If the regression on the issue of the Charter of the Archdiocese of America proves anything, it is the lack of consistency, but also of respect for the Church and the Greek-American community.
Initially, there was haste and imprudence, and the issue was led to dead ends, diminishing the prestige of the Patriarchate and the Archdiocese. A solution was devised: the Eparchial Synod would request the ‘suspension of the suspension’ of the Charter, in order to save the prestige of the Bartholomew initiative – and it happened, but now we are back to the same situation as before.
Archbishop Elpidophoros, coming as ‘a Magus from the East’, before he even got to know our local Church and Community and come to be known by it, hastened to make dangerous changes.
He succeeded through the twisting of terms and situations and with lies to unfortunately drag in Patriarch Bartholomew, who I must note is one of the most intelligent and best-educated and charismatic patriarchs of our Orthodox Church in recent centuries. As a result, the Patriarch proposed the suspension of the Charter of the Archdiocese, the dethronement of Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, and the three-month suspension of Metropolitan Methodios of Boston to the members of the Synod of Constantinople of that time, in October, 2020.
Let us emphasize once more that Elpidophoros had set his sights on taking the Metropolis of Evangelos even before he was enthroned, and Rev. Gregory from Thessaloniki knows this better than anyone else.
And yet there was the open mockery that took place, of the annulment and circumvention of the Charter and of institutions and practices of long-standing in the Archdiocese of America regarding to episcopal elections. I am specifically referring to the episcopate of Athenagoras Ziliaskopoulos, whom Elpidophoros brought here urgently from Canada without even having the necessary documents for residence and a work permit, but with a student visa. Athenagoras has had an interesting professional and personal journey, as he is widely known in ecclesiastical circles in Germany, Northern Greece, the Phanar, and Canada.
The Archbishop tried within a few months to make him a bishop, but the local Eparchial Synod stopped him by telling him that he came ‘yesterday’, indeed, he had not completed five years of service in America, as stipulated by the Charter of the Archdiocese.
Elpidophoros succeeded regardless of that requirement, convincing the Patriarch to proceed with the episcopal election of Ziliaskopoulos, making him his own Assistant Bishop of the Archdiocese of Constantinople – and then granting him ‘on loan’ to the Archdiocese of America.
Of course, the local hierarchs, priests, and the fullness of the Church fully understood the events on the Golden Horn ‘in another way’, but they did not ‘respond loudly’, but rather in low voices behind the scenes.
The Metropolitans in America, on the other hand, were horrified by the unnecessary and unaccountable dethronement of Evangelos, who is among the most fervent supporters of the Patriarchate in every way. The priests were also afraid that Elpidophoros would take them out of their communities and replace them with those he brought here from Halki, Thessaloniki, and elsewhere.
The laity of the Archdiocesan Council comment in secret, while the fullness of the Church and the Community observe from afar, shaking their heads with tested wisdom, lamenting the lost hope… and unfortunately, the emptying of the churches.
And so, we arrive at today’s tragedy of the regression of the Charter issue.
If the Charter needed revision, it should have been done in due time, with respect and appreciation for the Hierarchy here, as well as for the Clergy and the People, who were completely ignored by Elpidophoros and were only informed by The National Herald on that fateful morning of Thursday, October 8, 2020.
Most of the clergy and the people ask: Where is the cooperation and transparency promised by Elpidophoros? How was such a serious matter suggested to the Patriarch “without the opinion of the majority,” i.e. his co-bishops of the Eparchial Synod?
Of course, Elpidophoros hides behind the Patriarchate, saying and writing unfortunately (as it was announced) that all this was a decision of the Patriarch and the Synod, while the truth is that he himself demanded it.
And here it is, ‘Friday the 13th’, as the expression goes, and people will start expressing their opinions as members of both committees that were established, one from the Archdiocese and the other of the Phanar. Of course, the goal of Elpidophoros, as I mentioned in the publication of January 5, 2023, is the return to the Iakovean era of monism and monarchy. But is today’s age similar to the time of Iakovos? Are the pastoral, administrative, community structures, and needs identical to those of that time? And also – this is something that many people who have knowledge and informed opinions, both among the fullness of the Church of America and among the Hierarchs of the Phanar are asking – is Elpidophoros another Iakovos? Abstain from blasphemy, please.
While Elpidophoros was proving that he is not even able to appoint two suitable priests to appropriate positions, he distracted the Patriarchate, the Archdiocese, and the Community with that strange ‘baptism’ in the Athens suburb of Glyfada, and the glories of his visit to Northern Greece and Mount Athos with the anti-terrorist police who followed him with their dogs at his feet, accompanied by a horde of secret advisers he has assembled and who are paid handsomely. Naively thinking that they will make him Patriarch, he aspires to rule the entire Archdiocese of America with free hand.
Our people see, think, evaluate, and question his personnel choices so far, especially those for critical institutional positions, during the past three-and-a-half years – and they wonder. They ask, can he be left free and unchecked to “do as he pleases,” without any counter-argument or checks and balances regarding administrative and financial affairs?