Orthodox bishop named new leader in Chicago, Midwest
During a three-hour service rich in ceremony and symbolism, the Orthodox Church in America consecrated a new bishop of Chicago and the Midwest to replace a predecessor who left in 2013 after being accused of sexual misconduct.
The new bishop, Paul Gassios, 61, a Detroit native, will conduct his first liturgy Sunday at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, 1121 N. Leavitt St., said the Rev. John Adamcio, dean of the cathedral.
On Saturday, church leaders from across the nation and Canada participated in the consecration at Holy Trinity, which was led by Metropolitan Tikhon, the church’s archbishop based in New York.
“I promise to preserve the peace of the church, and firmly to hold and to teach with zeal the people entrusted to me,” said Bishop Paul, during a confession of faith during the service.
Bishop Paul fills the void left by Bishop Matthias Moriak, who retired after less than two years in the position, at the request of the national church. He was placed on administrative leave in August 2012, at which time he said he had been accused of “unwelcome written and spoken comments to a woman that she regarded as an inappropriate crossing of personal boundaries.”
He later blamed clergy for plotting his ouster in reaction to edicts he issued shortly after his arrival, which included limiting the role of women in worship and barring evening liturgies on Feast Days.
The Orthodox Church in America was started by Russian missionaries in Alaska in 1794, but today operates autonomously from other branches, including the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago. The church claims about 20,000 to 30,000 members in the United States, including up to 2,500 in northern Illinois, Adamcio said.
“We believe the Orthodox Church to be the oldest manifestation of Christianity,” he said.
On Saturday, about 250 people witnessed the consecration during a service designed to entice the senses, with the smell of incense thick within a sanctuary filled with colorful images of Christ and the saints. Congregants stood beneath a dome and above in a balcony, as the priests conducted ornate rites in vestments and miters that represent their position within church hierarchy.
Wreaths and candles reflected the Christmas holiday, and a chime sounded after every stanza of the proclamation of faith, or Nicene Creed, which begins: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”
“The Orthodox Church worships with all of the senses,” Adamcio said later, explaining that the services are intended to leave an impression.
“We feel God is beauty,” he said. “We try to give God the beauty to transport us to a place closer to God, and farther away from the world.”
Bishop Paul, who served as administrator for the Midwest diocese, was nominated as bishop in October. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1994, and formerly served at churches in Indiana, Ohio and Missouri before relocating to Chicago.