Source: The National Herald
by Theodore Kalmoukos
Salt Lake City, UT – Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver has closed the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity of Salt Lake City in Utah by prohibiting its three priests to celebrate the Liturgy, the Sacraments and any of the Sacred Services because the parish council was forced to reduce the salaries of the clergy due to lack of funds of the parish.
In a letter dated July 31 to Parish Council President Dimitrios Tsagaris and its members Isaiah wrote that “pursuant to the motion voted on and approved by your Parish Council at your meeting on July 29, 2013 to reduce clergy salaries by 40$, I have no other choice but to direct your three assigned clergy to immediately suspend all priestly ministry to the parish.”
Isaiah made clear that the Holy trinity Cathedral is “closed” since he prohibited the priests to even Liturgize. He wrote that “they are not to celebrate any Liturgy, Sacrament, or Service whatsoever, effective this date until further notice. This includes the Sunday Liturgies, beginning this Sunday, August 4th, and all scheduled weddings and baptisms.”
He also wrote to the Council to inform him after they restore the priest’s salaries in order to allow them to do their priestly duties: “Please inform me in writing at such time as you have put the financial affairs of the parish in order and representing the General Assembly of parishioners in good standing, you are able to resume compensating the clergy as required by the Uniform parish Regulations. Keep in mind that you must pay them the amounts withheld by you as of this date.
As soon as I receive your assurance that matters returned to normal, I will be very happy to have the clergy resume their priestly duties.”
On July 30, the Council sent a letter to the parishioners informing them that the finances of the parish are in a dire condition and they were forced to take the action of reducing the clergy’s salaries. The Council wrote that “as we reviewed the financials at our parish council meeting last evening it was painfully evident that the community finances have reached a critical point. Our community is out of money and unable to meet payroll this week. After much discussion of the possible options to relieve our community of its chronic deficit, a motion was passed to reduce the base salary of each of the three assigned clergy by 40% for a total annual reduction in expenses of $124,890 which translates into 30% of their total compensation package. This will take effect July 31st.”
The Council informed the parishioners that Isaiah had been made aware of the situation but he had not responded. They wrote that “last week a letter was sent to His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah updating him on this critical situation. The Parish Council President has also left voice messages for His Eminence but has not yet heard from him.
It is with heavy hearts that the Parish Council must take such action, but feel this is what must be done to try and keep our community solvent during this trying time.”
Tsagaris told TNH that “we decided to open both churches on Sunday morning. I personally opened the Prophet Elias Church and I put a CD through the audio system with ecclesiastical hymnology. At the Holy Trinity Cathedral, our cantors read some readings that the cantors are allowed to read. People came lit a candle, stayed shortly in the Church and departed.”
Tsagaris said “I and all the members of the Council feel so badly that we arrived to this situation. As we explained to our parishioners in a letter we can’t print money, we don’t have money.”
Tsagaris is convinced that the withering of the Cathedral started “three years ago when it was attempted to divide it into two separate parishes.”
The parish historically had 1,300 members but Tsagaris explained “the recent years the numbers are going down. Last year we lost some 300 parishioners. Because of all the problems the faithful stopped giving their dues and donations and also they don’t come to church. People have money but they are disappointed and they don’t give.” He also said that “the Parish Council is doing all it can do to solicit money from the parishioners.”
He said that “Archbishop Demetrios knows what is going on in our parish because a few years ago a representative group visited with him and informed him.” He also said that “the Archbishop was also informed the last 15 days about a sensitive issue, he knows everything.” Tsagaris didn’t specify what the sensitive issue is.
If he had a chance to speak to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew he would tell him “please do something because we are deteriorating.”
The problems at the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Salt Lake City, which began three years ago, concern Isaiah’s plan to split the Church into two parishes, disregarding the majority’s wishes and defying the decision of the Holy Eparchial Synod and Archbishop Demetrios, who proclaimed that “the Salt Lake community will remain as one united parish.”
The parish was established by Greek pioneer immigrants in 1905 and now has approximately 1,300 families. To better serve its members, the parish in 1969 built a sanctuary (church) Prophet Elias in the area of Holladay. Of the eight members of the current Parish Council, only two were elected by the parish members, while the rest were appointed by the priest.
In March 2010, Prophet Elias was organized as a separate religious corporation and registered in Utah without informing the membership of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake.
At that time, Isaiah requested that the Archdiocese recognize Prophet Elias as a separate parish and grant it an official Charter of the Archdiocese. Demetrios, on April 12, 2010 wrote that, “We have received your letter requesting the granting of the Official Charter of the Archdiocese to the Greek Orthodox Church of Prophet Elias in Holladay, Utah, a community of the Archdiocese and specifically of the Holy Metropolis of Denver.”
In a letter to the Salt Lake priests, Kouremetis and Gilbert, dated Oct. 6, 2010, Isaiah announced the split of the parish into two. On October 24 a special meeting took place attended by 450 people, 97% of whom voted against the split and decided on a Call to Action.
An icon of Christ was said to exude oil on Oct. 17, 2010 during the Divine Liturgy, which Isaiah declared a miracle. In a letter to Kouremetis on October 20, he wrote: “The Lord has answered our prayers asking Him to resolve the confusing situation in the Salt Lake City area regarding the two parishes.”
On Mar. 24, 2011 Demetrios sent a letter to Isaiah informing him that the Synod had revoked the new charter that the Archdiocese had granted on April 12, for Prophet Elias. The archbishop also wrote that “the Holy Synod in its meeting on March 17, 2011, reached consensus and agreed, the Salt Lake community will remain as one united parish.”
But in a letter dated June 7, 2011 Isaiah defied both the Synod and the archbishop and actually refused to comply with their decision.