ΝEW YORK – Dramatic developments are unfolding at the Holy Trinity Archdiocesan Cathedral of New York. Cathedral Dean Rev. Anastasios Gounaris is being dismissed.
Sources close to the Archbishop Demetrios’ office told TNH that Demetrios is extremely upset with Gounaris but he had not done anything about it because he didn’t want it to appear as if selecting Gounaris to lead the Cathedral had been a mistake in the first place.
Archdiocese Chancellor, Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, acting on Demetrios’ behalf, summoned Gounaris into his office on February 10th and told him that his ministry at the Cathedral is ending and he should depart soon.
Andonios itemized in detail the reasons and all that has transpired since Gounaris’ arrival at the Cathedral in June 2012 that prompted the Archdiocese to take this action. Gounaris told Andonios that he is not going anywhere and asked to see Demetrios because he was the one who appointed him.
Andonios informed Gounaris that the archbishop was attending the Leadership 100 conference in Florida and directly traveling from there to Constantinople to participate in the meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod.
“I’ll do my job as I do it every day,” Gounaris told TNH, and refused to comment about his meeting with Andonios. “I have no comment” about departing the Cathedral, Gounaris said, “nobody knows what is happening from day to day.”
Gounaris’ ministry at the Cathedral had been problematic from the start. Despite revelations by TNH about Gounaris’ problems at his previous parish, the Holy Trinity of Indianapolis, Demetrios proceeded with Gounaris’ appointment.
Gounaris’ relationship with the Parish Council is virtually nonexistent. He and Council President Dean Poll are not on speaking terms, their longstanding discord exacerbated by an email Gounaris sent some time ago to Poll – a prominent Greek-American businessman and owner of the famous Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park, who was appointed Council President by Demetrios – wishing him “to lose everything and to end up homeless on the streets of New York.”
Gounaris’ email followed Poll’s interview in TNH’s Sept. 14 edition, in which he cited problems at the Cathedral, including dwindling attendance for church services, a mounting $250,000 deficit resulting from a $1.9 million annual budget – a large chunk of which is more than $200,000 toward the choir, which includes expenses to hire professional singers, many not Orthodox or even Christian. Poll also spoke about the settlement of a lawsuit that the sexton’s family had brought against the Cathedral for unpaid overtime, but did not disclose the amount. The sexton continues to work at the Cathedral.
And the crisis at the Cathedral only deepens. Recently, the Council reduced funding for the choir and chanter from $275,000 to $150,000 because of financial difficulties. The Cathedral faces a serious financial problem. Sources from the Archdiocese told TNH that Gounaris, along with then-Administrative Assistant Steve Hantzarides, who was ousted earlier this month, had given raises to the choir without the Council’s knowledge or consent.
On February 23, immediately after the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy, Gounaris told the congregation from the Royal Door about the reduced funding and prompted three choir members to read letters aloud compelling the congregation – which was astonished by the tactic – to assist with the funding, with the ultimatum that otherwise, they could not continue.
Cathedral School Officials have also dismissed Day Greek School Principal Sonia Celestin.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral is the only parish in the entire Archdiocese in which the Council is not elected by parishioners but handpicked and appointed by the archbishop. That practice was established by the late Archbishop Iakovos and it continues with Demetrios.
According to the maxims of theology and ecclesiology, the Archdiocesan Cathedral is the par excellence church of the archbishop should be present every day, early in the morning for Matins and in the evening for Vespers. Also, it is his primary church to officiate at the Divine Liturgy and the Feast Days of the Liturgical Calendar.