TNH Interview with Bishop Andonios of Phasiane on St. Paul’s Fr. Melackrinos Suspension

The National Herald Archive

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Rev. Luke Melackrinos was placed on suspension from all his liturgical and administrative duties as presiding priest at the prestigious St. Paul’s Cathedral in Hempstead, NY for allegedly inappropriate electronic communication with an adult female parishioner.

Ordained to the priesthood in 2003, Fr. Melackrinos is suspected of sending electronically inappropriate photographs of himself to the woman. He has a wife and three daughters. The National Herald’s requests to Melackrinos and St. Paul’s parish council president remained unanswered at press time, but His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane gave an exclusive interview to the Herald elaborating on the allegations.

The interview follows:

TNH: Your Grace, what did exactly happened regarding Fr. Melackrinos?

BA: That is what I am trying to understand myself as well. I can tell you that no one expected this from him. I don’t know how he ended up where we are now. What I know is that a year ago he communicated via email and text messages with a woman who had been divorced three years ago. She is not Orthodox; I think she is Roman-Catholic. Her husband was Greek Orthodox and member of the St. Paul parish. Sometimes, she had attended services in the past. Those e-mails had stopped, but shortly before the New Year, Fr. Luke sent an email to all the parishioners regarding another issue and he was reconnected with that woman. Some text messages were exchanged and I cannot understand and he has not explained to me why he sent her two photographs.

TNH: What was depicted in the photographs?

BA: They were inappropriate, I didn’t see them. I have spoken with the detectives and they simply told me that the photographs were inappropriate.

TNH: Who went to the police and reported him, and showed them the photographs?

BA: The woman’s family, her former husband and her former brother in law. The detective told me that it wasn’t illegal since both of them are adults.

TNH: Where is Fr. Melackrinos now?

BA: At home, he was suspended. He called me on January 9 and requested to come to see me.

TNH: What is going to happen to him? What are you going to do with him?

BA: I have sent him to a special therapist for evaluation to see why he ended up in that situation. I am waiting for the report. Many people have emailed me supporting him.

TNH: Did you speak to his wife?

BA: I called her on January 9, she was shaken up, of course, but she told me they will try to save the marriage.

TNH: Who will pay for the therapist?

BA: We will see what the insurance will cover and then we will see after that.

TNH: Was he also involved with the Monasteries?

BA: I don’t think so. Today, the new generation of priests wear their anteri – inner cassock – but I don’t have the impression that he was an Ephraimite.

TNH: He had  a big red cross pinned on his inner cassock; he was also wearing a kalimavhi (clerical hat).

BA: Many priests wear the kalimavhi.

TNH: What is His eminence Archbishop Demetrios is saying about the incident?

BA: He has been astonished.

TNH: Now that Fr. Melackrinos is suspended, will he continue to receive his salary?

BA: I am waiting for the parish to tell me until when they will be paying him.

TNH: Is he staying in the parish home?

Bishop Andonios: Yes.

TNH: What are you going to do with him? Are you going to send him to the Spiritual Court? Are you going to defrock him?

BA: We will have to wait and see the therapist’s report. Certainly the issue is serious but they did not have sexual contact. We have to see what he was sending in those photographs and with therapy if this can overcome and be healed.

TNH: Can someone who is a priest and sends such inappropriate photographs continue to be a priest leading the People of God, and especially the children and the youth?

BA: We will see how the issue develops. If they tell us that it was a moment of weakness, then fine. If it is a deeper psychological problem, then we will send him to the Spiritual Court for defrockment. If it is something temporary, he made a mistake that he shouldn’t have done and if we can save him, we should save him, because he was a good priest. I am not saying that it is an easy thing, and I am not saying he will return tomorrow. Many parishioners St. Paul’s who are in Florida for the winter sent me emails and nobody wrote against him. They can’t understand why he did that.

TNH: After all this, can Fr. Melackrinos return to the same parish?

BA: No, no. We are not talking about returning tomorrow or next month.

TNH: What is the climate at the parish as we speak?

BA: They are astonished, disappointed. There are those who like him and they are trying to forgive him, saying that he is a human being and that he made a mistake, and that he shouldn’t have done it. Others who don’t like him say “look at this mess.”

TNH: Your Grace, I would also like also to ask you what happened with case of Fr. George Passias case and his mistress, Ethel Bouzalas. In an interview to TNH you had told us that she was pregnant. Did she give birth?

BA: I don’t know. I tried to communicate with her, she replied to me once. I tried to ask her in a polite way, but she didn’t answer me.