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Vikentios and Galatoulas Gave what They Could for the Community

The death of every Greek-American is an extremely unpleasant event for all of us. Those who ‘leave’ are sometimes known in our Community by their public involvement, by their contributions – with money or service – or through earning some distinction in the general public arena.

Very often we learn they have passed from this life only when their death is recorded by their relatives in the pages of The National Herald – where their names and memory remain forever.
Sometimes they affect the Community in positive ways, other times negatively – at least that is how they are perceived, rightly or wrongly.

In any case, at the end of the day their deaths are an issue that concerns us all. This is because we are all members of a large family. Of the Greek-American community.

In the last few days, two well-known Greek expatriates have passed away, after making abundant contributions to our Community. With their death, they leave a void.

The first to ‘leave’ was the former bishop of Apamea Vikentios, who together with the former Metropolitan of Tyana Paisios – they were known as the ‘Paisios/Vikentios duo’ – founded, out of nowhere, an ecclesiastical empire centered on the church of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, which extended into Brooklyn, Long Island, and other cities in the United States.

They had strong personalities – Paisios/Vikentios – and were well-spoken. And due to the fact that they used the Greek language exclusively in their churches, at the height of their glory, they attracted thousands of expatriates.

Their course, however, was adventurous, to say the least. They scandalized a lot of people. Nevertheless, no one can deny that they left their mark on the Greek-American community, that they placed some bricks in the Community edifice.

Eventually, the ecclesiastical colossus they created was absorbed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in April 1998. Later, they were defrocked, due to known facts – in the case of Vikentios, the charge was disobedience.

Vikentios died poor. He did not even leave money for his funeral.

This is something that rarely, if ever, happens to senior clergy.

So while Vikentios may have made mistakes, greed was not the issue. Quite the contrary.

God forgive him.

The second well-known expatriate who ‘left’ us this week was Petros Galatoulas. A dynamic energetic personality, who contributed much out of a strong sense of duty to our Community and to Greece.

Petros devoted almost 30 years of his life to the cause of the Federation of Greek Societies of Greater New York, which he served zealously. This was demonstrated by his hard work related to the organization of many Greek parades on Fifth Avenue.

In recent years the rivalries that developed in the Federation led to its becoming eventually discredited. They took the form of a personal vendetta and reached unacceptable levels.

Serious accusations were made, without the presence of substantial evidence to back them up, as there should have been, resulting in an atmosphere of uncertainty and suspicion. The ultimate goal of the attacks was sheer character assassination.

In the end, as expected, no one comes out of this story unscathed.

And that is a tragedy because it did not have to be this way. We hope that a soul searching from all sides will help to avoid similar situations in the future.
Petros’ absence from the Federation, at least in the short term, will be felt.

And while none of us are irreplaceable, some dedicated people to a cause, like Petros Galatoulas, are not easy to replace.

My warmest condolences to his family.

Rest in peace!


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