Finally, the Right decision on Paisios and Vikentios
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision effectively to exile Paisios to a monastery for life serves to restore faith to Bartholomew’s ministry and honors the institution. That the punishment was extended to Vikentios – Paisios’ former close aid – was, in our view, also fitting.
The nature of the offenses that Paisios committed were such that the Patriarchate in good conscience could not possibly have rendered a different verdict. The report submitted by its own Exarchy – having spent long hours taking depositions from many victims and having heard unthinkable stories about many more targets, including children – was extremely lurid in its detail and damning in its conclusion.
Let us not forget – if a reminder is even needed – about Paisios’ charismatic climb and disgraceful downfall as a religious leader. A firebrand bishop of the Old Calendar Greek Orthodox faith, Paisios came to the United States in the 1970’s and along with Vikentios established a powerful presence in Astoria and later spread his influence to other parts of the country. A preacher of uncommon ability, Paisios was able to draw large segments of Astoria’s vast Greek population to his church, St. Irene Chrysovalantou, overshadowing at times even the neighboring communities of the mainstream Greek Orthodox churches.
But Paisios’ conduct also aroused skepticism and even suspicion: different strange episodes arose, including the supposed tearing of what was famously dubbed the Church’s Matron Saint’s “weeping” icon, and which drew thousands of viewers, and its subsequent “theft.” Both events commanded prominent headlines in New York’s mainstream media. Eventually, the icon was presumably “found” and it was and returned – even though the insurance money paid to the Church for the alleged loss was not.
Ethnikos Kirix, our sister Greek language daily, had raised serious questions about the theft’s authenticity and was subsequently sued as a result. The case was eventually thrown out of court. And in 1990, Paisios and Vikentios were accepted into the fold of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to which they transferred all traceable property.
A year ago, however, the dam of hidden scandals finally burst: many of Paisios’ victims started to demand justice. What contributed to Paisios’ downfall was his overt parting of ways with Vikentios and the astounding revelations the latter made about Paisios in an exclusive lengthy interview that he granted us. But when a whole year went by and the Patriarch had yet to hand down a decision regarding the scandal, there was widespread dismay that Paisios would evade punishment yet again.
It is not clear how the Patriarchate’s decision will affect a pending trial in New York involving a number of the victims, or to what extent – if any – the Patriarchate is liable for damages, considering the defendants were under its umbrella.
In any event, as October 20th marks Bartholomew’s 20th anniversary as Ecumenical Patriarch, his commendable decision regarding Paisios and Vikentios could not have come at a better time.