NEW YORK – George Matsoukas, Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), shared his support for Efstathios Valiotis and Autocephaly with The National Herald.
Noting that Valiotis, founder of Alma Bank and an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “has been admonished for his address to the graduating class of Hellenic College-Holy Cross [School of Theology] by the ethnic press, the Patriarchal Synod, a few Metropolitans of the Synod of the U.S. who are Patriarchal Axillary Bishops, and in a letter addressed to him on behalf of the Archons,” he told TNH that it is “time for appointed leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to speak up for Autocephaly.”
In the letter addressed to Valiotis which Matsoukas shared with TNH, he wrote:
“On behalf of the board of directors, advisory board, supporters and friends of Orthodox Christian Laity, thank you for expressing your thoughts on the present condition of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and offering positive suggestions for the future of the Orthodox Christian Church in the United States. Your remarks upon receiving an honorary degree at Hellenic College – Holy Cross School of Theology are a turning point in the life of Orthodoxy in the U.S. Your insights and suggestions are courageous, timely, and necessary.
In addition to your past service to the Church Community, you are truly worthy (Axios!) for expressing the truth. You have given the faithful the example and permission to express themselves on issues that are important in the life of the Church. We cannot move ahead as an indigenous Christian Church Community in the United States if we cannot communicate with each other honestly and freely.
Your example inspires us, young and old, to seek solutions to our problems with truthful dialogue. You have performed a great service for the future of Orthodoxy in the U.S. The building of a shrine at ground zero in New York City is a worthy symbol, but it is an empty symbol, if we, as a faith community, cannot express our concerns to each other in a free and open way and not be marginalized by the hierarchical structure of the bishops, clergy, administrators, and appointed laity. You have changed the structure by speaking truth to power.”
Matsoukas also sent an overview of OCL’s work over the last 31 years to Valiotis and asked him to note OCL’s Resolution on Autocephaly passed in Los Angeles, 1998 and their latest publication on the Ephraim Monastic Community by Dr. Frances Kostarelos, materials already sent to the hierarchy and patriarchate.
The most virulent attack, Matskoukas told TNH, came from the Patriarchal representative to the Clergy-Laity Congress. In his address to the Archons on July 4, the Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkon referred to the remarks delivered by Valiotis as “imprudent and disrespectful.”
“In a clear rebuke to Archbishop Demetrios, the visitor from Istanbul proclaimed, ‘Even more disheartening is the fact that the disrespectful and blasphemous mouth was not immediately called to good order by the powers that bear the primary ecclesiastical responsibility here,’” Matsoukas pointed out.
He added, “The attacks leveled at Mr. Valiotis for exercising his rights to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience are undeserved and unworthy of Church leaders. His demeanor of grace under stress should help appointed clergy and lay leaders to follow his example and continue to speak truth to power, and collectively act, through the Archdiocese Council, to correct the uncanonical set up, fragmented leadership and reign in the clerical patriarchal nuncio, factors all working to weaken the authority of the Archbishop and the Archdiocese itself. We must stop being janissaries – against our own interests – as a Church in the United States and take back the responsibility to manage our affairs with accountability, transparency, unity and lay involvement in all aspect of Church life.”