By Nick Stamatakis
In this weekend’s interview to the Greek edition of “Kathimerini,” it became even more evident that Elpidophoros’ so-called “election” will send the already troubled Greek Orthodox Archdiocese into a new more problematic phase. His answers to the open-ended “softball” questions created more question marks than his speeches, writings and actions in the past. But, what to say about the journalistic standards of the interviewer, Alexis Papahelas, when he starts the interview with “how are you feeling…?”. Especially when Elpidophoros had clearly shown his intentions for the “throne” years ago (as early as 2015 according to one report – and he was possibly approached by U.S. and Turkish intelligence even earlier).
With a start about his “feelings”, the second question about “the Patriarch’s reference to the late Archbishop Iakovos” as he was announcing Elpidophoros’ “election”, was a bit more telling. The reference to Iakovos was not only inappropriate, but it revealed once more the immeasurable arrogance of a Patriarch who wants to be “Orthodoxy’s Pope”. It is at the very least insulting to be reminded, at such a supposedly hopeful occasion, of the unethical way Bartholomew got rid of Iakovos. Unfortunately, such bizarre behavior is to be expected from a Patriarch who made fun of his bribery by Poroshenko by throwing “Roshen” chocolate (Poroshenko’s brand) to children last Christmas, at a time when his bribery and his otherwise unethical ways were already well documented!
From this point on, the interview is a downhill race to the bottom of political expediency. Elpidophoros brushes aside the preference of the Church of America to elect a local leader by saying that “locality was never a criterion for the Church,” and that “many of the now Metropolitans of the Church were born elsewhere”. And he continues by saying that “he expects that the issue regarding St. Nicholas at Ground Zero will be solved before his enthronement”. He does not specify if Bartholomew plans to return the $10 million that was funneled to him from the St. Nicholas Fund, according to several reports analyzed by James Jatras. And he does not explain how he will be dealing with Fr. Alex Karloutsos, the “hidden” archbishop and main fundraiser for St. Nicholas and most other funds (which according to some accounts have amassed total assets over $150 million).
The impasse is more than visible. Karloutsos needs to be marginalized if Elpidophoros is to gain even some small amount of popular approval and confidence. At the same time, how would any serious person accept the appointment without having first dealt with the “Karloutsos issue”? Despite all our criticisms of Elpidophoros, he does not strike us as someone who would play second fiddle next to Karloutsos. Instead he seems to be as ambitious, arrogant and narcissistic as his mentor, Bartholomew; he also seems as power hungry and conniving as Karloutsos. We already know that Karloutsos tried to undermine Elpidophoros’ enthronement ceremony by “being unable” to locate any hall in NYC able to sit more than 200 persons. Bishop Methodios of Boston, the declared vicar of the Archdiocese, was forced to remove him from the responsibility of organizing the ceremonial dinner (it is scheduled to take place at the Hilton with 1,300 possible attendees – even though many rumors still persist about possible legal action against the “election”).
As that unbridgeable gap between him and Karloutsos remains open, Elpidophoros talks about his plans upon his arrival to order “auditing” of all financial issues and declares transparency as his main goal. It will certainly be a lot of fun to watch these two men enter the “ultimate” fight for power…not the best news for the rest of us who were hoping that any new archbishop would take steps towards easing the number one problem of our Church, the lack of spirituality, the overpowering presence of secularism and materialism at all levels. Good luck with auditing though. Will the St. Nicholas Fund be part of this new audit? If so, who will provide the fundraising records? Father Alex? Will his commission – allegedly 15% – be part of this? We would love to learn the truth.
The next two questions deal with the so-called “Greek issues” (regarding mostly the Cyprus question and the disputes in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the human rights issues of the Patriarchate). As someone who has spent decades analyzing these issues, I can assure you that I do not feel confident at all as to whose interests Elpidophoros will promote. His statement that “Turkey is a very populous nation with a strong military,” and that “we always need to have friendly relations with her,” show that the reports that he may have close ties to Turkish intelligence are well founded. If our leader-to-be cannot not find the courage to state even once in two long answers that we are dealing with an aggressor, even more so today than in the past 5-10 centuries, then the news is not good. Certainly, not when the daily news is filled with Turkish military violations of Greece’s airspace and territorial waters and the Cypriot EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), and when American officials, including the US Ambassador Jeffrey Pyatt, openly warn about the possibility of a military confrontation in the Aegean.
He closes the interview by referring to Bartholomew’s visit to DC, which is supposed to follow his enthronement. And he reinstates the decision to continue on the path of geopolitical adventures, whose results so far have brought Orthodox Christianity in front of a Schism. These geopolitical plans by Elpidophoros were recently attenuated by remarks on how he sees “pan-orthodox” unity in America: When and where possible, he wants to see Orthodox churches in the U.S. get under the “hospitable” umbrella of the Phanar Patriarchate. God save us all.
DISCLAIMER: All articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily the official views of Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL). They are posted to encourage thoughtful discussion on topics and concerns relevant to Orthodox Christians living in a pluralistic society. OCL encourages your comments.