S.F. Greek Orthodox priest resigns, says he was unfaithful to wife

Author: Matthai Chakko Kuruvila
Date Published: 08/25/2007

A prominent Greek Orthodox priest of a San Francisco congregation resigned this week after saying that he had ”strayed from faithfulness” to his wife.

The Rev. Michael Pappas wrote in a letter to his congregation at Holy Trinity Church that ”over the last 15 years, in my zeal to excel in ministry, I have neglected the garden of my marriage and as a result, it has withered on the vine. In those moments of hunger, I have sadly strayed from faithfulness and dishonored the sanctity of the gift of a precious wife and treasured children.”

In just three years at Holy Trinity, Pappas had become a highly visible, public face for the Greek Orthodox church in Northern California, acting as a liaison between Orthodox churches as well as in interfaith efforts. He was instrumental in breaking new ground in Catholic-Greek Orthodox relations in the region.

He had been the pastor at Holy Trinity, a 700-family church that is among a cluster of churches and schools considered an icon of interfaith efforts in the region.

Pappas declined to comment on a host of questions, including whether the person or persons he had the relationships with were members of his congregation. He said the incidents did not involve anyone under the age of 18 and that there were no criminal acts committed.

The Rev. James Adams, a retired priest, was appointed as an interim priest for the congregation.

”It’s a personal thing,” Adams said of the resignation. ”It’s a decision Father Michael has made.”

In his letter, Pappas noted that he had often counseled young couples on the importance of cultivating one’s marriage like a garden.

”Had I listened more carefully to the words I preached, perhaps the irreparable damage done to my marriage and the divorce which now will sever an almost 20-year relationship might have been avoided,” he wrote. ”For this painful reality, I take full responsibility.”

E-mail Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at mkuruvila@sfchronicle.com.