A Look Back at an Unpredictable Year of Ecclesiastical Events and Scandals
Date Published: 01/03/2009
Publication: The National Herald
BOSTON – The summital ecclesiastical event of our Greek American community for the year 2008 was the 39th Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America which convened in Washington D.C. from July 13 to 18. Simultaneously the National Philoptochos and the Youth held their biannual conventions.
Archbishop Gregorios of Thyatira and Great Britain represented Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Greek Government was represented by Undersecretary of State Theodoros Kassimis.
No set agenda existed this time as well at the Clergy-Laity Congress which assumed the form of an extended Sunday School Catechesis with many seminars and workshops. The passing of the financial budget and its drastic increase was actually the only administrative ruling of the Congress.
The general discussions were based upon the keynote address of Archbishop Demetrios with the theme “Gather My People to My Home.”
The Congress was dedicated to the late Archbishop Michael of America on the 50th anniversary of his death. The U.S. Government was represented by Greek American Undersecretary of State John Negroponte.
The pederasty scandal of former priest Nicholas Katinas marked 2008. A new victim came forward from Chicago. The court in Texas declined the Archdiocese’s petition to drop the case of the five victims and gave the go ahead to the victims for a jury trial which was set to begin on November 3. Shortly before the trial was to begin, the Archdiocese agreed to an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum of money which is reportedly in the millions of dollars. Similar settlements were reached for other sexual misconduct cases such as that of former Archimandrites Stanley Adamakis and Michael Rymer. Another four more cases of sexual misconduct were revealed and the priests were placed on either leave of absence or liturgical suspension.
Archbishop Demetrios appointed Aphrodite Skeadas President of the National Philoptochos of the Archdiocese.
Another highlight was the announcement of Mary and Michael Jaharis’ donation of $5 million to Holy Cross Theological School in May during the graduation ceremonies. Two million dollars will be used for the establishment of a New Testament Chair in honor of Archbishop Demetrios and three million for the creation of an Institute of Byzantine Art and Culture.
Archimandrite John Heropoulos, one of the closest confidants of the former Archbishop Spyridon, left the priesthood on his own and requested to be defrocked. The Ecumenical Patriarchate granted his request and he was returned to the ranks of the laity.
Archbishop Demetrios visited the Minister of Finance of the Greek Government and asked for a six million euro financial assistance for the Ionian Village.
The Archbishop also visited the Patriarchate of Moscow where he was invited by the late Patriarch Alexios.
The Archbishop offered prayer in both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
An announcement was made by the Archdiocese about the submission of the Palestinian and Jordanian communities of the U.S. to the Ecumenical Patriarchate through the Archdiocese, but the communities did not accept the agreement.
Thieves stole the Episcopal crown of Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver from his car, which was parked outside of a restaurant where he was dining with friends. According to his statement to the American Media, his crown was worth $10,000.
The Greek Orthodox parish of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul in Haverhill, Massachusetts celebrated the centennial anniversary of its establishment.
The most notable event of the year 2008 in the broaden Orthodox Ecclesiastical world was the death of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece. Hundreds of thousands of people venerated his body and participated in his funeral at the Cathedral of Athens officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and assisted by Patriarchs and Heads of Autocephalous Churches around the world. Archbishop Christodoulos granted the last interview of his ministry and his life to The National Herald.
Metropolitan Ieronymos of Thebes succeeded Archbishop Christodoulos to the Archbishopric Throne of Athens and All Greece.
A financial and real estate exchange scandal broke between the Monastery of Vatopedion of Mount Athos and the Greek Government. Abbot Ephraim, along with his confidant Arsenios, seemed to be responsible for the scandal which involved many millions of dollars. Abbot Ephraim granted the first interview on the issue to The National Herald, which was republished or broadcasted to the majority of the media in Greece and abroad.
It was also revealed that Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedion of Mount Athos has given monies to the monasteries of Fr. Ephraim of Arizona who has under his control about 20 monasteries.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened the Synaxis of all the Prelates of the Patriarchates and the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches of the World at the Phanar in Constantinople.
The death of Patriarch Alexios of Moscow marked the ecclesiastical life of Russia. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew officiated at his funeral in Moscow, accompanied by Archbishop Demetrios of America and Metropolitan Germanos of Tranoupolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Church of Rome twice in 2008.
Pope Benedict made his first official visit to the U.S.
The Orthodox Church in America known toady as OCA (the former Russian Metropolia) found itself in the midst of financial scandals which resulted in the resignation its Metropolitan, Germanos. Another Metropolitan, Theodosios, had resigned a few years ago for the same reasons. Jonah was elected as the new Metropolitan of OCA.