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United States

How the Priests’ Pension Problem Was Created

September 22, 2020
By Theodoros Kalmoukos

BOSTON – The problem that the new Archbishop, His Eminence Elpidophoros has inherited – the failure of the Archdiocese to properly finance the Clergy Pension Fund – goes back many years. The situation became serious during the twenty-year ministry of the former Archbishop Demetrios, with responsibility also belonging to the Eparchial Synod, the Archdiocesan Council and its Finance Committee. The amount of the underfunding has catapulted to 65 million dollars.

The National Herald addressed this issue many times over the years. The following article, with the headline Serious Financial Problem with the Clergy Pension Fund, dating to December 2014 and which we print here in its entirety, is indicative of the situation that prevailed back then:

NATIONAL HERALD, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2014

Our correspondent Theodoros Kalmoukos

BOSTON – A serious financial problem has arisen in the Holy Archdiocese of America related to the Clergy Pension Fund. Specifically, the Archdiocese during the past three years did not contribute, as it should have, to the Fund the amount of $600 per month for its employees, clergy and laity, which ranged between eighty and ninety people, resulting in the Archdiocese owing the Fund more than $3 million, according to insiders. Well-informed sources spoke to The National Herald on the condition of anonymity for obvious reasons.

The Clergy Pension Fund was established during the years of the late Archbishop Iakovos of America on the initiative of the then director of Finance of the Archdiocese Chris Demetriadis, who later became a builder of luxury houses in Rye, NY.

It is emphasized that each community is required to pay the Archdiocese $600 a month for the Pension Fund for each priest. If a community has two priests, it will have to pay $1,200 a month. And if a community does not have a full-time priest, but a part-timer or even a visiting priest, that is, a substitute priest every Sunday, it will still be obligated to pay the amount of $600 each month.

Also, each priest must pay between 3.5% and 5% of his monthly salary into the Fund. Today, the Fund is estimated to have about $53 million. A year ago it had about $48 million.

Questions posed from time to time by priests remained unanswered by officials from the Archdiocese's Finance Department. George Vourvoulias from Chicago has been appointed Chairman of the Finance Committee, while Ieronymos Dimitriou, popularly known as Jerry Dimitriou, is the General Director of the Archdiocese's Finance Department.

Numerous phone calls of The National Herald to Jerry Dimitriou remained unanswered at press time.

The issue was finally raised and revealed at the Clergy Assembly of the Archdiocese in Philadelphia last July, during the plenary session of the Assembly, by Fr. Panagiotis Giannakopoulos, Pastor of the community of St. George in Hyannis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He asked why the Archdiocese has not contributed $600 a month for each of its employees over the past three years.

It is underlined that the amount due totals to over three million dollars.

Dimitriou, who is the general director of administration of the Archdiocese and was well as its financial director, tried unsuccessfully to avoid the question, saying that it is not on the agenda and that the issue should be brought to the competent committee, but he was told that during the open discussion of the plenary any issue can come up for discussion.

Finally, Dimitriou admitted that the Archdiocese due to financial difficulties, has not contributed the corresponding amounts to the Clergy Pension Fund. It is emphasized that Dimitriou has increased administrative and financial responsibilities, in fact he directs the Archdiocese, while Archbishop Demetrios simply plays the role of observer.

Jerry Dimitriou, therefore, demanded the removal of Fr. Giannakopoulos from the committee of the Clergy Pension Fund on the grounds that he insisted on bringing the issue up for public discussion and that in this way he insulted the Archdiocese during the plenary session, but Metropolitan Methodios of Boston refused to expel Fr. Giannakopoulos from the Clergy Pension Committee.

In communication with TNH, Fr. Giannakopoulos refused to talk about the issue.

In the meantime, the Pension Committee was convened in a meeting during which Dimitriou said, among other things, that it was not their intention not to pay the money, “we know that we owe it.” There is transparency in finances, he said, and he promised, always verbally, that the Archdiocese will start paying the money owed into the Fund.

The issue came up again a month ago at a meeting in Rye where it was said again that the Archdiocese would start paying the amount owed, which amounts to more than three million dollars. Present at the meeting were Bishop Andonios of Fasiane, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, as well as Bishop Sabastianos of Zela, Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod and spiritual advisor to the National Philoptohos of the Archdiocese of America.

A few weeks ago, another meeting was held in Florida where the promise was given (verbally) that by the end of 2015 the Archdiocese will pay the millions owed and interest thereon. It became known that they had already given about $120,000, while by the end of this year they will pay another $140,000.

In the meantime, there was a problem also with medical insurance, which was suspended for a while because the Archdiocese had not paid, but has now been reinstated.

Two officials of the Archdiocese reminded TNH that the hierarchs voted fifteen years ago in a Clergy Assembly that when they retire they will receive 80% of their salary, which they described as 'unbelievable'.

Another Archdiocese official told TNH that “our churches are empty. People no longer give money to communities. At Vespers the situation is heartbreaking. When you say, for example, that people in Greece are leaving the church, it is a question of whether ten people will remain inside the church, and these will be of advanced age.

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