NEW YORK – Archbishop Demetrios of America conveyed an impudent warning to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew through George Tsandikos, his appointed vice chairman of the Archdiocesan Council.
Just days before the 44th Clergy Laity Congress of the Archdiocese, scheduled to be convened in Boston July 1 to 5, The National Herald has learned that Tsandikos was instigated by Demetrios to call an insurgency against Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with a interview to the weekly newspaper Greek News, which is owned by Apostolos Zoupaniotis and Dimitrios Panagos, Archon of the Ecumenical Throne and photographer of Demetrios, and who is listed among the Archdiocese’s salaried personnel. Tsandikos in his interview requests the stay of Demetrios on his Archbishopric Throne, saying that the faithful of the Archdiocese love him. Specifically, Tsandikos said that “His Eminence enjoys deep support across our community, clergy, and lay leadership. That a few individuals are using the media in an attempt to create the appearance he does not, conveys a brazen disrespect for our holiest leader and disregards the Church, and flouts our processes for succession and election. Archbishop Demetrios is a man of great wisdom and faith.”
Tsandikos also said that “having celebrated his 90th birthday, Archbishop Demetrios is naturally contemplating retirement. He makes decisions according to what is in the best interest of the Church, not according to the interests or agendas of the few. He will not resign at the behest of certain individuals making dubious claims against him.
I will say, as someone who works closely with His Eminence, I marvel at his faith, intellect, and endurance. My hope is that he will continue to lead us as we, the Executive Committee, complete the steps taken to ensure the Archdiocese is restored to full financial strength and the resumption of work on his legacy project, the St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine.”
Tsandikos said these things despite the fact the Archdiocese was on the brink of bankruptcy under Demetrios, as TNH has revealed since last September. Also, the construction of the St. Nicholas National Shrine was halted, while Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC) are at the edge of the cliff according to a confidential signed letter-report by a large group of trustees dated May 8, which TNH revealed on June 7. That letter, addressed to Demetrios, stated that “we have had serious concerns about Fr. Christopher’s abilities for many months; now, however, we believe beyond doubt that tolerating his continuation as the President of HCHC would be a betrayal of our spiritual and legal responsibilities as trustees.
In addition, we cannot, as fiduciaries, accept an incoming class at HCHC without a compelling recovery plan and a president capable of executing it in collaboration with staff, faculty, trustees, and other donors.”
The trustees also revealed that “HCHC enrollment has dropped 25% from 185 students in Sept ’15, to 182 students in Sept ’16, to 166 students in Sept ’17, to an expected 140 in Sept ’18.” It is clarified here that the above numbers are applied to both School Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology.
Regarding the finances, the trustees also wrote that “the overall financial trend is alarming and is not sustainable. Over the three year period HCHC has incurred or will incur cash deficits ranging from $2.2 -$3.1 million per year. Over the past 36 months, we have been averaging a monthly cash deficit of $190,000, and HCHC is now unable to make payroll without further endowment borrowing.
During Fr. Christopher’s presidency, we have borrowed a total of $6.7 million from our unrestricted endowment funds (pooled accounts), and as of April 30, 2018, HCHC only had $1.1 million of such unrestricted pooled account funds remaining, as compared to a projected cash deficit through the calendar year ending December 31, 2018 of $2.6 million. Absent a significant cash infusion, HCHC will run out of money before the end of the current fiscal year (June 30). Realistic projections for the next two fiscal years are equally dire. HCHC’s projected “baseline” financial performance for the fiscal year’s ending June 30, 2019 and 2020. As is evident from these figures, which project cash deficits over the next two fiscal years ranging from $3.7-$3.9 million per year, HCHC’s financial situation has reached crisis levels. In order to fund operations for the balance of this fiscal year (which will require $1,050,000) and achieve a balanced budget for the next two fiscal years, which is essential in order to justify admitting the next incoming class, HCHC will require $8.7 million of incremental funds through either additional revenues or reduced costs.”
We also remind the problems with the Pension Plan of the Clergy, the mortgaged of the office buildings of the Archdiocese in Manhattan for a bank loan to pay debts, the sale of the Archbishop Iakovos home for $3 million with no report ever issued about it. It is also true that the vast majority of the congregants from throughout the Archdiocese feel that Archbishop Demetrios should go. Many with knowledge and opinion about the ecclesiastical affairs of the Archdiocese of America characterized this provocation of Archbishop Demetrios through his appointed puppet that reveals to measure of the mistake that Patriarch Bartholomew made initially to handpick Demetrios, and the lack of measure of the Archbishop about the general condition of the Church in America. It is an unprecedented manifestation of defiance and disobedience which worsens the position of the archbishop and threatens to explode the upcoming Clergy Laity Congress.
Many from the Greek-American community and also from Athens were expecting that even now Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew would have taken the appropriate action foe a smooth departure of the archbishop before the Clergy Laity Congress, where rifts could shake the foundations of the Archdiocese.
TNH has learned that the archbishop is looking in other directions for support, while many here and in Athens believe that Bartholomew should have never allowed the situation the reach the current state.