Greek church will celebrate milestone in ‘painful time’
Members of Columbus’ Greek Orthodox Church are forging ahead this weekend with a 100th-anniversary celebration and the welcoming of a new dean while coping with a presiding priest’s confession to attempted rape of a child.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, on the edge of the Short North, will play host to the top church official in the U.S. — Archbishop Demetrios — and the top regional official — Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh — for the events.
The Rev. Patrick N. Hughes, interim dean of the church, was arrested last week after Franklin County deputy sheriffs said he used the Internet to solicit boys for sex. He pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to six years in prison.
“The plans are going on as originally scheduled, but the difference will be in the spirit of it, obviously less celebratory and one of coming together in healing,” said Bishop Andonios, chancellor of the Archdiocese of America.
In a statement, the cathedral congregation expressed gratitude for the resolution of Hughes’ criminal case and encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the sheriff’s office or the archdiocese.
“At this time, our community is more concerned with the welfare of all parishioners,” the statement said. “We seek to minister responsively to the needs of our parish community and all involved during this painful and challenging time.”
Andonios said Annunciation is a “dynamic” congregation, the largest in the Pittsburgh metropolis. He said Archbishop Demetrios wants to be there “as a father” to help the congregation cope with the fallout from Hughes’ arrest.
Demetrios is to attend Saturday afternoon vespers, followed by a reception and banquet, and on Sunday morning a liturgy, followed by a luncheon. The event also will feature the installation of the Rev. Demetrios Gardikes as dean; he comes from St. Nicholas Cathedral in Pittsburgh.
The installation was arranged before Hughes’ arrest, and Hughes had intended to return to St. Theodore House, a monastery in Galion. Instead, he was removed from his position as a superior there and from all other priestly duties last week. He also has served at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Mansfield.
“These things do happen. Human beings with their weaknesses, unfortunately they succumb to these temptations,” Andonios said, adding that it’s important to put things in perspective. “The ultimate example and inspiration for us is not the local parish priest but Christ himself.”
Andonios said Metropolitan Savas can determine whether to call a spiritual court of clergy to decide whether to recommend defrocking Hughes. The recommendation would go to the U.S. archdiocese synod for endorsement and face final approval by the Greek Orthodox Church. Hughes’ attorney said the priest plans to request defrocking.
Messages left for Savas were not returned, but his Facebook page shows he has been visiting Annunciation since Hughes’ arrest. On Wednesday, he and six priests performed the Sacred Mystery of Anointing, which is administered to people who need spiritual or physical healing.
The page also indicates that he visited on Saturday to “assure the faithful of our love and concern for them in this critical hour.”