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Leader seeks Holy Week forgiveness for betrayed Greek Orthodox church in Wisconsin

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Metropolitan Nathanael Symeonides, the new leader of Greek Orthodox parishes in the Midwest, delivered a sermon at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa on Sunday to address the embezzlement scandal of its former parish leader.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Not unlike the Apostle Peter, the Rev. James Dokos betrayed his church.

While Peter denied knowing Jesus, Dokos embezzled more than $100,000 from Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa while serving as the parish priest. Dokos used the money to buy jewelry for his wife and to pay for lavish dinners and everyday expenses, according to court records.

On Sunday, the start of Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, the new leader of Midwestern Greek Orthodox parishes came to Wauwatosa to discuss betrayal, forgiveness, and trust — themes that particularly resonate with Christians this time of year.

In advance of his visit, Metropolitan Nathanael Symeonides told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he wanted to make sure Wauwatosa parishioners who felt betrayed by Dokos did not also mistrust Christ.

On Sunday, Symeonides delivered the homily and talked with parishioners about their former priest. It was his first parish visit outside of Chicago.

He came to listen and answer questions in a spirit of accountability and transparency that he said he wants emphasized within the church.

Symeonides was enthroned March 17 as Metropolis of Chicago. In that role, he oversees Greek Orthodox parishes in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as eastern Missouri and northwestern Indiana.

The timing of his visit to Wauwatosa hopefully will help the parish heal, he said, because Holy Week is one of the most beautiful times of the year.

“This week is a reminder of what the human condition is, and how we are really broken as people,” Symeonides said before the visit. “Holy Week is the telling and reliving of unconditional love that helps us overcome betrayal; the love that’s needed to forgive.”

Dokos pleaded guilt in 2016 to embezzling some $100,000, but under a deferred prosecution deal, received a misdemeanor conviction on the condition he complete a year of community service and meet reporting requirements.

Theft of more than $10,000 in a business setting is a felony, and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, five years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine.

Dokos served the Wauwatosa parish for about 20 years but had transferred to another parish by the time his crime was discovered.

Father James Dokos presides at a Good Friday service in 2009. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

According to the criminal complaint against Dokos:

From 2008 to 2012, he diverted money from a trust that a couple had left for the construction of a cultural center at the church. During that time, he was serving as successor trustee following the death of the trust’s creator.

The theft was discovered by Annunciation’s parish council in 2013, months after Dokos moved to an Illinois parish.

Symeonides told the Journal Sentinel he hopes parishioners stunned by the actions of Dokos do not hold onto pain, anger, hurt — anything that could come between them and Christ.

It’s understandable to struggle, and to instinctively pull away, he said.

“It takes time and for people to slowly open their hearts again… I will walk with them. I will listen to them. I will guide them. The parish will bounce back, but they can only do it if they trust in Christ.”

Ultimately, Symeonides said, “the only way we can rise out of the tomb, out of the gutter, out of the hole we find ourselves in, is to open up our hand and extend it so Christ can lift us up.”


Sermon of Metropolitan Nathanael Symeonides, the new leader of Greek Orthodox parishes in the Midwest, at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa on Palm Sunday, April 1, in which he addresses the embezzlement scandal of its former parish leader.

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6 Comments

  1. Susanne Amarantos on

    I have such high regard and hope of Metropolitan Nathanael! I feel in my heart of hearts he is a gift from God to our metropolis! Let us pray for him!

  2. Why didn’t the Metro discuss the two former enabler bosses in Chicago who destroyed Chicago before they crossed North into Wisconsin ? This was as much their deal before it was Dokos’s because it was on their watch and, as I recall, there were allegations of cash being upstreamed the chain of command at that time.

    I hope Chicagoans reserve their immediate idolatry for the new leader until it’s clear he has fully earned the role, to include how he manages the clergy reporting to him, how strongly he stands up to the New York gang that destroyed the whole archdiocese, and to how he stands up to some of the incompetent leadership coming out of the Phanar.

    I want to believe the best, but I want a track record as evidence of change, not just a news report. The last thing we need is yet another “prince” of the church , dining at Gibson’s on Rush Street in intimate booths and flying in the First Class cabin to Greece.

    “Let’s see”, saith The Zen Master.

    The test will be if and when he will speak “truth to power”, not just to the broken and abused Milwaukee suburbanites

    • Zen Master, you haven’t minced any words, you’ve stated it well. We need to remember that the “incompetent and unscrupulous” are the ones who elected him to be the Metropolitan of Chicago.

      I may possibly take notice of him when I see him drive himself in his own car, dine with the faithful off of a paper plate and sip coffee from a styrofoam cup.

      • Peter , thanks. Let’s remind everyone that the NYC gang offered up another candidate who was rejected by the Phanar , which then proceeded to appear to engineer the “election” of this new Metro.

        My best guess is that the Phanar is in chaos as various non-US Metros, both there and abroad, scramble to replace Demetrios and even Bart himself. There’s a pause in the action because The Boyz have figured that maybe neither job is worth having at this point (who’d want to inherit the US job?).

        With regard to any Metro living humbly among the people, that’s the leadership style of Jesus Himself, isn’t it. Our guys live like Borgia and Medici cardinals. They actually aspire to that lifestyle. Have you ever seen Evangelos of NJ arrive in 600 series Mercedes with darkened windows, his slave deacons driving and acting like mafia goons? Oh ,and with his wrap around 300 buck Oakley sunglasses on his well- fed face. He’s a mockery of anything resembling Jesus who rode a jackass into Jerusalem to be crucified.

        “Think about that, “ saith The Zen Master.

        Let the new Metro know you expect nothing less than Nazarene behavior from him, and, if required in defense of his flock, martyrdom as well.

  3. I like Metropolitan Nathanael Symeonides. He seems like a good guy. As Peter said, “I may possibly take notice of him when I see him drive himself in his own car, dine with the faithful off of a paper plate and sip coffee from a styrofoam cup.” Indeed. Being humble is what is needed. Live as Jesus did.

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