Holy furor as Greek Orthodox pastor’s hottie ‘goddaughter’ gets prominent roles at church
It’s highly unorthodox.
The married pastor of St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Washington Heights showed up for his first day of work with an attractive younger assistant fond of high heels and short skirts.
Father George Passias, 65, introduced Ethel Bouzalas, 43, as his “spiritual goddaughter.” The Brooklyn woman, also married, told people that she converted to orthodoxy and that Passias baptized her while she wore a bikini.
Eyebrows were raised at the church, where Passias has imposed a dress code requiring women to wear head shawls in confession.
In no time, Bouzalas had prominent roles at the church, becoming its treasurer and named volunteer principal at its school.
The duo’s arrival in 2006 has blown in a storm of controversy. Critics ask how hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent and why the Wadsworth Avenue church needs a $3.5 million mortgage.
Complaints about its finances have been made to the state attorney general and Manhattan DA. The AG’s Office said it was reviewing them. The DA’s Office declined to comment.
Appeals have also been made to the Manhattan-based Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, which transferred Passias to St. Spyridon from a Brooklyn church.
Many describe Passias and Bouzalas as inseparable. Bouzalas lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.
“I walk out one night and his so-called assistant was sitting on his lap in his office,” said Harry Torres, a former church handyman and superintendent for its apartment buildings.
After Bouzalas became principal, Passias moved his office from the church to the school.
As the church was falling apart, money poured into school renovations. There are marble finishes in Passias’ and Bouzalas’ offices.
Financial overseers were removed, and Bouzalas became a signatory on church bank accounts.
The firm that managed the church’s four apartment buildings, worth $15 million, was replaced with one tied to Alma Bank.
The church also turned to Alma Bank for cash and a mortgage refinance totaling $2.5 million in 2009. Renovations on the apartments have been done by two companies tied to the principals at Alma Bank.
Passias told The Post the church needed to borrow money for repairs. He said most of the work at the school, including to their offices, was donated.
“There’s one marble slab on the table where the poor woman has her meetings. She paid for that out of her own pocket,” he said.
He said he was only Bouzalas’ godfather and blamed the church unrest on a small group of malcontents.
Efstathios Papadatos, the parish council president, called the allegations against Passias “lies.”
After complaints to the archdiocese, auditors examined church finances and concluded in a March 2013 report that “someone other than Ethel” should approve payments.
An archdiocese rep said it was reviewing the church’s mortgage request.