NEW YORK – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America faces a serious financial problem with the Clergy Pension Fund for not depositing the $600 monthly contribution the last three years towards the Fund for its 90 or more clergy and lay employees.
As a result, the Archdiocese ended up owing to the Fund more than $3 million, TNH has learned from internal sources who requested anonymity.
The Fund was established during the late Archbishop Iakovos’ tenure with the initiative of Chris Demetriades who was then Director of Finances and who later became real estate developer of homes for the rich and famous in the Rye and Purchase areas of New York State.
Each parish is obligated to contribute $600 per month to the Fund for the priest, including the parishes with part-time priests. If a parish has two priests, it is obligated to double the amount. Each priest should contribute between 3.5 and 5 percent of his salary to the Fund. form his salary. Currently, the Fund has about $53 million in its coffers. A year ago it had $48 million.
Questions that were asked periodically by priests went unanswered by Archdiocese Financial Department officials. George Vourvoulias from Chicago is Chairman of the Finance Committee, while Jerry Dimitriou is the Director of the Financial Department. Dimitriou did not respond to TNH’s request for comment.
The issue was finally disclosed at the Clergy Laity Congress in July in Philadelphia. Rev. Peter Giannakopoulos from the St. George parish in Hyannis Cape Cod, MA revealed this information when he asked why the Archdiocese has not contributed the $600 towards the Fund for each of its employees the least three years? The sum owed to the Fund is more than $3 million.
Dimitriou unsuccessfully attempted to avoid the question, calling Giannakopoulos out of order and that he should have brought the issue before the proper committee. Dimitriou was told, however, that any issue can be brought up for discussion at the plenary session.
Finally, Dimitriou admitted that due to economic difficulties, the Archdiocese had not contributed to the Fund.
Dimitriou demanded Giannakopoulos’ dismissal from the Fund Committee, claiming that he embarrassed the Archdiocese to its plenary session, but Metropolitan Methodios of Boston refused to let Fr. Giannakopoulos go. Giannakopoulos declined to comment to TNH.
During a Fund Committee meeting, Dimitriou said that it is not in our intentions not to pay the contributions to the Fund, we know that we owe it, there is transparency in the finances and he promised that the Archdiocese will start putting the funds in the Pension.
A few weeks ago, during a meeting in Rye it was also assured that the Archdiocese will make up the owed amount. Present at the meeting were Bishops Andonios of Phasiane and Sebastian of Zela, Chancellor and Chief Secretary of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese.
In another meeting in Florida recently, Dimitriou promised to the clergy that by the end of 2015 all the owed monies to the Fund will be deposited. TNH has learned that the Archdiocese has deposited the sum of $120,000 thus far and another $140,000 will be deposited by the end of this month.
Officials of the Archdiocese reminded TNH that some 14 years ago the hierarchs had voted in a Clergy Laity Congress that upon their retirement will receive 80% of their salary, a decision they called “unbelievable.”
Another Archdiocesan official told TNH that “our churches are empty. The faithful do not give money to the parishes anymore.”