News From Across Orthodox America
• South Canaan, PA
The St. Tikhon’s Investigative Committee (STIC) met with Metropolitan Herman and Mr. Martin Paluch, among others, at their meeting in South Canaan last week. Archbishop Job joined the Committee for the interview with Metropolitan Herman. Archdeacon Alexi Klimitchev, the former manager of the St. Tikhon’s bookstore, did not appear before the STIC in person, but attempts were made to interview him via telephone. The Committee is charged with investigating allegations of finanical misconduct in the bookstore and monastery during the previous regime, incuding the mortgaging of monastery lands.
Among others interviewed by the STIC was Deacon Michael Pasonik, a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Deacon Pasonik ‘s construction company built most of the buildings on the monastery and seminary grounds. His name surfaced this week in local media in regards to unrelated secular allegations of financial misconduct. Here is a story from the Wilkes-Barre Citizen’s Voice from October 23rd by Dave Janoski:
“Prominent Wilkes-Barre engineer Michael J. Pasonick Jr. allegedly paid the bribe that led to charges against two Luzerne County Housing Authority board members, an attorney for one of the board members said Thursday.
Attorney Michael I. Butera, who represents Housing Authority board Chairman Gerald J. Bonner, identified Pasonick as the contractor who allegedly paid a $1,400 bribe through Bonner to board member William Maguire, who pleaded guilty in the case Thursday.
Bonner is to stand trial in U.S. District Court in November. Butera declined further comment.
Federal prosecutors have never named the contractor who paid the bribe to Maguire between Jan. 1 and June 1.
During Maguire’s plea hearing Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney William S. Houser said the $1,400 bribe was a reward for Maguire’s vote in favor of a contract awarded to the contractor in summer 2008.
On June 12, 2008, the authority board, with Maguire and Bonner present, voted unanimously to award Michael J. Pasonick Jr. and Associates a $183,823 contract for architectural and engineering services, authority records show. The work was connected to improvement projects at two subsidized housing facilities owned by the authority – Frank Crossin Towers in Kingston and Swoyersville Elderly. Houser said the contractor in the Maguire case had previous dealings with the authority. Authority records show Pasonick had a $94,250 contract for architectural and engineering services in the renovation of the authority’s Plymouth Family Housing project in 2005.
Pasonick could not be reached for comment Thursday. No one answered the intercom at the closed gate blocking the driveway outside his palatial stone home along Jumper Road in Plains Township. The home sits on 172 acres, according to county records. The property was valued at $1.7 million in the county tax reassessment last year.
A man who answered the phone at Pasonick’s home Thursday evening hung up when he was informed it was The Citizens’ Voice calling. Pasonick, 67, did not respond to repeated messages left at his Wilkes-Barre office in the past several weeks.
The office is in a building Pasonick owns on North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard that also houses Big Ugly’s, a sports bar owned by the father of Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak. The elder Skrepenak, Gregory Skrepenak Sr., testified before a federal grand jury in August.
Pasonick was paid nearly $213,000 for work performed for Luzerne County in 2005-2008, county records show. His 33-year-old firm has had contracts with school districts, municipalities and government agencies across Luzerne County.
Pasonick and his wife, Arlene, who works for his firm, have been politically active, donating $223,000 to federal, state and local candidates and political action committees since 1998, campaign finance records show.
Eighteen people have been charged in the ongoing federal corruption probe, including 10 who are accused of accepting bribes from government contractors. Two contractors, Richard Emanski, owner of King Glass and Paint Co. in Swoyersville, and Robert J. Powell, the former owner of two for-profit juvenile detention centers that had contracts with Luzerne County, have agreed to plead guilty to making illegal payments to government officials. Wealthy developer Robert K. Mericle, who built Powell’s detention centers, has pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony connected to payments he made to two county judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, who face racketeering and bribery charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment on Pasonick’s alleged role in the housing authority case.
Michael R. Sisak, staff writer, contributed to this report.” (www.Citizensvoice.com)
Finally, Igumen. Sergius (Bowyer) was elected Abbot of St. Tikhon’s Monastery on October 24th. According to the monastery’s press release, “This is the first time in 47 years that the Abbot was elected by the Brotherhood from within the fathers of the monastic community. The date for the installation as the Abbot of St. Tikhon’s Monastery is set for Saturday, January 23rd, 2010.” The change will now allow the monastery to once again begin “… operating as a Stavropegial, self-determining, autonomous Monastery, directly and exclusively under the hierarchical authority of the Metropolitan. The Bishop of Eastern Pennsylvania, his Grace, Bishop Tikhon, will no longer function in a hierarchical capacity but as a primary adviser to the Abbot and community and will remain a very important part of the Monastery Brotherhood.”
• New York, NY
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on a visit to the United States, met with Orthodox leaders, including Metropolitan Jonha, on Tuesday, Oct. 27 in New York. He offered the following remarks concerning SCOBA and the new Chambesy “Assembly”:
“…For nearly fifty years, the Standing Conference has served as a place for the Primates of the various jurisdictions that are present in North America to gather and discuss common concerns and issues. Also, through the many agencies that have been formed under your aegis, you have been able to activate pan-Orthodox ministries that extend beyond the confines of your particular Churches, so that your united effort might be brought to bear in common interests.
“The success of SCOBA has always been based in the true sense of cooperation, of synergy, between the Orthodox ecclesiastical entities here in North America. You have been successful at providing a common witness to all the Orthodox Faithful, even as you have maintained your ties to the Mother Churches and sought to establish yourselves in the countries and culture within which you live.
Nevertheless, SCOBA has always been an organization that lacks authorization from the Mother Churches, being a self-started and volunteer body. This reality reflects both strengths and weaknesses – strengths in that SCOBA was free to find creative solutions to issues and problems, without seeking approval from a higher authority – and weaknesses, because without authorization from the Mother Churches, there has been no methodology to effectuate decisions and policies that prepare for the future.
Given these considerations, it was logical for the status quo to evolve, as it did at the Synaxis of the Heads of the universally recognized Autocephalous Churches last October at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. At that time, the common will of the universally recognized Autocephalous was expressed as follows:
As Primates and the Representatives of the Most Holy Orthodox Churches, fully aware of the gravity of the aforementioned problems, and laboring to confront them directly as “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1), we proclaim from this See of the First-throne among the Churches and we re-affirm:
i) our unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church in “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), the faith of our Fathers, in the common Divine Eucharist and in the faithful observance of the canonical system of Church governance by settling any problems that arise from time to time in relations among us with a spirit of love and peace.
ii) our desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements, such as in the so-called Orthodox Diaspora, with a view to overcoming every possible influence that is foreign to Orthodox ecclesiology. In this respect we welcome the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Panorthodox Consultations within the coming year 2009 on this subject, as well as for the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council.
As you all know and are well aware, the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference did take place in June of this year, at the Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Switzerland. The Decision, and the Regulations promulgated by the Pre-Conciliar Conference establish a modus operandi by which the Bishops, in the regions of the world defined by the Conference, may progress institutionally toward the solutions that we all seek in the forthcoming Great and Holy Council.
This is not to say that there will not be difficulties along the way. The region defined for this portion of the Western Hemisphere is quite extensive, including Spanish-speaking Mexico and Central America, together with the rest of Anglophone and Francophone North America. There are many bishops who have never been represented in SCOBA, and who will now participate through their Mother Churches in the Assembly of Bishops. There are also the issues of so-called “autonomies” and “autocephalies” that are not recognized by the Church Universal, and for which solutions must be found in order allow for full participation on every level in the processes of the Assembly of Bishops. All of the issues and problems that require resolution first require willing hearts and minds, study and careful consideration, and the unfailing loving application of the canonical tradition of out Holy Orthodox Church.
As the convener of the Pan-Orthodox world, the Ecumenical Patriarchate stands ready to be of assistance through guidance and an ongoing dialogue based in the truth of Gospel. We welcome positive suggestions and, as it said in our modern world, “thinking outside the box,” so that we may construct models of ecclesiastical polity and governance with foundations sunk deep in the venerable tradition of our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – and at the same time are relevant to the spiritual needs and societal conventions of the world within which our faithful live.
Here, we do not reference compromise nor conformity to the world, but, following the exhortation of the Holy Apostle Paul – that we be ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds,’ we speak of transformative and transformational models that are faithful to the history of the Church, for this history is that of the Holy Spirit Who infuses and guides the Church in every generation – in times of weakness and in times of strength, in times of persecution and in times of triumph, in times war and in times of peace. And in whatever time the Church finds her incarnate presence through the grace, operation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we know that the Church lives in accordance with the Apostle’s injunction: “that everything be done decently and in good order.”
Therefore, beloved brothers in the Lord, let the order of the Church be observed perfectly among you, beginning and ending always with the commandment – new and divine – that we have received from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: Love one another. Everything else that we attempt – even with all our skill and might – will come to naught if love does not reign supreme among us all. With these words we leave each of you with our Patriarchal and paternal blessing, invoking upon you the grace of God and His infinite mercy.”
Following the remarks of the Patriarch, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Chairman of the already functioning Episcopal Assembly of France, remained to engage in a brief dialogue with the members of the new Chambesy-designated Assembly in the USA.