NEW YORK – On August 13, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America convened a Holy Eparchial Synod meeting via a teleconference to review significant matters of the Holy Archdiocese, according to a news release from the Office of the Chief-Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod.
For the accurate information of the clergy and the laity of the Archdiocese, it is clarified that, as it had been decided in 1994, the pension of the Hierarchs in America is derived from Archdiocesan funding after deducting the amount that is received from the clergy pension program. The Hierarchs receive this portion of the pension only after they are no longer in the active ministry and not at a specific age as is the case with the priests. The Hierarchs contribute to the clergy pension program, and receive exactly the same percentage from it as all clergy.
Furthermore, the Holy Eparchial Synod decided that on Saturday, August 15, the day of the Dormition and Assumption of the Theotokos, a special collection will be made available at all Parishes and Monasteries to support the recently destroyed by explosion Orthodox Churches in Beirut. Already, as it has been announced, the Pan-Orthodox institution of IOCC [International Orthodox Christian Charities] decided to advance assistance in the amount of $150,000 and the National Philoptochos of the Archdiocese an additional $25,000 for our brethren in Lebanon.
The Archbishop and the Hierarchs exchanged wishes for the upcoming feast of August 15th and they extend prayers for the health, protection, and salvation of the Christ-loving faithful in the Archdiocese.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros had also convened the Clergy of the entire Archdiocese on August 11 in order to discuss the current status of the Archdiocese Pension Plan. Over 350 members of the clergy attended the webinar regarding the Pension Plan which covers both the clergy and the lay employees of the Archdiocese. Following his prepared remarks, Archbishop Elpidophoros answered questions of the clergy for over three hours.
The Pension Plan is funded by contributions from the Archdiocese, the Clergy and lay employees themselves, and the parishes. It is administered by the Archdiocese Benefits Committee (ABC), whose members are elected by the Clergy themselves through each Metropolis Syndesmos. The Pension Plan has been operating a deficit since 2001, and is now facing a deficit of such magnitude that it requires the attention that Archbishop Elpidophoros has been urging since his election and enthronement.
In his remarks to the Clergy, the Archbishop said:
“When I arrived a little over a year ago, I, like most of you, had little knowledge about the real facts of the impending crisis facing the Pension Plan. Since my ascension to the leadership of this Archdiocese, I have asked for, and consistently pushed for solutions for the Pension Plan to be vigorously pursued. As you, the clergy, assess your options, I promise that I will work with you to find the best way forward. … We may never know why the Plan slipped into its current condition, but one thing is abundantly clear, we have inherited a massive problem that must be addressed for the sake of all the clergy, those nearing retirement, and those a long way off.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers in the Lord, where do we go from here? As I said previously, we cannot change the facts. While our emotions may be very unsettled, they do not help us solve the larger problem. Our only choice is to move forward. And now we have to look at the realistic solutions to the problem that all of us have inherited. … We, the clergy, are the stakeholders of the Pension Plan, and the responsibility for the future of the Plan falls to all of us. I will do my part. I know that your Metropolitans will do their parts, as they are your spiritual fathers. At the same time, we will also need the parishes, and we will need every single priest of this Holy Archdiocese to be a part of the solution. There are many clergy that I have spoken to who know little detail of the Plan, and simply expect their benefits to be there when they retire. This approach can no longer be accepted by us, as clergy. We need to be active, and indeed responsible for the Plan and the decisions being made, for this is our future, and the future of our families. Passive participation can no longer be accepted, we must now, each and every one of us, become educated and become a part of finding a solution.”