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Columnists

From Shame to Pride

July 28, 2020
Analysis by Theodore Kalmoukos

The message in last week’s edition that featured the interview of Michael Psaros, Vice Chairman of organization The Friends of St. Nicholas, was clear and offered hope that as a Church and a Greek-American community we are passing from shame to pride. The resumption of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is a fact. On August 3 a service blessing the site will mark the official re-start of the project at Ground Zero.

Yes, that is exactly what is happening! The great shame and indignity of many years, the unfinished Shrine, an eyesore at Ground Zero thanks to the Demetrios administration and his collaborators including the Eparchial Synod, the Archdiocesan Council, and the tragicomic Finance Committee which drew the Archdiocese into dual crises of virtual bankruptcy and disrepute is giving way to feelings of pride that the nave of St. Nicholas is now on the final path to completion. And this has been achieved because of Archbishop Elpidophoros, Fr. Alex Karloutsos, The Friends of St. Nicholas and basically the major donors, including foundations such as Faith and Leadership 100.

If we had waited for the metropolises, the parishes, and the Philoptochos, St. Nicholas would have remained a haunted unfinished building, which would eventually have been taken by the City of New York and the Port Authority. A quick look at the published sums contributed by the metropolises with the exception of the Direct Archdiocesan District and the Metropolis of New Jersey is revealing. The other metropolises are really a crying shame. A particularly tragicomic case is – unfortunately – the Metropolis of Boston, which in this matter proved its poverty and smallness. And yet its hierarch dared to open his mouth during the teleconference of the Eparchial Synod as well as of that of the Executive Committee. It is really tragic the lack of self-knowledge which leads to every form and level of “coups and factions” (τυρείες και φατρίες) “without the opinion” and even knowledge of the First (δίχα της γνώμης του Πρώτου). One is really surprised by the magnitude of the tolerance of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Let me be clear, if it weren’t for the credible intervention of Elpidophoros, Karloutsos, Catsimatidis, Psaros, and others St. Nicholas would have been taken over by the authorities, who had totally lost their trust and patience after all these years. The threats and the law-suits filed by the late Michael Jaharis as vice chairman of the Archdiocesan Council not only didn’t help but on the contrary made things more difficult. After all, the authorities didn’t care much if Jaharis had money because there are many others who have much more money than Jaharis. Without a doubt Michael Jaharis of blessed memory did many good things for the Church and the Greek-American Community, such as funding the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a building at Tufts University in Boston, and the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, but I am afraid he was a victim of manipulation by Archbishop Demetrios in whose name Jaharis ‘drank water’, as the Greek saying goes.

Let me tell you that the interview with Michael Psaros was prompted by a report published in the monthly pamphlet of The Friends of St. Nicholas that out of the $86.2 million raised so far, the metropolises, parishes, and National Philoptochos chapters have contributed only $4,780,302 million or just 5.4% of the total and that the major donors contributed 94.6%. These numbers created some doubts in my mind, so I asked myself how it was possible.

Mr. Psaros, who is a prominent and widely respected businessman of global stature, said “you are correct. Math is objective – it has no subjectivity or opinion and the numbers speak for themselves … the metropolises, parishes and National Philoptochos chapters have contributed approximately 5.4% of the total funds required to construct the National Shrine.”

Wow here we can apply the wise saying of Philolaos that “numbers by their nature allow no lies.”

Here is the testimony of Psaros, which reveals the very essence of the passage from shame to pride: “The Enthronement of His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros, was the first condition precedent to complete the National Shrine. He reestablished the credibility of the Church with Governor Cuomo, the Port Authority, and the major donors. The major donors quite literally voted with their checkbooks between January and March 2020. The creation of Friends was the second condition precedent.”

Mr. Psaros is very correct because this is how we pass from shame to pride – because at some point the prestige of the Church and Hellenism of America had to be restored.

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