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Church

Archimandrite Fr. Alexander Kantarakias Speaks to TNH

BOSTON – Archimandrite Alexander Kantarakias, whom Archbishop Elpidophoros is chasing out of the United States, as The National Herald reported in last week’s edition, spoke in a revealing way to TNH about what has transpired and also regarding the overwhelming support he has received from in United States and around the World.

The full interview of Alexander follows:

The National Herald: Fr. Alexander, what exactly happened that led to your suspension and then to your being directed to return to Greece?  In his letter of September 22nd, the Chancellor Father Nektarios Papazafeiropoulos accuses you of speaking “disrespectfully” and in a “vulgar” manner against Archbishop Elpidophoros. Can you tell us what you were saying about the Archbishop and where you were saying it?

Fr. Alexander Kantarakias: Greetings. I address this very important message to you and the readers of the National Herald.

To respond to your question, I received an email from the Chancellor and I am guessing that his references were to one or more of my sermons. Presumably, one of my homilies on a Sunday Service in the middle of the summer apparently was shared publicly by those attending services. I covered the following topics:

  1. “There are no heretics. There are only fanatics.” In my sermon, I raised the question that if there are no heretics, then why did the Ecumenical councils take place?
  2. “When an Orthodox individual comes to the church betrothed or married to a Protestant or Roman Catholic, we should also give the heterodox spouse – if he or she wishes – Holy Communion.” I pondered “since when did this become acceptable in our theology? Was there some synod that approved this? Or, will we be forced to be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ priests?”
Archimandrite Alexander Kantarakias in a commemorative picture with some of his parishioners. Shown is the late Fr. Demetrios Katerlis. (Photos provided by Fr. Alexander Kantarakias)

I mentioned in my sermon that several years ago a bishop in our region, of blessed memory, offered Holy Communion to an unbaptized, wealthy Jewish donor. Was this to satisfy the donor’s curiosity as to how a Christian’s Holy Communion tasted?

  1. I wondered if it is possible to compare the person of the Virgin Mary with the women who have or are about to have an abortion. In these great matters of life and death, the Church must be clear and unambiguous. We must not confuse the women.
  2. Until recently the Archdiocese had been given an order not to permit homosexual men or women who had entered into a civil marriage or union to serve as a godparent. What is valid now?

We have some clergy that offer memorial services for a dog. We have another who goes fishing with the parishioners on Sunday morning, because the church is empty, and he takes Holy Communion from the tabernacle reserved for the ill to commune those on the boat to combine fishing and churchgoing.

Another priest on Christmas day, wore Christmas lights on top of his vestments while chanting the Apolytikion of Christmas and had the sexton plug in the lights to make the appearance of a blinking Christmas tree. Yet, another priest presented a piece of a broken ceramic plate and alleged that this plate was of the plate that Christ ate off of at the Last Supper together with the 12 Apostles before He was arrested.

TNH: Did the Chancellor, Father Papazafeiropoulos or any other official of the Metropolis New Jersey, for instance Bishop Apostolos or the Chancellor Christophoros Oikonomidis, invite you to ask you about these matters or to talk to you?

Fr. Kantarakias: No one from the Archdiocese or the Metropolis contacted me to meet with me, or to ask me anything. I simply just received the two emails informing me of the Archbishop’s decisions.

Archimandrite Alexander Kantarakias with teachers and pupils of the Greek School of the Annunciation parish in Philadelphia. (Photos provided by Fr. Alexander Kantarakias)

TNH: Are you willing to apologize to the Archbishop with the prospect that he will not expel you from America, and that he may assign you to another Metropolis to serve?

Fr. Kantarakias: Of course, and if there is a need for a priest in a community and it is suggested to me to go, I will say, “yes, let it be blessed.”

But I don’t think that I will be given that opportunity. The email I received is punitive and doesn’t not even give me the chance to ask to receive the Archbishop’s blessing before my ordered departure.

TNH: What do you intend to do? Are you thinking of leaving?

Fr. Kantarakias: Frankly, I’m thinking of returning to my island of Skiathos for a while. To walk the streets of Papadiamantis; to tend to our fruit trees. I also seek to finish writing two books that I have been working on, one on Holy Week and the other on liturgical topics to assist and guide priests. I also desire to visit Mount Athos.

But above all, I want to see my mother’s eyes, of which I have been deprived for 21 years when I was served in the Archdiocese of Australia and America. My personal ten commandments are my mother’s eyes; the ones that, with just one of her glances, make me understand every stumble in my life.

TNH: What are your parishioners saying? What was their reaction? What is the climate in your community in general?

Fr. Kantarakias: I have been moved by their reactions. They express their sympathy. Even people who weren’t that close to me expressed their sorrow. Many embrace me and cry. I keep these tears of theirs as an offering that I will present on the day of judgment. I try to calm them and prevent them from [undertaking any form of] protest, as I consider such action unacceptable in the ethos of the church.

I have received over 130 text messages of support, about 50 voicemails, and almost 800 phone calls.

TNH: Did priests contact you from here, from Greece, from other places?

Fr. Kantarakias: Priests have called me from Greece, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and from here. To date, 36 priests and 11 Bishops have reached out to me. I personally sent the twelve priests of the Delaware Valley a short farewell message to thank them for their cooperation and to wish them continued success in their ministry. Out of the twelve, four responded wishing that we will reconnect soon.

TNH: Did any Hellenic organizations contact you?

Fr. Kantarakias: Yes, they called me expressing their support and sorrow. They shared their concern that many faithful are distancing themselves from the Church. They witness that as the older generation passes on the younger generations are not refilling their ranks at the Church, and that soon enough there will be a serious problem with the ability of Churches to financially survive. We all know very well that many Churches are already struggling.

TNH: Would you tell us what they told you about Archbishop Elpidophoros?

Fr. Kantarakias: I will simply say that I respect him as a Hierarch.

TNH: What was the involvement of New Jersey’s Chancellor Christoforos Oikonomides in your case? Has he threatened in the past to ‘kick you out of America’? Did you know him from Greece when he served in the Metropolis of Nicaea?

Fr. Kantarakias: I am not in a position to know his involvement in my matter. Only God and the Archdiocese know this. The same hand that ordained me has ordained him also and I respect this fact.

Archimandrite Alexander Kantarakias with former Archbishop of America Demetrios and Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea. (Photos provided by Fr. Alexander Kantarakias)

TNH: Do you think you are paying for the support you provided to Metropolitan Evangelos after his dethronement?

Fr. Kantarakias: Before I answer this question, let me ask: Didn’t he work and organize an entire Metropolis for so many years? Wasn’t he the one who sold loukoumades and souvlakia and constantly fundraised to help build the Metropolis headquarters to serve all future Metropolitans? When the project was completed, he boasted with joy and smiled like a child who was given all he ever wanted.

He also was one who constantly advocated, wherever he was, about the privilege and honor of belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Even now, no bad word has come out of his mouth.

Regarding the question of whether I am ‘paying’ for my choice to support His Eminence, the Metropolitan of Sardeon Evangelos, I will answer: I don’t know. But if this is the case, is it possible to abandon a man who changed my life? He accepted me after my ministry in Australia and he honored me with an assignment in his Metropolis. In his moment of need, I had to support him and stand by him. Right now, it is not only Metropolitan Evangelos whose patience is being tested; we are also being tested for our support for him.

I will love and respect him for the rest of my life, at any cost. I will remember him in all of my services and prayers, and honor him with the same honor as the Bishop who ordained me, and among my benefactors: Stylianos of Australia, Eugenios of Ierapytnis, Iakovos of Prykiponissos, Father Gerasimos Zouras, and Saint Iakovos Tsalikis who was my first spiritual father.

About Fr. Kantarakias:

Father Alexander Kantarakias was born on the island of Skiathos in 1972. He assumed the name ‘Alexander’ in honor of the renowned author Alexandros Papadiamantis, who was born there. Fr. Alexandros was ordained deacon and priest by His Eminence Metropolitan  Damaskinos of Didymoteicho Greece.

After his studies he served initially as a deacon at Saint Eleftherios Areos in the Archdiocese of Athens.  Subsequently, he served as a priest at Saint Nektarios in Adelaide, Australia of the Archdiocese of Australia. In the United States, he served in the Holy Metropolis of New Jersey at the parish of Saint Nicholas in Atlantic City and most recently at the Evangelismos of the Theotokos in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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