BOSTON – The committee of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which was established in October, 2022 by the Holy Synod in Constantinople upon the recommendation of Patriarch Bartholomew to study the possible modification of the Archdiocese’s Charter along with a corresponding Committee of the Archdiocese of America, has been inactivated. The Committee is not expected to convene for the next three years under the orders of Patriarch Bartholomew.
This information received by The National Herald was confirmed by Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, who was appointed as member of the Phanar’s Committee. When we asked him in a telephone conversation if he had resigned from the Committee, as had been circulated on Friday, September 8, 2023 among ecclesiastical circles at the Phanar and in the United States, Archbishop Nikitas told TNH that “there is no Committee; we have suspended it. We said some things to Archbishop of America, and for three years, we will not have a committee. This was the agreement at the Phanar. We told him to convene the Eparchial Synod to work together for three years, and then we will discuss it.”
Archbishop Nikitas emphasized once again that “at this moment, there is no Committee – write it down.” When TNH pointed out that nevertheless Archbishop Elpidophoros continues to discuss changes in the Charter, Archbishop Nikitas said, “we know that,” and added, “there is no Committee. We will not continue until the Eparchial Synod of America makes some decisions.”
Archbishop Nikitas said again that, “I am telling you the truth; the Patriarch knows that if they want the Committee, I resign from it because we agreed on some things, and I have these principles. And again, I tell you that for me, there is no Committee and Metropolitan of Chalcedon will tell you the same thing.”
It is once again emphasized that the metropolises will not be abolished and turned into ‘districts’, and the metropolitans will not be demoted to ‘district governors’, as Archbishop Elpidophoros proposed and unsuccessfully attempted. The recent election of Bishop Apostolos of Medeias as Metropolitan of New Jersey is the strongest official evidence of this turn of event, constituting an outright rejection the initiatives of Elpidophoros, who is currently traveling in Panama.
As TNH had reported on October 7, 2022, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew announced to the Patriarchal Synod on Monday, October 3, 2022 that he has appointed a Committee regarding the Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Committee was comprised of the following: Metropolitan Geron Emmanuel of Chalcedon, Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, V. Rev. Grand Ecclesiarch Archimandrite Aetios, Director of the Patriarchal Private Office, and Dr. Konstantinos Delikostantis, Director of the First Patriarchal Office, and Professor Emeritus of the University of Athens.
It is reminded here that the Charter of the Archdiocese was revoked on October 8, 2020 by Patriarch Bartholomew and his Synod after the verbal recommendation of Archbishop Elpidophoros without any prior consultation or even notification of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America or the Archdiocesan Council, who received the news from The National Herald. Elpidophoros’ aim was to eliminate the metropolises and demote the metropolitans.
The process of revocation or amendment of the Charter is presented in Article 25 as follows: “The present Charter regulating the affairs of the Holy Archdiocese of America as an ecclesiastical institution, may be amended in its entirety or in part after a proposal of the Holy Eparchial Synod submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate following the appropriate procedure in the Archdiocesan Council and the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress, and after the approval of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to which the proposal has been submitted.”
When, in a revealing interview to The National Herald by Metropolitan Nathanael on April 8, 2022, he was asked if Archbishop Elpidophoros had obtained a consensus of the Eparchial Synod prior to recommending to Patriarch Bartholomew that the Charter be placed in abeyance, he said: “The Holy Eparchial Synod was not aware that His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros submitted reports to the Ecumenical Patriarchate related to the Charter of the Archdiocese. We never discussed the idea or a possible need to request a new Charter from the Patriarchate. On September 9-10, just one month before the announcement from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, our Archdiocese held its 45th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, with more than 1,200 delegates participating, except for His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos, who raised concerns about rumors of a group commissioned by the Archdiocese to study changes to the charter, no one raised any question related to the Charter. The Clergy-Laity Congress went about its work assuming that everything was proceeding as normal. No one could have imagined that we would find ourselves in the present predicament just a month later.”
In the meantime, there was strong reaction by the hierarchs in America and also by hierarchs at the Phanar regarding the intrigues of Elpidophoros. Patriarch Bartholomew found himself in an extremely difficult position as he had allowed Elpidophoros to mislead him about the Charter and also the dethronement of Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey. In his attempt to salvage his Patriarchal prestige, as The National Herald revealed on June 9, 2022, shortly after the meeting of the Synodic Committee of the Eparchies of the Phanar Abroad it was decided to have the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese request the restoration of the suspended Charter. The Patriarchate would then accept the request of the Holy Eparchial Synod and officially reply that the Charter continues to be in effect and will remain as it is.
The understanding was that if in the future the need arises for any modifications of some of its articles it will occur according to what Article 25 provides. As The National Herald has reported, that is what was done.