Rev. Patrick O’Rourke, chief of staff of HCHC president George Cantonis. (Photo: HCHC)
BOSTON – Archbishop Elpidophoros of America implemented reassignments at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology after The National Herald revealed on August 29, 2022 a confidential report of Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos in an article titled ‘Chief Secretary of the Eparchial Synod Reveals the Situation at Holy Cross’.
Specifically, Fr. Michael Kouremetis was dismissed from his position as chaplain of the School and he remains, for now, only as Dean of Students.
It is recalled that before his appointment to the School, Fr. Kouremetis served in the community of the Annunciation of Brockton, MA, where he was transferred from the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity of Salt Lake City, UT, where rifts had been created, as The National Herald had reported about several times.
Fr. Kouremetis was replaced at the chaplaincy by Archimandrite Bartholomew Mercado, who also will be a lecturer of Canon Law at Holy Cross.
The National Herald has learned about Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos – who was living up to now in an apartment at the dormitory for married students – that President Cantonis has demanded his departure from the School and that instead, he will be living in the Archdiocesan Headquarters building in New York, as do other associates and Archbishopric advisors.
It is noted that President Cantonis had resigned more than a year ago over the issue of the presence and involvement of Athenagoras at the School but then revoked his resignation.
Ecclesiastically, Bishop Athenagoras is an auxiliary Bishop to Patriarch Bartholomew. Elpidophoros couldn’t make him his own auxiliary Bishop because Athenagoras hadn’t completed five years of service to the Archdiocese of America, as the Charter provides. They thus circumvented the Charter, making him a bishop “through another way.”
Recently, Athenagoras was appointed Director of Religious Education in order for him to be able to live on campus – and be in a position monitor the situation there and to inform his Ecclesiastical Authority, the Archbishop regarding the president, the deans, and the professors.
The Archbishop removed the prior Director of Religious Education, Archimandrite Anthony Vrame who specializes in Religious Education, in order to vacate the position for his friend Athenagoras. He then appointed Vrame as Director of Holy Cross Press. Athenagoras has been also appointed Chief Secretary of the Eparchial Synod and spiritual advisor to the National Philoptochos.
In his confidential report to the Archbishop Bishop Athenagoras directly denounces the president Cantonis, as well as the deans of Hellenic College, Timothy Patitsas, and of the School of Theology, Fr. George Parsenios. He also criticized officials and professors for not participating in Holy Week services.
He wrote the following: “The absence of the President from all Services as well as of the deans and professors (except Prof. Philip Mamalakis) caused bad impressions to the students and congregant believers.”
In the Services, presided over by Bishop Athenagoras himself by order of Archbishop Elpidophoros, the Dean of Student life and chaplain, Fr. Michael Kouremetis, also participated, about whom Bishop Athenagoras revealed the following: “I was surprised that Fr. Michael Kouremetis did not know the order of the Services at all and had great difficulty reading the Gospel readings in Greek. To help him, I kindly advised him to read only the long readings in English. I tried to guide him as much as I could. The only time I intervened was on the night of the Resurrection, when I realized that he did not know that we sing ‘Christ is Risen’ ten times after incensing at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. I started chanting from the throne and said all the verses and sent a student to tell him to incense. After the Service, he told me that in the fifty years of his priestly ministry, no one told him that he should sing ‘Christ is Risen’ and incense around the Holy Altar at the beginning of the Resurrection Liturgy. In fact, he emphasized that such a thing was not taught at the School, either.”
At another point in his report, Athenagoras wrote the following about the senior year students: “I found that the final year students did not know basic things about the liturgical matters, either theoretically or practically. Also, in discussions with priests, I realized that almost none of them remembered what they did during Great Week at the School when they were in their first year.”
In another instance in his report Bishop Athenagoras wrote the following:
“I tried to teach the seminarians as much as I could from the Patriarchal order. I also gave importance to how seminarians should receive a Hierarch, how to receive a blessing, how to bow, and where to stand when the Hierarch is on the throne or parathrone. I also insisted on saying prayers, readings, etc. in Greek and English. Finally, I advised seminarians to be decently dressed.
“Due to the pandemic, unfortunately, second- and third-year students did not have the opportunity to experience Great Week at the School. This means that while they did the theoretical course, they did not do the practical training. When I asked if they would participate this year, the answer was that it is probably enough that they attended the services in their parishes or online.
“I found that there was no concern about the mandatory presence and participation of the first-year students in the sacred services. There is generally laxity among the faculty on this matter.
“It would be a welcome project for the president, deans, professors, and staff to participate in the Great Week services. This will set a good example for students and incoming believers, and strengthen the feeling of cohesion and family atmosphere. In addition, I believe that it will attract new students to the School.”
We report today that after The National Herald revealed Athenagoras’s report, the issue was discussed extensively at the meeting of the executive committee of the Archdiocesan Council. It was also discussed in various departments of the School of Theology and by those who are involved in the administration and are responsible for the academic and practical education of the students. Helen Carlos, a member of the Board of Trustees and donor of the School, demanded to know why Bishop Athenagoras wrote that confidential report and how it came to the possession of The National Herald. Last week Elpidophoros honored Helen Carlos with a St. Paul medal for her services and contributions to the Theological School.
In the meantime Cantonis hired on August 1st, 2022 Fr. Patrick O’Rourke as his chief of staff, “to assist in overseeing and monitoring operations and helping to execute new presidential initiatives.”
It is further reported that Protopresbyter Fr. John Magoulias from California has been appointed vice chairman of the Board of Trustees.
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