BOSTON – Two days before the start of Holy Week, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America launched an attack on Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago over the revealing interview the latter conducted with The National Herald on April 5, 2022. The incident occurred during a meeting of the Eparchial Synod that was held via teleconference.
Among the matters Nathanael discussed in the interview with TNH were the behind-the-scenes moves and decisions of Elpidophoros concerning the Archdiocesan Charter and the dethronement of Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey.
The Archbishop allegedly told Metropolitan Nathanael that he was inexperienced and that he was inciting the priests of his Metropolis to write and send letters of protest in response to the questionnaire that the Archdiocese distributed about the new Charter. It is recalled that the letter of the Association of Clergy of the Metropolis of Chicago was revealed by TNH on April 10.
Metropolitan Nathanael did not fail to respond to Archbishop Elpidophoros, telling him that everything he said in the interview was true. Regarding the letter of the priests, he said that there is freedom in the United States and that no one could stop the clergy from expressing their opinions.
At this point there was a series of responses from the other hierarchs who are members of the Eparchial Synod to Archbishop Elpidophoros. Information received by TNH indicates that they did not leave unanswered the Archbishop’s accusations and his attack against Nathanael of Chicago.
At one point, Elpidophoros felt that the climate among the hierarchy had shifted, so he tried to change the subject and derail the meeting by asking Nathanael if he was promoting Autocephaly and posing other questions to him. It should be noted that Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit did not take part in the discussions of the Synod.
The National Herald is a position to know that the points which bothered Archbishop Elpidophoros most about the interview were the ones we reproduce here:
TNH: Did Archbishop Elpidophoros have the consensus of the Eparchial Synod prior to recommending to Patriarch Bartholomew that the Charter be placed in abeyance?
Metropolitan Nathanael: The Holy Eparchial Synod was not aware that His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros submitted reports to the Ecumenical Patriarchate related to the Charter of the Archdiocese. We never discussed the idea or possible need to request a new Charter from the Patriarchate. On September 9-10, just one month before the announcement from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, our Archdiocese held its 45th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, with more than 1,200 delegates in participation, except for His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos – who raised concerns about rumors of a group commissioned by the Archdiocese to study changes to the Charter – no one raised any question related to the Charter. The Clergy-Laity Congress went about its work assuming that everything was proceeding as normal. No one could have imagined that we would find ourselves in the present predicament just a month later.
TNH: How do you feel about the removal of Metropolitan Evangelos from the Metropolis of New Jersey? Would you have any problem agreeing to the restoration of his former responsibilities?
Metropolitan Nathanael: As I stated above, as Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Hierarchs of the Eparchial Synod, remain dedicated and obedient to our Mother Church and to our spiritual father, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Among the Hierarchs in the United States, Metropolitan Evangelos is one of the most ardent defenders and supporters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I know that my brother Metropolitan Evangelos is currently struggling and is experiencing deep pain. I cannot imagine how it must feel to wake up one day no longer be attached to the family you care so much about.
As a son of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan Evangelos remains obedient to our Church, and this truly inspires me. I am troubled, however, because according to the announcement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan Evangelos’ predicament is directly connected to the same reports of Archbishop Elpidophoros that led to our Charter being placed in abeyance. Regarding the future of Metropolitan Evangelos, I believe that all my brother Hierarchs will support any decision taken by the Mother Church of Constantinople.