To the Editor:
I am Fr. Basil Papanikolaou, an 88-year-old, retired Greek Orthodox Priest. Events in Ukraine have been a source of utter agony and pain! I share the interminable agony of the Archbishop of Albania Anastasios “because of the catastrophic and unacceptable war of Russia against Ukraine.” Seeing the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church welcoming Putin into a beautiful cathedral, with the latter crossing himself and lighting a candle, evokes feelings of sympathy tor the millions of Orthodox faithful in that country.
Hypocrisy reigns also deep in our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in this country. A case in point is my own indescribable and very sad story.
I served our Church as a faithful Orthodox Priest for 48 years. Close to my retirement, my wife (presvytera) succumbed to the dreadful disease, following a five-year struggle, which left my family in disarray, having to cope, among other things, with a disabled son.
The years that followed were turbulent for me, to say the least. After a considerable amount of time in prayer and contemplation, I married a wonderful Orthodox woman, who has been the answer to my loneliness and hopelessness. But then my Church came and said, “you are no longer a priest!” Why? Because the ‘Apostolic Canons’ prohibit widowed priests from remarrying. However, I had done my homework and found that those canons were fake, composed during dark ages of our church history by misanthropic, misogynist, and heretical individuals. Nothing uncommon in the early stages of our church life.
Our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew rescinded those canons for the benefit of many people like myself. I know of similar cases where ‘no longer priests’ were reinstated, but not my case – it has been rejected by Archbishop Elpidophoros. I have written to him NUMEROUS times and he has NEVER answered me, except once through his Chancellor with an emphatic NO! As I near the end of my earthly journey, I would like to depart as a humble Orthodox Priest that I was. What is the reason for saying NO to me? I have done nothing wrong, nor have I created a scandal, which is the reason for many of those canons. My former parishioners have been overwhelmed to see me smile again, whereas Archbishop Elpidophoros has scandalized – with his recent actions here and abroad – countless people. I implore him to submit my name to the Patriarch and his Synod to give me back the honorable name ‘Fr. Basil’ my former parishioners still use when addressing me. Please, Your Eminence, I have neither money nor any high ranking personality to advocate for me. Please do this as an act of mercy and justice for a lowly priest who devoted his entire adult life to serving the true Church of Christ!
Fr. Basil Papanikolaou