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Church

Rivalry between Elpidophoros and Hierarchs of the Eparchial Synod

BOSTON – On July 2, during the meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America, an intense argument took place between Archbishop Elpidophoros and the members of the Synod, in the presence of the hierarchical members of the Patriarchal delegation, Metropolitan Geron Emmanuel of Chalcedon and the Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnon and Avlopotamos.

Hierarchs of the Eparchial Synod openly accused Archbishop Elpidophoros of having falsified the minutes of the meetings of the Synod and demanded in a strong tone that he immediately delete the disputed falsified points. At first, Elpidophoros reacted and made an effort to justify himself, but also to spin the words of the hierarchs, which made things even worse when he was faced with the hierarchs’ strong rejection and their demand to delete the points, because he was misleading the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod of the Phanar.

It is noted that the Chief Secretary of the Eparchial Synod is Bishop Athenagoras (Ziliaskopoulos) of Nazianzos, but The National Herald has learned that the final form and structure of the writing of the minutes is done by the Archbishop himself. It is recalled that Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos is essentially the Assistant Bishop of Patriarch Bartholomew. Athenagoras served as a priest in Germany, Northern Greece, and Canada, where he was director of the Theological Academy there. He is connected by close friendship and proximity with Archbishop Elpidophoros, who a few weeks after his arrival in the U.S. brought him to the Theological School initially to appoint him to the presidency, but this became impossible for institutional and legal reasons, as he did not have the required visa stay and work in the U.S.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America presents the newly ordained Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos to the congregation. (Photo provided by Bishop Athenagoras)
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America presents the newly ordained Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos to the congregation. (Photo provided by Bishop Athenagoras)

When Archbishop Elpidophoros proposed that he become an assistant Bishop, he was confronted by the Hierarchs of the Eparchial Synod, who told him that this cannot be done because according to the Charter, he must have at least five years of service in the Archdiocese. Then Archbishop Elpidophoros went “another way,” bypassing the Charter. In particular, he convinced Patriarch Bartholomew to choose Athenagoras Ziliaskopoulos as his own Assistant Bishop of the Archdiocese of Constantinople, and to entrust him (κατ’ ανάθεση) to Elpidophoros, which was done. We can reveal that Elpidophoros had sent the papers of Athenagoras for his elevation to the episcopacy in January 2021, but his election finally took place in May 2021, because a Synodical Hierarch of the Phanar reacted negatively, to his election, citing serious reasons, while when the term of the Phanariot Hierarch was completed, Ziliaskopoulos’ election proceeded at the Synod.
The second item of contention at the Eparchial Synod was the discussion and presentation of the questionnaire and findings on the Charter. The Hierarchs of the Eparchial Synod tried to tell Elpidophoros that after the intervention of the Synodal Committee of the Phanar on the Eparchies Abroad to submit a request to abolish the suspension of the Charter, it should not be an issue at the Clergy-Laity Congress, while he insisted on the opposite.

We reveal today that on July 6, and, in fact, shortly before midnight, Archbishop Elpidophoros called to his suite at the Marriot Marquis hotel where the Clergy-Laity Congress took place, his chief of staff, Fr. Panagiotis Papazafiropoulos, who is also an assistant to his brother, the Chancellor, Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Archdiocese Treasurer Elaine Allen, who plays a primary role in all financial and administrative matters of the Archdiocese, and Metropolitan Geron Emmanuel of Chalcedon, and told them that we should be very careful not to let the discussion on the Charter slip away, while it is alleged that he said that “I don’t want any problems.” The next day, July 7, there was a plenary debate on the Charter, with speeches by Metropolitan Emmanuel and Archbishop Elpidophoros, who left the impression that the matter will be decided at the next Clergy-Laity Congress in 2024. There were comments and questions from delegates, but the matter did not come to any conclusion.

Former Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey and currently of Sardeis with his beloved father Ioannis Kourounis. (Photo: TNH/Archive)

The third issue raised by Archbishop Elpidophoros was that of the former Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, whom Patriarch Bartholomew and his Synod dethroned at the demand of Elpidophoros, without even asking him to go to the Phanar to refute Elpidophoros’ allegations.

At the meeting of the Eparchial Synod on July 2, Treasurer Allen and the legal advisor of the Archdiocese, George Tsougarakis, were invited and present. There was a strong and weighty accusation against Evangelos in his absence, a matter which was pointed out by Synodical Metropolitans that what was being done was unacceptable and that Evangelos should have been present to answer. The discussion went nowhere.

Information obtained by TNH reports that Archbishop Elpidophoros had premeditated the dismissal of Metropolitan Evangelos. As we have already mentioned in our previous articles, an ordained close friend and acquaintance of Elpidophoros, whom Elpidophoros brought to America and appointed him to a staff position as well as to be the presiding priest of a community, two weeks before his enthronement in June 2019, revealed to a close acquaintance and friend of Evangelos in Thessaloniki the plan of Elpidophoros and his intention to dethrone him in order to annex the Metropolis of New Jersey to the Archdiocesan District of New York. Evangelos has informed Patriarch Bartholomew in detail about it after his dismissal.

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