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.
Well may you have the disclaimer at the bottom of this article.
It is a sad day when an article with so many unsubsantiated and abusive allegations is published by an organisation wanting to be taken seriously.
Surely the worthy cause which you espouse has been sorely let down by this type of unverified and gross attacks.
Perhaps the American Orthodox people need a new organisation to take the baton for the cause from where it has been dropped by you.
I send my best wishes to all pious orthodox
You are all welcome to leave the schismatic Fener to join the Autocephalous Local Church, whose existence you have overlooked these last 49 years, since the Moscow Patriarchate issued a Tomos of Autocephaly to it.
Until now, knowledge of the Autocephalous Local Church, which bears the official name Orthodox Church in America (OCA), may have been denied you by the biased clergy and a generally phyletistic culture that isolates parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, but now on the eve of the first half-century of its Autocephaly, the Orthodox Church in America welcomes all of you to participate in Orthodox Church life unencumbered by foreign intrigue and massive malfeasance. In the OCA, you will find a Canonical Church which abides by its own statutes, pays no bakshish to would-be sultans and plays no part in the machinations of foreign security agencies and the US State Department. The OCA simply does the work of the Church of Christ in these lands with humility, honor and transparency, without imperial pretensions, but with deep spiritual roots and a historical presence of monastics who pray for the life of the world, and services in the common tongue of the American people.
I invite all of you honest people who express righteous indignation and justified outrage at the perfidy and self-dealing of Phanariot clergy and their moneyed patrons to make an exodus from the churches they infest and take your place among those who simply worship our the Lord Jesus Christ in fear and trembling of his Divine majesty, and who fear no man.
Αληθός ´Ο Κυριός!
I think the problem with what you are saying is that the OCA is not for everyone. They are infected with love for Father Seraphim Rose who is definitely not my cup of tea. The former priest of my parish preached a little bit of the toll house heresy. I also don’t like the subtle Russian influence. Don’t forget, the OCA has had their fair share of controversies in the past involving finances, and the Metropolitan Jonah fiasco. I much prefer Presbytera over Matushka any day. Personally, I like being with my own people – the Greeks. In spite of the many problems with the Phanar, I still think the Greek Orthodox Church is the best jurisdiction in America. That’s not to say that I’m not very critical of the events we are witnessing. I am. It’s just that you don’t get all the fundamentalist crap that you do in Russian Churches. The Antiochian Church is pretty good as well. Of course, the Ephraimite Monasteries are a big problem for the Greek Orthodox Church. They really need to be shut down because of their cultism, and heterodoxy.
Racism , heresy, and incitement to purge monastics all in one post!
Is the feast day of Fr. Rose on the GOA calendar and is he a recognized saint in the GOA? I attend a fairly large GOA parish and Fr. Rose was commemorated on his feast at that parish.
To the best of my knowledge, no Orthodox Church recognizes his feast day. No Orthodox Church has canonized him a saint, and I pray that will never happen. I would love to hear Mr. Karcazes’ wisdom on the subject of Seraphim Rose.
Well, just more proof that the GOA is a complete mess! A real purge is necessary and not coming from a foreign bishop being thrust down the throats of American Greeks. You people have to wake up! The Phanar is there to take your money and tell you to sit down and shut up. Why do you people continue to allow this to take place? The Canons are clear: “When a canonical, autocephalous Orthodox Church is formed in a territory, ALL Orthodox are obliged to be members of this Church.” The Phanar doesn’t want the GOA to be independent although Orthodox Canon Law is clear. You people have an ongoing problem and mess. The answer doesn’t lie with the Phanar and foreign bishops
Why is it that the Orthodox faithful of the United States do not have their own Patriarch? If American Orthodox were led to unity by a Hierarch equal in rank to those in Russia, Constantinople/Istanbul, the Middle East, Bulgaria, et al, perhaps we might be freed from the ethnic and political tug-of-war of our respective “Mother Churches”.
You ht the nail on the head! The answer is not the OCA, or the Antiochians, or the GOA [or the Serbs, Romanians, etc.].
It is all of them together under a single synod of Canonical Bishops. The 50+ bishops who have been meeting as an Assembly of Bishops in the US for a decade with the blessing of all of the “Mother Churches” need to declare themselves to be the local Synod of the Church in America, elect its own presiding bishop, declare it is an Autocephalous “sister” Church, and call upon their “Mothers” to acknowledge their Autocephaly. In time, they will do so. They will have no choice.
We cannot wait for Constantinople and Moscow to agree on what the rules are. It appears to us in America, who insist on knowing and following the rules, that our “Mothers” either (a) can’t agree on what they are; or, (b) change them, or (c) ignore them, as they see fit.
The US is not a “diaspora”. Orthodox ecclesiology is based on local churches. Only one Church [one Bishop] in one territory…not fourteen churches answering to foreign synods on the other side of the globe. Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory predicted as long ago as 1979 that “there will either be one Orthodox Church in America, or none.”
We cannot confront issues like the Ephramite Monasteries, Toll House heresies and administrative weaknesses that prevent transparency and accountability in governance as long as we are divided and ruled from abroad.
Cultural differences are difficult, but not impossible to overcome. We are all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants who have learned (or are learning) how to navigate those differences in our daily lives in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic “New World.” A united Church can face and solve any problems we face. Divided, each of us will wither and die.
What will it take for the clergy and laity in America to demand that our bishops follow the rules and unite as a local synod?
I always learn a lot from your posts. You have a great deal of wisdom, and good, common sense. When George Karcazes speaks, I listen and learn. Thank you, sir.
Hold on PM & George: The head of a canonical, autocephalous, local church in a territory has the same authority of any Patriarch. So you see, we do have a Patriarch of America. To you George, the answer IS NOT the Assembly of Bishops as it now exists. The Assembly of Bishops was created by the Phanar. The idea was to have a council of bishops, BUT the head bishop would be the REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PHANAR. Hence, 2nd bishop would be Antioch and 3rd, Moscow. This is BULLKAKA. The head of the OCA is marginalized to nothing. Sorry George, the Phanar’s attempt to control all churches everywhere under himself is setting up an EASTERN POPE!
I do not believe that the Assemblies of Bishops around the world were “created [solely] by the Phanar”. My recollection is that these Assemblies were created by a unanimous decision of all of the Patriarchates/Mother Churches meeting in Chambesy, Switzerland a decade ago. I do not view the fact that they all apparently agreed that the “head bishop” [I would prefer the characterization: “presiding bishop”] would the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be the problem. After all, someone has to “preside” at meetings.
I assume that almost everyone would agree that the EP should preside at a Council of the entire Orthodox Church…as the “first among equals”…not as…”the first without equal.” Worrying about the Phanar setting “himself up as an EASTERN POPE is a canard. Even if he would like to be the Eastern “Pope,”
it will never happen, because the heads of the rest of the Autocephalous Churches will never agree.
Your claim that the OCA has the same authority in the territory of the US as any Patriarch is a bit misleading. While the OCA did receive (unilaterally) a Tomos of Autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1970…its “Autocephaly” has not been universally recognized. I would argue that if Moscow intended to relinquish its jurisdiction over the territory of North America by granting Autocephaly to the OCA, it would require the Russian Patriarchal Diocese and ROCOR to come under the OCA; and, it not have any further involvement in the territory of the OCA.
The problem with the Assembly of Bishops is not who presides at its meetings. The problem is that ALL of the bishops (except for the OCA) have been appointed by foreign Synods and apparently feel that they are answerable to those Synods, rather than to the faithful they are responsible for shepherding.
The situation we all face as stewards of Orthodox parishes in America will not change until we convince our Bishops to put the survival of Orthodoxy in America as their first and only priority. Our bishops need to be reminded of Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
If our bishops in America do not decide, very soon, that they love, and are devoted to their flocks here in America more than the foreign Synods that appointed them, they will “inherit the wind.” Proverbs 11:29.
George: Well said comments! You tend to be well-educated on the subjects mentioned. 1st, the autocephaly of the OCA is DE FACTO recognized by ALL of world Orthodox via Holy Communion. If the OCA ceased to be in Communion with Istanbul and its controlling churches, then they would have to state why. The Phanar did not FORMALLY RECOGNIZE the OCA’s autocephaly in 1970, because if it did, according to Orthodox Canon Law, the GOA would be required to join the OCA. Therefore, the lines were drawn where the Churches affiliated with Moscow recognized the OCA’s autocephaly FORMALLY while the Phanar and its affiliated Churches have not – silly. Remember, after the Council of Florence where Constantinople signed to be in communion with Rome, the Kievan/Rus threw out Isidore, the bishop assigned to them by Constantinople and ANNOUNCED THAT THEY WERE NOW AUTOCEPHALOUS. Constantinople did not recognize their autocephaly for 150 years and then only when they sent much money and jewels to the Phanar. Same with the Ukrainians, the Russian oligarchs paid +Bart $25mm up front to recognize their autocephaly with another $50mm after it was complete. Now, back to the GOA’s problem. Being ruled by foreign bishops is not anything that Canon Law agrees with. In fact, it condemns bishops who try to interfere with Churches outside their immediate territory. Therefore, NO foreign bishop has authority in North America; not + Bart, Moscow, Antioch, etc. Furthermore, foreign bishops cannot have dioceses in America. With this in mind, the GOA and Antiochians should join the OCA as both + Iakavos & + Philip said they would in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They reneged! Look at the mess today. Do you really think that having the Phanar shoving a foreign bishop down the GOA’s throat will solve your problems? No way. Where has all the stolen money gone? Why is Holy Cross about to lose its accreditation? Good American management with checks & balances can’t solve your issues? Hellenism isn’t the answer. Nor are assemblies of bishops controlled by the Phanar! The OCA works!
The difference between DE FACTO and DE JURE fascinates first year law school students…and ecclesiastical bureaucrats. It can mean a little, or it can mean a lot. As the saying goes: “It depends!”
The OCA has clearly not been “marginalized” because of the feuding between Moscow and Constantinople. We share the same cup. We are in communion with each other. The OCA participates fully in the meetings of the Assembly of Bishops. Those interested in a single, administratively-united, local Orthodox Church in the territory of the US understand that what is needed is not for one ethnic jurisdiction to “join” the other, but for all (or most) of them to come together as a “new creation”.
Orthodox Christian Laity has several OCA Hierarchs on its Advisory Board, as well as one GOA Hierarch. I do not believe that even the OCA Hierarchs expect the GOA and Antiochians to “join the OCA”. I know that +Iakovos and +Philip talked “big” about Unity, but I am not aware of any promises either of them made that they would “join the OCA”! Archbishop Iakovos and Metropolitan Philip did lead the SCOBA bishops at the meeting at Ligonier which issued two “Statements” that are worth reading by everyone today. Many believe that +Iakovos’ participation at that meeting and his signature on those Statements was the reason that +Bart forced him to “retire”. I also believe that Ligonier was what caused the EP to break up the GOA, unilaterally impose a Charter that eliminated the de facto autonomy that the GOA had under +Iakovos, and insured that [as one GOA bishop told me] “there will never be another +Iakovos leading the GOA!”
The Assembly of Bishops that has been meeting for a decade includes all of the canonical Orthodox Bishops in the US. This group should declare itself to be a local Synod, elect its own head and declare its Autocephaly. The Orthodox Christian Laity is a pan-Orthodox, grass-roots, educational and advocacy movement that for more than three decades has been calling for Orthodox Unity in America.
When the EP forced +Iakovos to retire, broke up the GOA, diminished the role of the Archbishop, and unilaterally imposed a new Charter in violation of the explicit amendment provisions of the existing Charter, the OCL helped fund a Declaratory Judgment action in the New York Courts by 30+ lay members of the GOA to enforce the amendment provisions of the GOA Charter. Following those efforts, the OCL called upon the OCA and the Antiochians to come together as a “coalition of the willing.” If the GOA was being handcuffed, the hope was that if Antiochoians and the OCA came together, those in other jurisdictions would be encouraged to push their Hierarchs to move towards unity as well. The answer from the Hierarchs of both the Antiochians and the OCA was: “WE CANNOT DO IT WITHOUT THE GREEKS!”
Simply saying “the OCA works!” ignores the problems the OCA has faced and continues to face notwithstanding its de facto autocephaly. Pointing out the problems confronting the GOA (or the Serbs, or Romanians, or Bulgarians, or Carpatho-Russians, or Albanians, or Ukrainians) generates heat but sheds little light on the crisis facing all of the Orthodox jurisdictions in the US.
Everyone visiting this website should send a weekly email or letter to their bishop asking: “What are you doing to bring about a single, canonical, united Orthodox Church in America?” The Assembly of Bishops is not “controlled by the Phanar”. It is stymied by all of the foreign Synods that still appoint all of our bishops. Until now, it is nothing more than a Coalition of the Dwindling. We need to convince the Assembly to act before it is too late.
George: When SCOBA was created in 1961, one of their main objectives as stated in the original minutes was to WORK TOWARD AND UNITE IN A NEW AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH. The minutes even state, the name of this new church will be The Orthodox Church in America. The bishops UNANIMOUSLY appointed Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, to help them achieve this endeavor. Many meetings of SCOBA took place where the bishops engaged in cooperation on many levels; Christian Education, coordinating information on priests, ironing out disputes, etc. The possibility of achieving autocephaly was their goal. In 1970, Fr. Alexander was able to have the Moscow Patriarch grant its daughter church, the former Metropolia, a Tomos of Autocephaly (Note: the Metropolia operated independent of Moscow since 1917). This is exactly what SCOBA was looking for. The Albanians joined the OCA, the Romanians, the Bulgarians and others, but + Iakovos and + Philip held off and reneged. All sorts of attacks came from the Phanar of why the OCA was non-canonical, all RIDICULOUS. The best was the Phanar’s claim, according to Canon 28 of Chalcedon, that only it had the right to grant autocephaly – again, RIDICULOUS. This canon only gave the Pat. of Constantinople the right to oversee certain territories around the Black Sea. Fast forward to Ligonier in 1994 where + Philip & + Iakovos tried to restart an autocephaly movement; where the Ukrainian bishop told the Phanar that + Iakovos was planning to become Pat. of America. The Phanar retired + Iakovos and emasculated all the Greek bishops. The result was that the Phanar put a Greek lackey bishop in charge of the GOA who told the SCOBA bishops that he would not attend unless they dissolved their organization, became the Assembly of Bishops as the Phanar directed and that HE WAS THE HEAD & LEADER OF THIS ASSEMBLY. Again, the Phanar was trying to set themselves up as the rulers of all Orthodoxy worldwide, an Eastern Pope. This is what happened! The Assembly of Bishops is great that the bishops get together, but they need to change how they are organized. SCOBA VOTED on who served as President. This is exactly what the Assembly needs to do – the heck with what the Phanar wants. Furthermore, the Assembly could become an autocephalous vehicle where the OCA could be enveloped into it, but WHY? The OCA already exists. Ethnic churches are part of it and have no issues with their own operations. The Assembly as an autocephalous vehicle MUST be totally independent of foreign bishops and formulate their own mode of operating according to Canon Law. This “IS” the OCA!
My GOA parish has his (St. Seraphim Rose) icon hanging in the narthex and his feast day was listed in the weekly bulletin. (Is it possible that my parish is an Ephraimite parish?)
That’s really interesting. I don’t have the faintest idea. What are your thoughts on the topic?
Confused: At this point to glorify Rose is way too premature. There are many “local” saints that people respect, but Rose’s life is so filled with issues that his sainthood is questionable. Yes, he repented and turned to lead a life in Christ. Only time will reveal to us if Rose is truly worthy of such high respect for all to emulate.
I’m not sure Seraphim Rose lived a life of heroic virtue. Much more research needs to be done. The thing that troubles me is the co-founder of his monastery was defrocked and credibly accused of sexual improprieties with males. This close friendship with a practicing homosexual makes me skeptical. You know the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” I don’t believe Seraphim Rose is worthy of sainthood….
As evidenced by the anti-americanism of Comitazis Stone on the ultra-orthodox blogs, American Orthodoxy is an Oxymoron which inevitably ends up shilling for the islamo-soviets, as per Huntington’s Clash. When Zembillas uses Chrysostolm to justify socialism and Demacopoulos uses Justinian to justify gun control, you have no chance of ever justifying yourself as an American institution. The best the GOA can hope to be is a gateway to western religions and a caricature of grecletude.
Patriarchs overseas that excommunicate their Churches from each other could lead to, (if it hasn’t already), various Orthodox in America being unable to co-commune. This is now an emergency situation in the U.S. as well as abroad. If the Faith is to be preserved in the Western Hemisphere, we’ll need to discard the “ethnic frills” that we can no longer afford at the expense of our children’s souls.
What if the laity were to respectfully but urgently beseech, fully expect, and demand of their respective jurisdictions the immediate release of American Orthodox from the grasp of foreign control and to bestow their blessing on a proper union? Metropolitans, Bishops, and Priests would have to make great personal sacrifices and accept the discomfort of change for the greater good. God willing, our American talent for (relatively) calm bureaucratic succession might help ease short term chaos.
The hierarchs overseas, now relieved of the responsibility of managing this “diaspora”, might be better able to concentrate on their own flocks and more effectively combat the persecution and injustices they face locally and in their local institutions.
One can pray.
How wrong you are to tar and feather our Archbishop before he is even enthroned. You question and judge his spirituality without personal knowledge, which brings judgment on you. His intention to clean house and end the ‘cliques’ that have attempted to protect the ‘Greekness’ instead of the Holiness of our Archdiocese is what we need NOW! Our Church has been failing, going downhill because of stubborn unwillingness to use English, welcome others and make Spirituality more important than festivals.
Photini, I hope you properly characterize Elpi’s agenda but I doubt you are correct. Putting Christ first should always be the agenda of the Church and I pray Christ is Elpi’s agenda.