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United States

America’s Holy Eparchial Synod Rejects Clergy Age Limit Proposal

BOSTON – In an official communique the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America announced that in a special teleconference meeting called by its president, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, the Synod rejected a proposal for setting a mandatory retirement age for clergy of all ranks, including hierarchs.

Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Alexander Karloutsos, Archdiocesan Vicar General, in a letter dated July 6, 2020 to Constantine Caras, Chairman of the Archdiocese Council’s Administrative Committee, recommended an age limit of 75 and included resolutions originally drafted two years ago. The Communique of the Holy Eparchial Synod follows:

“July 8, 2020

The Holy Eparchial Synod met today in an extraordinary video conference at the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros with an exclusive objective to discuss the recent public debate on an official proposal to change the pension program of the Hierarchs.

Following a discussion, it is stated that in accordance with the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Church, there is no age limit for the exercise of the duties of Hierarchs. The retirement from active ministry (or not) of an individual Hierarch is entrusted exclusively to the individual choice and sole judgment of said Hierarch. Furthermore, it is noted that within the Ecumenical Patriarchate, no such age limits are applied.

In conclusion, the Holy Eparchial Synod rejects the current proposal in the form of the draft resolution for the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress of 2020, inasmuch as such a proposal is beyond the capacity of the Clergy-Laity Congress, which is unable to decide in matters dogmatic and canonical.

The Hierarchs of the Holy Archdiocese minister to the People of God in the spirit of self-sacrifice, love and devotion, dedicating their whole life in service to the Church.

From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy Eparchial Synod.”

The entire letter of Fr. Alexander Karloutsos and the resolution regarding age limits follow:

“July 6, 2020

Saint Sisoes the Great

Mr. Constantine Caras, Archon Skevophylax

Chairman, Archdiocese Council Administration Committee

Dear Gus,

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, with abundant gratitude for your service to our Church over the decades. I write to you on the Feast of St. Sisoes, the disciple of Anthony the Great. Sisoes knew the vanity of clinging to position and power, and wept before the tomb of Alexander the Great saying “O Death, who can escape thee?” He reminds all of us of our fleeting moment on this world’s stage. I share his icon with you (below), the very one I keep in my office above my head as a reminder of our need of humility in the face of our mortality.

As you may recall, two years ago we spoke about the resolutions (attached) that I thought would be salutary for the life of our Archdiocese. At that time, you did take them to the former Archbishop who rejected them out of hand, the Resolution about age limits being the obvious reason. Nevertheless, our Archdiocese turned the corner last year with the election of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, and there is now another opportunity to do what is right for the Church, rather than for personal agendas.

All of us remember the pain across the Church as former Archbishop Demetrios refused to retire, even after numerous requests from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the face of a collapsing Archdiocese, and when he had already surpassed his ninetieth birthday! To this day division remains in the Archdiocese, between those who were begging for an end to a degenerating Archdiocese and those who supported the then-archbishop, regardless of his advanced age and the obvious mismanagement in Church affairs.

It seemed to me then, and even more to me now, that having a uniform retirement policy would have solved the issue without any of the rancor or divisiveness engendered by his refusal to do what was clearly best for the Church. A retirement age is a simple and apolitical solution that is reassuring to the clergy of every rank. As our esteemed Ecumenical Patriarch often states: “above everything is Christ and the Church.”

Additionally, should the Resolution on the pension program be adopted, and with the Eleventh Hour salvation of the Plan underway after literally decades of neglect, both Resolutions would have a salubrious effect on the life of all members of the hierarchy, the presbytery, and the diaconate. I am convinced that my brother priests are rightfully pained that their respective spiritual fathers have little or no concern for the clergy’s financial welfare. The corporate pension plan that was adopted years ago has undermined the Lord’s commandment that the greatest amongst us will be the greatest servant. 

As you will note, I am copying the Archbishop and all the Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod, as well as the Presidents of the Archdiocese Presbyters Council, the National Sisterhood of Presvyteres, the Retired Clergy Association and the Archdiocesan Benefits Committee, because I believe their support for such reasonable and beneficial proposals would be the logical consequence of their reading of these Resolutions.

Please let me know how I can be of help in advancing these Resolutions, and I thank you in advance for your consideration and that of the Administration Committee of our Holy Archdiocese.

Faithfully yours…”

“RESOLUTION REGARDING RETIREMENT OF CLERGY AND TERM LIMITS FOR LAITY

 WHEREAS, as the Psalmist has declared: “As for the days of our years, in their span they are seventy, and if we have strength perhaps eighty; and what is more than these is toil and travail” (Psalm 89: 10,11 LXX);

WHEREAS, the Holy Archdiocese of America (hereinafter the “Archdiocese”) does not now possess a standard for retirement of its clergy and lay leadership;

WHEREAS, the pastoral example of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is such that all bishops must submit their retirement to the Holy Synod at age 75 (Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, Article XV.1.25);

WHEREAS, the pastoral example of the Roman Catholic Church is such that all bishops must submit their resignation to the Pope at age 75 (Code of Canon Law, Article 2, Canon 401 §1), and parish clergy are required to submit their resignation to their diocesan bishop at the age 75 (Code of Canon Law, Chapter VI, Canon 538 §3);

WHEREAS, both of the aforementioned examples allow for archpastoral discretion as to the acceptance of the retirement (except the Roman Catholic Church where the Pope may only delay the retirement for two years until the age of 77);

WHEREAS, transparency is the foundation of any soundly governed organization and term limits and a prohibition against interlocking directorships foster and promote transparency;

WHEREAS the organizations of the Archdiocese do not currently have a requirement that all it officers, directors, trustees and committee members serve for a limited term so that transparency and sound governance may be achieved; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:

A.   That the Archdiocese establish the age of 75 as the age that every clergyman must submit their retirement to the proper ecclesiastical authority.  Proper ecclesiastical authority means: 1) for the Archbishop, all Metropolitans and all Bishops, the Holy and sacred Synod of the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate; and 2) all other clergy to their ruling Hierarch.

B.   That those serving, whether clergy or laity, as officers, directors, trustees, committee members, shall serve for a maximum of five consecutive years and that this requirement of term limits applies to all organizations of or associated with the Archdiocese and its Metropolises, including but not limited to the Archdiocesan Council, Metropolis Councils, Hellenic College and Holy Cross Seminary Board of Trustees and the National Philoptochos Society; and

C.   That current members of the clergy and laity serving in their respective positions and who have reached or exceeded the age limit or term limit would be ‘grandfathered’ in, and be exempt from this resolution for two years, after which, if a member of the clergy, they would submit their resignations pursuant to paragraph A above and if laity to the Archbishop for Archdiocesan/national level organizations and the presiding Metropolitan for Metropolis/local organizations.”

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