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Anastasios Gounaris during the Divine Liturgy at Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York. Photo TNH/Archive
BOSTON – The former Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York from 2012 to 2015 and who also served at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs for one year, Anastasios Gounaris, is in jail on Crete.
Gounaris was found unanimously guilty by a court in Rethymno, Crete on March 13, 2023, charged on October 9, 2020 with acts of arson which put people and private property in danger. The Court refused to acknowledge his insistence that his previous life should be taken into consideration.
According to the charges, Gounaris burned down the house of his second wife Patricia Turner in Chania, Crete with the use of flammable liquid. Other homes in the neighborhood were damaged along with a store and a building with rooms for rent for tourists.
The prosecutor issued a warrant for the former priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who was arrested because he was considered dangerous to the public. His passport and his travel documents were taken from him and he was also prohibited from leaving the country and obligated to report once a month to the local police authorities.
Gounaris had abandoned his first wife and children and left to go to Crete with Turner, who is from Canada. They had met through mutual friends in 2014 while he was visiting Crete. Turner also divorced her husband and the two were married in 2017 in a protestant church in Canada. Soon, however, problems started in their marital life which became worse in 2020, leading to the burning of the house.
Gounaris’ ministry at the Archdiocesan Cathedral was problematic from the moment of his appointment by Archbishop Demetrios, former of America. That followed an eight month search for a new Dean for the Cathedral. Demetrios proceeded with Gounaris’ appointment despite revelations in The National Herald about Gounaris at his previous parish, Holy Trinity of Indianapolis.
Among the actions revealed by TNH was Gounaris’ sending of a scathing e-mail to the President of the Archdiocesan Cathedral’s Board of Trustees Dean Poll, saying he wanted him “to lose everything and to end up homeless on the streets of New York.”
Poll is a prominent Greek-American businessman, perhaps most famous as the operator of the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park. He was appointed President of the Board by Archbishop Demetrios.
Gounaris’ e-mail followed Poll’s interview with TNH in September, 2013, in which he cited problems at the Cathedral, including dwindling attendance for church services and mounting $250,000 deficit resulting from a $1.9 million annual budget. A large chunk of deficit was the result of the $200,000 dedicated to the choir – which included the cost of hiring professional singers, many of which were not Orthodox. He also spoke about the settlement of a lawsuit that the sexton’s family had brought against the Cathedral for unpaid overtime, but did not disclose the amount. The sexton continues to work at the Cathedral.
The then-Chancellor of the Archdiocese Bishop Antonios of Phasiane, acting on behalf of Archbishop Demetrios, called Gounaris into his office on Monday, February 10, 2014 and told him that his ministry at the Holy Trinity Cathedral was ending and that he should depart soon.
Bishop Antonios itemized in detail the reasons and all that transpired from his arrival at the Cathedral in June, 2012 that point which prompted the Archdiocese to take that action. Gounaris told Bishop Antonios that he is not going anywhere and he asked to see Archbishop Demetrios because he was the one who appointed him to the Cathedral.
Antonios informed Gounaris that the Archbishop was attending the Leadership 100 conference in Florida and from there he was traveling to Constantinople to participate in the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ultimately, Archbishop Demetrios decided to let Gounaris go. Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta accepted Gounaris under his ‘omophorion’ and appointed him Dean of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs despite the turmoil at the Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York after which no other Metropolitan was willing to give him a parish.
On June 11, 2015 Gounaris, after one year of ministry at St. Nicholas, abandoned his parish and the active priesthood and fled to Greece. Even his wife, Maria Gounaris, was not aware of what had transpired since at that time she was visiting New York, where the news hit her.
Fr. Gounaris announced his decision through e-mails to Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and the members of the Community. Alexios placed him on liturgical suspension in 2016 and eventually he was defrocked.
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