Archdiocese Deficit Even Larger than Believed; Clergy-Laity Congress Set for Boston (Adds)

NEW YORK – The economic situation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is much more serious than thought before. The National Herald has learned from within the recent meeting of the Archdiocesan Council that the deficit actually is $12.75 million.

The deficit includes a transfer of $4.75 million made from the restricted accountsof which $2.5 million was from St. Nicholas at Ground Zero rebuilding fund. The transfers were made to the Archdiocese’s general operating accounts, which violates is own regulations and may cause legal problems.

Another $4 million is in deficit since checks have been issued waiting in a box at the Archdiocese to be mailed out for paying bills, but there are no funds in the bank.Also, there is a problem with the pension of the priests, about $3 million.

More than 30 personnel were fired that cost in salaries and benefits more than $6.5 million per year.

The Archdiocesan budget, which was set at $30 million for 2018 will be reduced to $22million. No increase will be asked of the parishes. Many parishes already have reduced their annual allocations to the Archdiocese or indend to stop them altogether until a detailed financial report is published in TNH.

Archdiocesan Council Treasurer Michael Psaros delivered a speech on October 20 at the Council’s open meeting on the finances.He presented concrete and decisive proposals designed to turn the finances around and emphasized the need for total transparency. He said that by its nature and mission, the Archdiocese “must have accountability and transparency.

“I can confirm that we are exceedingly disappointed that Fr. (Soterios) Baroody discovered transfers involving funds in restricted and custodial accounts of approximately $4.75 million. We believe that the funds in these accounts were transferred to fund the GOA’s legacy operating deficit. We are proceeding with an examination of all transfers, and will engage an accounting firm to confirm the specific nature of those transactions. We understand it is imperative that all avenues be explored to restore the proceeds to these accounts as soon as possible. We will pursue all options to do so. In the meantime, we believe that proper internal controls have been established to prevent this practice from occurring again.” (The speech is published in this issue in its entirety).

At the meeting, responsibility was placed on ousted Executive Director of Administration Jerry Dimitriou. It was said that he would hire a limousine to take him from the Archdiocese to the St. Nicholas site and back. He also traveled abroad, specifically to Austria, in order to choose the marbles for St. Nicholas. TNH has learned His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America knew in great detail everything that was going regarding the finances, including St. Nicholas.

It was decided that the next Clergy Laity Congress of the Archdiocese will be held in Boston in July. George Behrakis, a prominent businessman and great benefactor of the Archdiocese, the Metropolis of Boston, the Ecumenical patriarchate, the Greek-American Community and Greece stood up and respectfully requested that the Congress not to be held in Boston since there is not enough time for preparation.Archbishop Demetrios directed that Behrakis chair the Congress, to which the latter replied he would not do so, and reiterated that it ought to not take place as scheduled.

The archbishop replied that it was discussed in the Eparchial Synod with the metropolitans, and Metropolitan Methodios of Boston has agreed. Behrakis insisted that he does not have to accept to chair the Congress and reiterated that it should not take place.

There was discussion about limiting the Congress to only two days due to the dire financial situation, but others said that wouldn’t be enough time as by the time everyone arrived to Boston it would be time to leave.

In the Finance Committee on October 19, a heated discussion took place about the finances. Some from the Chicago area began praising ousted Chairman George Vourvoulias. Also, Boston Metropolis Chancellor Fr. Theodoros Barbas praised Dimitriou, George Vourvoulias, George Papadakos, and also George Matthews, who resigned back in May. It is reminded here that for some reason Barbas also had praised in writing the above mentioned ousted individuals in an email to members of the Finance Committee as TNH reported.

Demetrios made every effort not to allow any discussions of TNH’srevelations about Vourvoulias, who received the sum of $900,000 from the Archdiocese during a ten-year period for travel expenses, even though he considered himself a volunteer. Committee members told TNH that Vourvoulias received $10,000 dollars per month by wire for the past eleven years. The archbishop attempted also not to allow any conversation about the grants of the Leadership 100 or the Registry.

Archdiocesan Council Vice Chairman George Tsandikos, who is also Chairman of Leadership 100, scrambled to defend the archbishop, emphasizing the benefits of the national ministries. He continued to repeat the word “unity.”

Demetrios admitted the existence of the huge deficit incurred on his watch, and said there are many millionaires who can pay it off.

TNH’s reporting was also mentioned. Some brought up that the archbishop initially said the information was false but two weeks later he verified it to be true. The same point was made during the open meeting, with Savas Tsivikos emphasizing that all TNH reported was correct.

An attempt was made to show the corrective efforts are underway, but the climate in the committees and also in the open sessions was dismal and benumbed.

ARCHDIOCESE’S NEWS RELEASE

The Archdiocese issued a news release, titled “Archdiocesan Council Receives Full Report on Financial Situation,” which follows:

The Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Demetrios of America, convened at New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel for its regularly scheduled fall meeting Oct. 19-20. During the meeting the Archdiocesan Council was updated on the financial situation of the Archdiocese.

The Council reaffirmed its strong commitment to implement appropriate controls and procedures at the Archdiocese; and also reaffirmed its dedication to accountability and transparency.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America in his opening remarks first conveyed the blessing and love of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who, as the Archbishop said, “is very aware of our meeting here and has expressed his love and care.” The Archbishop quickly enumerated some of the important events since the last meeting of the Archdiocesan Council, including the falling asleep in the Lord of Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago and Metropolitan Philotheos of Meloa, the beginning of the work for the new Saint Michael’s Home in Long Island, NY and the convening of the Eighth Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States.

The Archbishop spoke of “the discovery of serious financial issues which have been at the center of our concern and discussion.” His Eminence publicly acknowledged the very hard work for these issues of the Vice President of the Council George Tsandikos, the Secretary Cathy Walsh, the Treasurer Michael Psaros and the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane. “They are very much engaged,” said the Archbishop, “in the very intensive work to establish the means and ways of overcoming this difficulty.” Archbishop Demetrios also said that the Holy Eparchial Synod dealt with these matters in a very sincere and open way. Expressing his resolve for transparency and accountability in all matters relating to the Archdiocese, His Eminence said, “For us there is something more than transparency and accountability. For us the ultimate criterion is a divine criterion, a criterion in the Gospel and from the Gospel and that is the truth. We have to be truthful to ourselves individually and we have to be truthful among ourselves as a community and we have to make truth a central issue in a world of falsehoods, distortion, a world of the post-truth era. The truth is not negotiable.”

Mr. George S. Tsandikos, the Vice President of the Archdiocesan Council in his address to the Council urged unity and truth. “It has been a challenging and trying year for all of us and, most especially, for our beloved Archbishop,” he said, and explained that “we have been confronted with some serious financial issues which have affected the daily functions of our Archdiocese. It has been painful for all of us when we are forced to reduce staff and make necessary budget cuts.” At another point of his remarks Mr. Tsandikos said to the members: “My commitment to you and all the faithful is that with your cooperation, we will leave no stone unturned and we will use our full abilities and resources to continue our path to address both the structure and procedures of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.”

Further, Mr. Tsandikos said that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has stood the tests of time and has had a profound and lasting impact in transforming lives and institutions at all levels of society. “Our accomplishments have been exceptional due to the committed men and women, families and youth who comprise our omogenia. We cannot discount these achievements in the face of financial and administrative issues. In fact, it is during these times that our role becomes ever more relevant and significant. We have the talent, ability, will and spirit, to find creative solutions to address these difficulties, always speaking truth in love, as His Eminence has reminded us.”

Mr. Tsandikos concluded as follows: “… this is a time for unity. Not fragmentation. For the good of the Archdiocese – our National Church – do not let those who wish for weakness lessen our resolve to strengthen the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. We have accomplished so, so much. Let us resolve to unite to continue the good work for the years ahead.”

Mr. Michael Psaros, Treasurer of the Archdiocesan Council, offered a detailed and comprehensive report about the findings to date and pledged that going forward there would be accountability and transparency.

Present at the meeting were Metropolitans Methodios of Boston, Alexios of Atlanta, Nicholas of Detroit, Savas of Pittsburgh, Gerasimos of San Francisco and Evangelos of New Jersey.

Also in attendance were His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago; His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod and His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, Chancellor of the Metropolis of San Francisco.

The Council, following the discussion on the finances, heard and deliberated on several presentations of reports from the departments, ministries and organizations of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocesan Council Committees had met the previous day and advanced the work of the Church. These reports included: Stewardship, Outreach and Evangelism, Archons, Administration, Development, Youth &Young Adult Ministries, Ionian Village, Communications, Ecumenical Office, Internet Technologies, Internet Ministries and Center for Family Care.”

Economic Cooperation Can Develop Significant Momentum, Tsipras Says to S. Korean PM

Economic cooperation between Greece and South Korea can develop significant momentum, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday, in statements after his meeting with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea Lee Nak-yon at the Maximos Mansion.

Tsipras said that they discussed the prospects of more investments by S. Korean enterprises in Greece and the possibility of increasing Greek exports to the Republic of Korea. “I am certain that Monday’s business forum, with the participation of the largest South Korean businesses, will substantially contribute to deepening our bilateral cooperation,” said Tsipras.

Tsipras also thanked his S. Korean counterpart for Seoul’s support in the refugee crisis.

“We had a very substantial discussion on cooperation issues and we found out that there is a huge potential for cooperation despite the great distance between our two countries, said Tsipras.

“The fact that we share common concerns with respect to global peace and security, as well as the international challenges arising from a globalised economy, brings us closer,” he added.

“We must broaden our trade transactions”

South Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on Monday thanked Greece for its support with respect to North Korea and said the two countries must deepen economic cooperation, during joint statements with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Monday.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, left, speaks with Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in Athens, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

“At this moment that we are facing threats from North Korea, Greece is on our side and we thank you for the message you send to North Korea,” he noted.

“We must broaden our trade transactions, to reduce the gap in the trade balance between our countries,” he added, and invited Tsipras to visit his country on the occasion of the Winter Olympic Games that will be held in PyeongChang.

“The Winter Olympic Games will be held in February in South Korea. We thank you for your interest and hospitality. When I return to my country I will tell everyone about Greece’s spirit of hospitality,” stated Lee Nak-yon.

Moreover, the premier of the Republic of Korea said that he expects more exports of agrofood products from Greece to Korea.

He also referred to the signing of a memorandum of cooperation on e-governance.

President Pavlopoulos meets S.Korean PM Lee Nak-yon

Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos and the Prime Minister of South Korea Lee Nak-yon sent a message of peaceful coexistence, cooperation and creativity during their meeting on Monday.

Lee Nak-yon is in Athens for the ceremony to receive the Olympic Flame for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics (at a ceremony on Tuesday in Ancient Olympia).

Pavlopoulos stressed that “Greece, in keeping with its history and as a member-state of the European Union, unreservedly supports the decision of the European Council, which condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea] for the nuclear and ballistic missiles that violate basic principles of international law and urges it to comply fully and immediately with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos meets with the Prime Minister of South Korea Lee Nak-yon. Photo: Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis

Pavlopoulos praised the valuable but also highly symbolic, as he said, financial contribution made by South Korea through the UNHCR in 2015 and 2016 for the needs of refugees in Greece. “This shows the great sensitivity of your people and their unwavering attachment to the top global principles and values of humanity and solidarity,” concluded the President of the Republic.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea thanked Pavlopoulos for his warm welcome and underlined that the People of South Korea have many reasons to thank Greece. In particular, he referred to the Greek Expeditionary Corps, which in 1950 was sent to Korea, noting that the 10,581 Greek soldiers were a very large number in proportion to the population of Greece, and added that out of the 16 countries that sent expeditionary forces to Korea at that time, the sixth in the series was Greek. The second point highlighted by the South Korean prime minister concerned Korean shipyards, as Greek companies were the first to place large orders.

Mitsotakis Resubmits Proposed Legislation for Greek Expatriates’ Vote

ATHENS – New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday resubmitted to Parliament President Nikos Voutsis his party’s proposal for giving Greeks abroad the right to cast their vote from where they live, rather than returning to Greece.

In his statement, Mitsotakis said it was sad that this proposal was first tabled in parliament 18 months ago and, for unknown reasons, has yet to be discussed.

“Today, more than even before, it is imperative that we give this right not just to expatriates that have left the country decades earlier but to the young people that left the country in their hundreds of thousands during the years of crisis,” he noted.

Rights Groups Urge Greece to Ease Migrant “Containment”

ATHENS (AP) — Human rights and aid groups are urging Greece’s government to end a “containment policy” of migrants reaching islands in the Aegean Sea from Turkey, warning of worsening conditions ahead of winter.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday, the 19 international and Greek organizations said thousands or refugees and migrants face “abysmal conditions” on Greek islands but are not allowed to travel on to the mainland.

About a quarter of some 60,000 migrants and refugees stranded in Greece are under restriction on the islands as part of an agreement reached last year between the European Union and Turkey.

NATO remains deployed in the Aegean to back up Greek and EU anti-smuggling operations, but the number of daily migrant arrivals has risen in recent weeks.

Oscar-Winning, Zorba’s the Greek Cinematographer Walter Lassally Dies in Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Hospital officials on Greece’s island of Crete say German-born cinematographer Walter Lassally, who won an Academy Award for the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek, has died following complications from surgery. He was 90.

Lassally lived outside the city of Hania, near the beach that served as the backdrop for the movie’s final scene with actors Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates dancing to the music of Zorba the Greek.

Lassally moved to London as a boy, a refugee from Nazi Germany. He worked on dozens of movies, including the British comedy Tom Jones in 1963 and the drama Heat and Dust, directed by James Ivory 20 years later.

Hania mayor Tassos Vamvoukas expressed “deep sadness” at Lassally’s death.

After Burning Russian Investors, Anastasiades Wants Them Back

With wealthy Russian depositors among those who lost 47.5 percent of their bank accounts that were confiscated by Cyprus in 2013 to keep the country’s banks from going under, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades is trying to lure them on investment opportunities if they want to take the chance again.

Anastasiades issued the seizure order after campaigning against it, saying he had no choice as it was a condition of a 10-billion euro ($11.77 billion) international bailout to keep the country’s economy and banks solvent.

Now 60 of Russia’s top entrepreneurs were to meet him in Moscow Oct. 23 to hear him make his pitch on why they should put their money into a country which burned foreign depositors before.

The event at the Ritz-Carlton, near Red Square, was put together on short notice by the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA), the Cyprus Mail said.

“This is probably the biggest gathering of its kind in Moscow with such high calibre business people,” Christodoulos Angastiniotis, CIPA’s Chairman, told the paper.

Flanked by his ministers of foreign affairs, finance and transport, Anastasiades is expected to pay tribute to the long-standing, firm and friendly relations between Nicosia and Moscow at all levels and express appreciation for Russian support.

He is expected to reassure Russia’s business community that it can rely on Cyprus as a reliable and trustworthy partner both in political and business terms despite the previoius confiscations that saw many Russians among those taking big losses in Cyprus.

Most Russians doing business in Cyprus stayed anyway and Russian foreign direct investment continued, helping Cyprus run up a 9.1 percent growth in foreign business. The island also had a reputation as being a money haven for foreigners trying to evade taxes in their own countries.

Cyprus, a member of the European Union – apart from the northern third occupied by Turkey since an unlawful 1974 invasion – has backed the bloc’s sanctions on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis but called for them to be eased as well, trying to have it both ways.

Anastasiades is expected to outline opportunities for Russian investment and collaboration in innovation, technology, health, education and energy, part of which was put in motion earlier in month in Nicosia at the 10th summit of the Cyprus-Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation.

The two countries signed a protocol outlining the possibilities and prospects for expanding cooperation in innovation, industry, medical services, transport, telecoms and information technology.

Anastasiades reportedly will talk about Cyprus’ return to growth and stability and its upgrading by the Fitch Ratings agency, which said, “The economic recovery has broadened, and GDP growth has consistently outperformed forecasts over recent years.”

CIPA’s Director General, Natasa Pilides will summarize Cyprus’ attractions for Russian investors, including low cost and ease of doing business, and access to talent, funding and markets. She will outline new opportunities in research and development, ICT, health and digital health and energy.

CIPA will also discuss private investment projects with companies in meetings arranged by Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, and visit the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, known as Russia’s Silicon Valley in a country also with a notorious reputation for hackers.

Skolkovo’s core areas are information technology, energy efficiency, biomedical innovation, nuclear technology, and space and telecommunications. It is home to hundreds of start-ups in everything from IT, biomedicine, green energy, robotics and radiation technology.

The Consecration of St. George Church in Trenton New Jersey (Video)

TRENTON, NJ – The consecration of the Church of St. George of the historic parish of Trenton, NJ took place October 14-15 with much devoutness and hundreds in attendance. His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey officiated assisted by His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Sylivria of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and St. George’s presiding priest Fr. James Pavlow and Deacon Philotheos.

Metropolitan Evangelos placed in the Holy Table segments of holy relics of Saints George, Panteleimon and martyrsof Penteli Athens, along with the names of the faithful known as diptychs. Evangelos was vested with a special white vestment and cleaned the Holy Table symbolizing the cleanliness and the renewal of the nave.

Hundreds of congregants of all ages and generations members of the St. George parish and from neighboring parishes had gathered from early in the morning participating in the long but historic and unique Service of the Consecration.

Drs. Spiro and Amalia Spireas, great benefactors of the parish, were in charge of the event. Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras was present.

Ioannis Papachronis, chief cantor and professor of ecclesiastical music chanted the hymns along with his two student cantors, Elias Kapelas and Lazaros Tsorpmatzidis, who came from Greece specifically for the occasion, and St, George chanter Nicholas Tsigas.

On the evening of October 14, Evangelos brought the segments of the holy relics to the Church, where hundreds of faithful and dozens of priests had gathered to welcome the metropolitan and to venerate the holy relics.

A special Service was done prior to the Great Vespers in which Metropolitan Maximos of Sylivria officiated. Maximos, a prominent and learned hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, said in his sermon that “the event of the consecration is unique, as it is unique the event of the Church. We do the consecration in order to somehow consecrate the participation into the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God is identical with the Church.

“The Kingdom of God is something like a visitation that comes and comes again and every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy we have a new Resurrection, a new Pentecost, and new Incarnation of the Logos of God, because without the Holy Spirit there is no Church. In every Holy Eucharist the Holy Spirit comes and recreates the creation and as the Fathers of the Church say, St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Church is the new heaven and the new earth.”

Maximos conveyed the love and the wishes of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and said that “the Patriarch loves your Metropolitan very much.”

The consecration of the Church of St. George of the historic parish of Trenton, NJ. Photo: TNH/Costa beh

The Consecration celebration ended on the evening of the 15th with a banquet at the Marion Hall in Cinnaminson. Metropolitan Evangelos read a very thoughtful message of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Dr. Spiro Spireas said “everything tonight looks heaven or rather everything is heaven since our church was consecrated and it became a heavenly place and way of the synaxis of the Kingdom of God in this specific place of Trenton New Jersey. I glorify God who enabled me to experience closely all the holy, sacred, symbolic and ontological took place in the Holy Altar, with so much devoutness, tidiness and perfection tanks to our dear and able Metropolitan Evangelos.”

The Drs. Spireas and the parish council president honored all the presidents from 1924 to the present.

ABOUT ST. GEORGE

St. George was founded in 1922 in Trenton, with a membership of 40 families, mostly from Andros and Chios.

​Saint George Church was founded in 1922 in Trenton, New Jersey with a membership of forty families. After moving to other locations, in 1969 the General Assembly approved the purchase of the Klockner Road property in Hamilton as the site of the new complex. The parish is now comprised of approximately 400 households.

PATRIARCH’S MESSAGE

The message from Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the consecration follows:

“To the Reverend Economos Demetrios Pavlou, Presiding Priest, the Esteemed Dr. Spiridon Spireas, President of the Consecration Committee, the Esteemed Mr. Athanasios Gkinis, the President of the Parish Council of the Greek Orthodox Community of Saint George of Trenton, New Jersey, and all of the Devout Members of the Community, our dear spiritual children in the Lord,Grace be to you and Peace from God.

The consecration of the Church of St. George of the historic parish of Trenton, NJ. Photo: TNH/Costa beh

“It is with much paternal joy and pride in Christ, participating in spirit in the consecration of your Church named in honor of Saint George the Great Martyr, that we convey to you on this joyful occasion, the kiss of love on behalf of your Mother, the Holy Great Church of Christ, concelebrating with you who, according to the Biblical: “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’’ (Romans 12,15) always sharing both the joyful and unpleasant events of your life.

“Our joy at our Holy Center increases from the fact that the Holy Church that is about to be consecrated, honors also this Patriarchal Church, Saint George the Trophy-bearer and through this, creates a sisterly relationship between the two Churches.More specifically, for the entire community that lives around your Church this day of the consecration, which is also the sanctification of this holy Church, is not only a simple opportunity of celebration, but a milestone in the life of the community. This is because through the consecration of the Holy Sanctuary, according to Saint Symeon, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, “The temple is holy; without the sanctuary there is no church but only a house of prayer; …neither is it a tabernacle of the glory of God, nor a dwelling of it, nor a place full of grace…but the divine gifts are offered on this table in order to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ through the Holy Spirit…thus, the temple of God must be built accordingly and sanctified” (“On the holy church and its consecration” PG 155, 305).The Divine Grace through this sanctification dwells permanently in the Church which would, only in a case of desecration, need to be consecrated again.

Furthermore, the importance of the consecration of a Church is demonstrated by the fact that since the early times, the day of the consecration would be celebrated annually and for this reason in our liturgical books we can find several feasts of consecrations of holy churches, especially in Constantinople.

“As a perceivable sign of the dwelling and Grace of God in the consecrated Church, there is the Holy Myrrh and the Holy Relics that have been placed in the Holy Altar Table.According to Saint Symeon of Thessalonica, the Holy Myrrh symbolizes our Lord Jesus Christ and, for this reason, the symbol of His Holy Sepulcher, which is the Holy Altar Table, is anointed with myrrh. The Holy Relics are placed inside the Holy Altar Table because according to the same holy father the sanctification of the Church cannot be done without the holy Relics: “the martyrs are the foundation of the Church, having been built on the foundation of our Savior…the relics…are placed into the consecrated table, for they died for Christ and they are standing before His glorious throne” (chapter 111, PG 155, 316).

(From left) TNH Editor Theodoros Kalmoukos, Metropolitan Evangelos of NJ, TNH Publisher-Editor Antonis H. Diamataris at the consecration of the Church of St. George of the historic parish of Trenton, NJ. Photo: TNH/Costa Bej

“The Holy Martyrs whose relics are placed in the altar table not only had the Grace of God dwelling in themselves, but also shared the same sacrifice with Christ the Savior, spilling the same blood for Him who: “gave his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28 and Mark 10:45) and through this, to imitate Christ, they made clear the words of the Apostle Paul: “you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst’’ (1 Cor. 3:16-17) and as Saint Nicholas Cabasilas quotes: “these relics are a true temple of God, and this handmade temple an imitation of the real one” (PG 150, 636).

Moreover, the relics of the martyrs bring to our minds the exhortation of the Apostle Paul: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God and … be transformed by the renewing of your mind’’ (Rom. 12:1-2) and in this way the consecration of a Church becomes also the image of the renewal of a person in Christ, as it is written in the Service of the Commemoration of the Consecration of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ.

“However, inside the Church, prayer and our personal sanctification take place, which become actualized through our participation in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist through which every human who proceeds after appropriate preparation of repentance and confession and partaking of the deifying Body and Blood, gradually becomes deified.

“We pray that this same Grace, the one that not only performs the Holy Sacraments in the Church for the salvation of every human and of the whole world, but also the one that sends to all of us abundantly every perfect gift, and the one that constitutes the loving emanation of the Triune God to His creatures, may dwell in this House of God through the service of the consecration and also in the souls of those who are willing to offer a sacrifice of worship to the Lord.

The consecration of the Church of St. George of the historic parish of Trenton, NJ. Photo: TNH/Costa beh

“We are fervently wishing to all of you, being with you in spirit during this Holy Synaxis, that our Lord and God through the intercessions of Saint George, the glorious Great Martyr, make this Church that is about to be consecrated today into a font of blessings and a haven of salvation for everyone who draws near to the Church to worship God and relieve their souls.

“May the Grace of the All Holy and Teletarchical Spirit be with all of you. Amen.”

METROPOLITAN EVANGELOS’ HOMILY

Metropolitan Evangelos homily at the consecration follows:

“My Beloved in the Lord, it is with the utmost joy and euphoric celebration that we gather here in prayer as this House of Worship, dedicated to St. George the Trophybearer, is consecrated and a community of faithful, guided and guarded by the saints and especially its patron, witnesses this great and marvelous work of the Holy Spirit.

“The concept of dedicating a temple, a place in which one prays, has been a fundamental principle of various religions and societies, and it is a practice that extends back thousands of years. Whereas this concept of a sacred space is a limitation for other religions, it is paradoxical in the Christian Church. We set aside a special place that is holier than all others, yet even though the church is God’s House, His dominion knows no bounds neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor throughout the universe.

“For Orthodox Christians, it is inconceivable to have a community without a church, a House of Worship, as a gathering place for prayer, a sanctified place where hymns of praise and glory may be offered to our loving Lord. A place which is a sentiment as expressed by St. John Chrysostom. Furthermore, we must keep in mind the importance of the church in our everyday life and not just relegate it to a once-a-week obligation. “The church and every liturgy is the authentic revelation of God’s Kingdom to us so that we may participate in His Kingdom while we still live. It is a protection against the wiles of the devil. It is a fortress whose walls can never be shaken. It is a consolation to those in sorrow. It is the spiritual womb through which we pass from this life into eternity. It is the place in which the “scattered nations” are gathered into one place so that we may partake of the Body and Blood of Christ thereby becoming the Body of Christ. In short, the present church in which we pray is our life and the light of the world. For this reason, it is inconceivable that a man would have no temple in which to pray since his sojourning with no spiritual home would be tantamount to him being a sheep without a shepherd. But Christ, as the Good Shepherd, has gathered all of us, His lost sheep, into His temple to partake of His Father’s Kingdom.

“Historically, we see references made to making a space holy for prayer in the Old Testament with the consecration of the Tabernacle by Aaron in which a space was dedicated for prayer. We see similar references made about these practices in the New Testament by St. Paul. During the early Christian era, when Christians were persecuted for their faith, they would hold liturgies in the catacombs of those who had given their lives as witnesses or martyrs to the faith since the Church was built upon the sacrifices of the thousands who had given their lives for their devotion to Christ. The first consecration of a Christian church took place on September 13th, 335 in Jerusalem at the Church of the Resurrection where our Lord’s holy and precious body had lain before rising from the dead. Even with the eventual decriminalization of Christianity in the early 4th century, the faithful still found faith and inspiration in the sacrifices of the martyrs. Thus, the practice of having liturgy in the catacombs transformed so that, in many cases, the churches were built over the tombs of martyrs with the Holy Altar being directly over the place of the martyr’s tomb. In the 7th canon of the 7th Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 787, the Holy Fathers of the Church mention the necessity for churches to be consecrated and also mention the essential quality of consecration which is that relics of the martyrs are to be placed in the Holy Altar. However, since it is not possible for every church to be over the place of a martyr’s tomb, relics from the martyred saints were placed in the Altar Table of every church and it is a tradition that continues to this day in the sacrament of the consecration of a church.

“Thus, the church, through the participation of the people in the Divine Liturgy, is what gathers all of creation and all people both living and dead together in the Holy Eucharist which can be actuated due to the consecration of the church with the relics of the martyrs as witnesses of the faith. In this way, the simple building changes into a house of worship and prayer and its table is transformed into a Holy Altar.Without these critical elements, it is not possible for any mystery, Sacrament, to take place in the church except with the antimension which acts in place of the consecrated Holy Altar until the church is consecrated.

“The sacrament of the consecration is not just for the sake of the building becoming a house of prayer, but it is also for the edification of the people through the hymns chanted and the prayers offered. It is also an apt time for each person to reflect on the life of Christ, the life of the saints, and their own lives as they seek to emulate those holy people who have gone before us. But the hymnology of the divine services for this day fittingly highlights the importance both in the making of a place of worship and also the role of the person who worships; for whereas we may believe that only the building is that which is being consecrated, the reality is that we also, as participants of the consecration, are particularly blessed and consecrated ourselves since each of our bodies is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Thus, He who dwells in the house that has newly been consecrated also dwells in our hearts since we participate through prayers, hymns, and offerings to His Holy House.

“This church is primarily God’s House, but it is also our home as well. It is the center of our spiritual lives and, thus, we should treat it with the utmost love and respect. As much as we adorn our own homes with pleasantries and aesthetical splendors, so much more should we endeavor to beautify the House of God which is our own eternal spiritual home. This church will be the epicenter where every major event in our lives will take place. This church is where we are baptized, where we will be married, where our children and our children’s children will be brought in and blessed after being born, and where they too will be baptized as well. This is the church where we will rejoice with one another, mourn with one another, fortify one another, and spiritually struggle side by side. This is the church where our children will gather in fellowship to build eternal bonds of friendship and love. Above all, this is the church from which we shall receive the precious Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and for eternal life. The sacrament of the consecration will renew and invigorate all of these things while also allowing each of us to specially remember this day as we receive some of the materials used in the divine services.

“My Beloved Faithful Orthodox Christians, the magnitude of today’s celebrations is incalculable and the joy boundless as we offer our sincerest thanks to Almighty God through whose immeasurable Grace we are blessed to be here and blessed that all of these endeavors were possible through Him and through the intercessions of the Great Martyr George the Trophy-bearer, our patron.

“Additionally, as your Chief Shepherd, I would like to express my thanks to the Proistamenos of the parish, the President of the Parish Council, Mr. Athanasios Ginis and all Members of the Parish Council, the Chairman of the Consecration Committee and great benefactors, Dr. Spiridon Spireas, and co-chair Dr. Amalia Spireas, the Philoptochos Sisterhood, the members of all Community organizations which include the Sunday School of Catechesis, the Greek School, the G.O.Y.A. and to each and every one of you who have participated in today’s celebrations, and all whoover the years have offered your time, talent, and treasure to bring the consecration to fruition.

“With all my heart, I pray that the light of the unwaning candle which, from today, illumines and shines on the Holy Altar becomes a beacon of light that will lead your steps to the true Light, the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ.

Mitsotakis: We will Make No Concessions on Education Issues

PATRAS, Greece – Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis emphasised education during the closing address to the party’s 2nd preconference in Patras on Saturday, saying that ND “does not divide Greeks into left and right, privileged and less privileged.”

Addressing the conference, which focused on young people, ND’s leader referred in detailed to the changes at all levels in education, from preschool to university, that his party plans to make if elected to power.

“We will make no concessions on issues that concern education and that is my personal political promise, that our programme for education will be implemented fully,” he said.

Mitsotakis also insisted that he will not back down on the issue of evaluations in the public sector, while stressing that this will not be “punitive” nor linked to dismissals. “Evaluation will be a mechanism for improving and educating those that do not perform well and a mechanism for rewarding those that excel,” he said.

“There was no doubt that universities need greater autonomy and evaluation, which will be carried out by the best and especially by people that are not part of the system but external evaluators, who come from abroad and offer their services, often for free, to the Greek public education system,” he added, promising to abolish laws passed by the present government.

Along the same lines, Mitsotakis said he would defend university asylum “but asylum with its true meaning, in other words asylum of free expression, protection of free expression and not every unlawful behaviour within the university.”

Regarding the brain drain and the Greek scientists emigrating abroad, he said the only way to bring them back was to create a large number of good jobs through an “explosion of private investments”.

Greece Losing Businesses to Bulgaria, Freelancers to Cyprus

ATHENS – With Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proclaiming Greece’s crisis is over, businesses and freelance professionals apparently don’t believe it as they continue to flee the country in search of better prospects elsewhere.

With the Radical Left SYRIZA leader reneging on campaign promises and burying Greeks and companies under an avalanche of new taxes and tax hikes, as well as the growing cost of social security contributions, data shows the number of Greek enterprises setting up shop on Cyprus grew 77 percent in 2016 from the year before, Kathimerini reported, with the trend continuing this year too.

From 1,012 Greek firms and freelancers moving to Cyprus in 2015, the number rose to 1,799 in 2016, bringing the total number of Greek businesses there to 5,200 from 2012 to December 2016.

Bulgaria, according to major tax adviser firms in Thessaloniki, has seen a 30 percent annual rise in the number of Greek companies and freelancers registering in the first half of the year.

Taxes and social security costs are far lower in Bulgaria and Cyprus than Greece, where the corporate rate is 29 percent, which hasn’t stopped Tsipras from saying foreign investors are eager to come to the country, although he didn’t mention major businesses closing, such as the 152-year-old iconic appliance manufacturer Pitsos.

One entrepreneur who relocated to Bulgaria told the paper that if he had not made the move he would not only have gone of business but would also have accrued huge debts and been unable to pay suppliers and banks.

But he said Greek tax inspectors are pressuring companies not to do business with him. There is no agreement between the countries to exchange data on companies.

The latest figures show there are about 15,000 Greek companies in Bulgaria, although Deputy Finance Minister Katerina Papanatsiou said earlier this month that eight in 10 Greek firms in Bulgaria have a registration number but no activity so they can evade taxes. There was no explanation if they are being chased.

SYRIZA Minister Says F-16 Upgrade Cost $1.1, Not $2.4B

ATHENS – Greece’s Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas said Greece will pay $1.1 billion for an American upgrade of its F-16 fighter jets, not the $2.4 billion announced by US President Donald Trump.

With the major rival New Democracy demanding to know the real costs after Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras met Trump in Washington, Vitsas gave his estimate, not including the possibility it would be free, as Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, the leader of SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity,  marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL)  said could happen if the US Congress went along.

Vitsas said a Greek request was made in February 2017, with two separate expressions of interest submitted, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.

“The Americans, as usual, picked the most expensive one, and then sent it to Congress. This agreement, which was tabled in Congress on Oct. 16, and leaves Congress on Nov. 2, has a ceiling of 2.4 billion USD.

For us it’s clear that we need to place on the table the country’s security needs, on the one hand, while on the other placing the leeway allowed by the budget,” he said without explaining why Greece and not the US would set the cost.

Vitsas said several types of upgrade programs are available. “What’s important is that (the planes) will be upgraded to viper (category). We’ve calculated a certain number, a majority of the 123 aircraft (F-16s in the Greek arsenal).”