Paisios, former Metropolitan of Tyana, founder of monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou
in Astoria and its dependencies. (Photo: TNH Archive)
BOSTON – Paisios, the former Metropolitan of Tyana, who, together with the late Vikentios, former bishop of Apameia, founded the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, NY and its dependencies in other U.S. cities and states, breaks his silence after nearly twelve years and gives an exclusive interview to The National Herald, prompted by the passing of Vikentios, his spiritual son and close associate. It should be noted that both were defrocked by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
During the interview his voice broke several times and he was sobbing as he spoke. He referred to their common course and their hard work and worries as they created the Monastery and its Dependencies. He said that Vikentios was “unselfish” and that “he worked eagerly and wholeheartedly, without remuneration as we both worked for free and in total privation so that we could create.”
He also said of the Funeral Service that was held in the Church of Sts. Catherine and George and not in St. Irene that, “even a child can see that is blatant injustice.” He said that his defrocking and that of Vikentios was “unwarranted” and promised to return to the subject in a future interview.
The entire interview with Metropolitan Paisios follows:
The National Herald: Could you share your thoughts regarding the passing of the late Bishop Vikentios of Apameia?
Metropolitan Paisios: I would be more than happy to do so; it is my duty, Mr. Kalmoukos. My soul is filled with sorrow and my grief is exacerbated by my inability to embrace for the last time my spiritual son, who was by my side since he was 18 years old.
TNH: When and how did you meet?
Paisios: We met in Jerusalem when he was finishing his studies at the Jerusalem Ecclesiastical School. He did not want to remain there and planned to return to Greece. He asked if he could visit me. We met during a Liturgy held at the St. Panteleimon Monastery in Jerusalem.
TNH: Were you a priest then?
Paisios: No, I was an archpriest. I was still with the GOC. When he returned to Greece I had already left for the United States. He contacted me and I told him he could come to the USA if he wished, and he did. He was a novice. A year later I ordained him monk and named him Vikentios. His baptismal name was Vassilios. We set off on our common course of creation together. We began from Mount Vernon when I was at the local St. George church of GOC and then we moved to Astoria. We bought our first building after many sacrifices and hard work. Together we started establishing the Greek School, the Daycare Center – and we had to work hard in various ways. We had many and varied duties and responsibilities, but Vikentios was very consistent. He worked eagerly and wholeheartedly, without remuneration as we both worked for free and in total privation so that we could create. Our goal was to establish St. Irene Chrysovalantou Church as we had promised the Saint so as to magnify her name in America as well. Our Elder (Spiritual Father) brought the miraculous icon. The person who gave the first icon of Chrysovalantou at Likovrissi Attica was an Elder of that Monastery and also our own Elder.
TNH: What was his name?
Paisios: Paisios Mikragianitis, he was also the ‘nymphagogos’ (officiator) of Gerasimos the Hymnographer, who became a monk in our Elder’s cell, where he stayed for the remainder of his life. Our Elder gave us the treasure of the miraculous icon of St. Irene Chrysovalantou at the beginning of our efforts. We all worked for a common cause, both of us and some novices who also came, such as father Ierotheos Markopoulos, father Kyrillos Markopoulos, and others who came to help and contributed money to help create the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery. We all worked hard and faced great privation, but we were full of enthusiasm.
TNH: What was Vikentios like?
Paisios: Vikentios was a fiery fighter and dare to say, more daring than I was. I was more reserved but he fought hard for the truth. He wanted a pure, genuine Orthodoxy. He was upset with certain secularizations, which pleased me, as he was consistently working as an Orthodox monk and cleric. He did not care about money and we both worked without remuneration, a fact which everyone knew. Everyone could see that, and so they contributed with good grace. Whatever was created was because all of us who worked at the Monastery did so without remuneration. The Dependencies were created due to the hard work, the effort, the prayers, and the tears of all of us.
Our late brother Vikentios was a visionary, but after we became part of the Mother Church the devil wanted to shake the indefatigable port of our Monastery, creating all this temptation. Yet, even at that phase I considered him my brother, my spiritual child and brother in Christ and I always forbore and prayed, “my Lord, do not judge him for this sin”. I always endeavored to ask our Lord not to punish him for his mistakes, but to forgive him. I forgave him.
TNH: Were you in touch with the late Vikentios?
Paisios: Since 2010 we only communicated once, when his brother passed away and I felt it was my duty to offer my condolences. He thanked me. Later I tried again to contact him and suggest he apply to the Patriarchate and the Holy Archbishopric to ask for forgiveness, but my calls remained unanswered, unfortunately.
TNH: In 1998, when you came under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under what conditions were all that you created, i.e. the Chrysovalantou Church, the Monastery building, and its Dependencies given to the Patriarchate?
Paisios: We did so willingly, we were not made to do so.
TNH: Weren’t you asked to do so by the Patriarchate in return for being recognized?
Paisios: No, there was no such transaction, we came with our properties. But the Patriarchate insisted on re-ordination. I offered to remain as a Monk and hand over to brother Vikentios the authority, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not accept that, so I had to bow to the wishes of the Mother Church.
TNH: When you gave the buildings to the Patriarchate they had a monetary value of how much?
Paisios: We should calculate their current value because the two are not comparable.
TNH: All right then, what is their current value?
Paisios: Currently the entire property must be close to seventy million dollars.
TNH: Did you ever regret going under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate and giving them everything?
Paisios: Never. Even during our penance, I never thought that I shouldn’t have done that, because what all I cared about was for our work to remain for the good of the Omogenia. Only the canonical Church could maintain that and not the Old Calendarists, among whom we found ourselves unknowingly.
TNH: Would you like to comment on the fact that the funeral of Bishop Vikentios, the co-founder of the Chrysovalantou Monastery, was held at St. Catherine’s and not at the St. Irene’s Church?
Paisios: I believe that even a child can view that as blatant injustice because all that was created due to the hard work and sacrifices made not only by me, but also by Bishop Vikentios. He fought hard, worked hard, and all was achieved through great deprivation.
TNH: What do you think of the presence of Archbishop Elpidophoros and Bishop Ierotheos of Efkarpia at the funeral? What does that mean?
Paisios: I believe the Archbishop’s presence was part of the great debt the Mother Church owes to Bishop Vikentios, because as far as I am aware, the penance is considered unwarranted.
TNH: What do you mean? Please, explain in simple terms so that not only theologians but all the people can understand.
Paisios: There is no reason, no basis for it.
TNH: Is Bishop Vikentios’ and your defrocking considered unwarranted?
Paisios: Of course. There may have been complaints, but there were no criminal offences.
TNH: Would you be willing to talk to us about this extensively in the future?
Paisios: Certainly. Give me a little time and I will discuss this in detail.
TNH: Couldn’t Archbishop Elpidophoros as Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne, say the funeral will be at St. Irene Chrysovalantou that Vikentios founded and not at St. Catherine?
Paisios: I am not aware of what the Chrysovalantou Monastery Abbot and the Archbishop discussed. I do not know that, but I believe it would have been fair and just for the funeral to take place there. It was the duty of both the Archbishop and the Abbot, and I think Bishop Vikentios was done a disservice. Furthermore, he was wronged to be buried as a simple monk. Yes, he went against the Mother Church, but the Church is still our mother, and it heals.
TNH: How do you live in Athens?
Paisios: In holy poverty.
THH: How do you survive? On what means?
Paisios: I have informed his All Holiness that I am pleased to be tested. I was tested in comfort and wealth in America and now I am tested in abject poverty in Greece. It is a holy test for me. This penury is my greatest benefactor.
TNH: Have you seen the Patriarch recently?
Paisios: Of course I have.
TNH: Could you tell us what was discussed during your meeting?
Paisios: We should leave that for my future interview.
TNH: Are you thinking of returning to the United States?
Paisios: As an American citizen and a cleric I can go whenever I wish, and I also have the consent of His All-Holiness.
TNH: Have you been approached by other Orthodox canonical jurisdictions and churches to become part of their clergy?
Paisios: Mr. Kalmoukos, I am Greek to the bone. I will never betray what I am. I was born a Greek and I will die a Greek.
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