and restitution were approved by the Bursa Council of Monuments. The 13th century church is filed under the top category “building more than 31 years old.”

    The real estate agent who placed the ad, Nusret Akyüz, responded angrily to phone calls inquiring about the church.

    “We are selling it. We cannot provide information about the owner of the estate. The details are in the ad. Do not make me repeat the same things. You are the 50th person who has called me since yesterday,” said Akyüz.

    A document written by a Dr. J. Covel in 1676 states that the church was dedicated to Panagia Pantobasillissa (The Queen of All – Virgin Mary). The church’s dome and bell tower collapsed during an earthquake in 1855 and was restored in 1883.

    After Greeks who had lived in the area for centuries emigrated to Trilye in the 20th century in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the church passed to private ownership.

    1. OK National Herald. You published this piece that makes the claim that Elpidophoros purchased two “dilapidated” properties, one of which (a Byzantine church ruin) has been identified, the other one (a 13th Century church ruin) may be the one referenced in the story above.

      The story claims that these churches are “now-operational” and “staffed with clergy” and “serving the flock in Bursa.”

      If the National Herald were to publish a story (substantiated) on these churches, it would be a service to its readers and pretty darn GREAT for the new archbishop.

      If the tale of the “now-operational” formerly ruined churches is false, you owe your readers a retraction.

  12. Summary of Above:

    1. The GOA is engaged in a ham-handed ,third grade attempt to spin good stories about Elpi before his D-Day launch.
    2. The true facts of his so-called successes are in serious doubt. No fact checking.
    3. There is no attempt to hide or disguise the Hellenism Uber Alles agenda. Zeig Heil !
    4. Elpi is enormously ambitious for all the wrong reasons.
    5. He will lead the The Church of the Island of Manhattan, little else.
    6. Church members in fly-over country are on to him and fed up.

    Am I missing much? Isn’t this more efficient than all the diarrhea above?

  13. Off topic but…

    Spiro, I believe the word you were reaching for was “logorrhea” which to my untutored eye might be a word with Greek roots.

    1. Ioan–
      Logorrhea if it comes from the mouth,sure. But diarrhea if it come out of your golo. I thing I had it right the first time.

  14. From Halki to Bursa to Ukraine…to…oh no please don’t do this to America

    Here’s the latest on Elpidophoros’ renovation of the Ukrainian schismatics project.

    Spoiler: From ruins to more ruination.

    Schismatic “Metropolitan” Philaret has announced that a Local Council of the KP will be held, on June 20, 2019 reports BBC News Ukraine.

    Philaret repeated that had he known the contents of the tomos of autocephaly written by Constantinople, that leave the OCU dependent upon Constantinople in important ways, he would not have accepted it. However, he went further this time, declaring that “We do not accept this tomos… Had we known the contents, we would not have voted for autocephaly on December 15, because we don’t need to go from one dependence to another.”

    Philaret thus intends to fully restore the KP that he had nominally agreed to liquidate on December 15 before the start of the “unification council” that created the OCU out of the KP and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church”

    Note: UAOC is STILL a state-recognized entity that also has not liquidated itself.

    And so, the EP-Elpidophoros designed “unification council” has resulted in two schismatic structures becoming three, rather than one.

  15. Elpidophoros’ record thus far:

    – Halki: Seminary still closed.

    – Bursa: Two Church ruins purchased and NOT operational.

    – Ukraine: Failure of the unification of the two schismatic bodies, with the two now become three. No Local Churches recognize EP-Elpidophoros project as canonical. The Church worldwide is threatened with a schism as traumatic as the Great Schism if 1054.

  16. OK….
    What are the names and addresses of these so-called purchased, renovated and operational churches in Bursa?
    What are the names/bios of the priests who service these two churches, and where did they come from?
    What is the head count of parishioners at each of these churches?
    Under whose jurisdiction do these two churches operate under?

    Lastly, I’d like to see photos of these two specific churches ( both exterior and interior).
    I’d like to see photos of the priests who service these two churches
    I’d like to see photos of a church service ( preferably a Divine Liturgy) being conducted in each of these two churches with parishioner attendance
    Confucius say, “A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS”
    C’mon THN – show me!!!
    Or are you reporting “Fake News” spun out by the EP and the GOA via Karloutsos !?

  17. A few days ago, in remarks directed against Moscow, the EP said the “Phanar is always a source of light and hope that doesn’t go out, neither with winds that once blew from the east and west nor with the icy winds blowing from the steppes of the north.”

    First of all, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the source of light (John 8:12) and the hope (Romans 5:5) that is never disappointed.

    Who is this man who claims the words that from Gospels that describe our Lord for himself? Who is this man who pretends to the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ? And now the EP’s chief apostle is coming to lead in America?

    Secondly, it is profoundly disturbing that the EP would describe his opposition as “winds” for today on the Feast of Pentecost we remember the Holy Spirit coming to the Apostles like a “mighty wind”:

    “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2)

    Whatever has possessed the EP and his right-hand should rightly fear the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Church.

    Chronia Polla! S’pradznikom! Happy feast day of the Pentecost!

  18. Known in the Greek-speaking world, journalist, publicist and theologian Georgy Papatanassopulos believes that the Ecumenical Patriarch no longer conceals his anger for the pan-Orthodox reaction that he receives because of the proclamation of the Ukrainian schismatics as the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine. The journalist’s article was published by the Greek edition Βήμα ορθοδοξίαί .

    In particular, the publication states that on June 11, 2019 in the monastery of the Apostle Barnabas in Nicosia, Metropolitan Emanuel of Gallia read a letter from Patriarch Bartholomew to the Cyprus Church, in which “an outburst of his wrath is evident.”

    In his letter, the patriarch does not speak about the Church of Cyprus, to which he addresses, but mainly concentrates on the chanting of the Church of Constantinople, and, moreover, he does this in a very arrogant and unprecedented tone, which, in the end, according to the journalist, “leads him to historical and ecclesiological inaccuracies.
    The Ecumenical Patriarch writes in his letter that “the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople is the common Mother of all Churches. We regret that we have come to the need to repeat these self-evident things. ”
    In addition, according to the journalist, the patriarch’s letter stresses that “in Constantinople there is no coordinating instrument in the form of a dignitary. The only coordinating instrument is a loving heart, rich in the mind of Orthodoxy. ”

    1. To continue my above comment:
      At the end of his message, the patriarch reports that Phanar exists in such a status “because he has the commands of the divine Fathers and holy Councils, which gave the Ecumenical Patriarchate the sacred, inviolable and unfavorable privilege of service.”

      These statements by Patriarch Bartholomew forced George Papatanassopoulos to comment on them.

      Thus, the publicist believes that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was not obligated by anyone “to ensure the welfare of other churches” and no one gave him such a “sacred, inviolable and unconditional privilege of service.”

      In addition, according to Orthodox ecclesiology and the rule of law, all Orthodox Churches can be called great churches, because they all “went through fire and iron, and all have their martyrs.”

      At the same time, all Churches should remember, “The Mother Church is the Church of Jerusalem, followed by Alexandria and Antioch,” while Constantinople is “a Byzantine city that became glorious only when the great Constantine made it the capital of Rome state and turned into a new Rome. ”
      Moreover, according to the theologian, the phrase from the letter of Patriarch Bartholomew that the Church of Constantinople “serves the truth alone” looks very strange, without any outside influence. Especially if we take into account that Fanar is located in the territory of an Islamic country “with the mentality of the Sultan”
      From: https: spzh/news.ru

  19. Hello Anita: Beautiful article; masterfully written.

    My prayers are with our new ArchBishop-Elpithoforos. Bill and I wish him good health and wisdom to face the many challenges ahead. From your writing, our church has a new beginning.

    Continue Progressing

    Bill, Christine, Michael and George

    (Old friends from the Rockaway days)

Comments are closed.