SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The problem at the Holy Trinity parish in Salt Laker City has been finally resolved as TNH reported in last week’s edition. The Holy Trinity will remain one unified parish, as it has been for a century now, with two naves. Fr. Michael Kouremetis will be transferred from the parish – the official story that the transfer is at his request – and the Parish Council elections will be ratified.
TNH revealed last week that “there was a two-hour meeting on March 12 at the Metropolis of Denver headquarters among Parish Council officials – President Demetrios Tsangaris and member Jim Skedros – and Archbishop Demetrios of America, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, and Archdiocesan Chancellor Bishop Andonios of Phasiane.”
On March 19, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese Bishop Andonios in a letter to the Parish Council and to the entire Holy Trinity parish of Salt Lake City wrote among other things that “as many of you may know, a meeting took place on Wednesday, March 12th at the Metropolis of Denver which included His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, Mr. Dimitrios Tsagaris, Dr. Demetrios Skedros and myself. The purpose of this meeting was to find a resolution to the serious issues which have especially troubled the Salt Lake community these past few years… As a sign of good will and tangible expression of his desire to bring healing to the community and to move forward, Metropolitan Isaiah offered to immediately ratify the parish council elections which took place in November 2013. Therefore, with the blessings of the Metropolitan this letter hereby ratifies those elections, and the parish clergy will administer the affirmation of office (Article 27, Section 4:A of the regulations) to the new council as soon as possible.
“It was also agreed that there will be no discussion or steps taken at this time regarding any separation of the two churches of Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias. This is something which had been agreed upon by both the Metropolitan and Mr. Tsagaris last year and all were in full agreement that this position was needed at the present time to restore peace and harmony. At some time in the future, if there is a desire to move forward with such a separation, a committee can be selected from within the community to explore that option and work towards that end.”
Andonios also wrote that “during the meeting, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah shared with the group that Fr. Michael had expressed in the past a desire to be reassigned. The Metropolitan is now ready to respond to that request and will work with the Archdiocese to find, as quickly as possible, a new assignment for Fr. Michael. Until that time, the Metropolis will continue to see that Father receives his compensation.”
Andonios stated in his letter that “since the present Parish Council does not include an adequate representation of those attending Prophet Elias, it was furthermore agreed by all that as soon as possible the Metropolitan will appoint to the parish council 5 or 6 appropriate individuals who primarily church themselves at Prophet Elias. They will participate as full members of the council until the next parish council election this Fall at which time, they and those current members whose term expires this year, will have the opportunity to include their names on the election ballot for parish council. This process of appointment will be coordinated by the Metropolis and by my office, with input from the current church leadership. It must be stressed that this ‘new’ Parish Council must function as one body, with each individual, regardless of which church they attend, accorded the appropriate deference – their opinion, concerns and what they view as the needs, heard – and everyone focused on what is best for the entire community, especially the youth who have been unfortunately impacted by all the controversy and negativity.”
As TNH has reported, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew intervened by directing Demetrios to solve the problem immediately after TNH revealed the violence that erupted at the Prophet Elias Church on January 19 during the Divine Liturgy, between supporters of Kouremetis and Parish Council members, including President Tsangaris. The following Sunday, services there and at the Holy Trinity were celebrated with plainclothes police officers on hand.
The dispute began with the plan to divide the Holy Trinity Cathedral parish into two, despite opposition by the majority of the parishioners. Fr. Mathew Gilbert is the priest at Holy Trinity, and Kouremetis at Prophet Elias, which became a distinct church. Isaiah supported the split into two parishes.
On February 5, Demetrios summoned Isaiah to the Archdiocesan headquarters in New York telling him of the patriarch’s disappointment. The message was clear that the Patriarchate will not tolerate the dissolution of any parish in the United States.
On February 6, Tsagaris gave Demetrios a detailed account of the Salt Lake events. Archdiocesan Council VP Michael Jaharis and Bishop Andonios were also present.