Proini | Omogeneiaka
May 5, 2000

Ongoing Tension in the Archdiocese of America

   By Apostolos Zoupaniotis

New York -  Tension prevailed yet again at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council which took place on Tuesday and was chaired by Archbishop Demetrios. The two basic issues discussed were of financial nature and concerned, on one hand, the pension of former Archbishop Spyridon of America, and the collection of funds to cover the financial expenditures of the Holy Archdiocese, a discussion which revealed an unwillingness on the part of large donors to contribute money as they had in the past.

Present at the meeting were all committee members with the exception of Mr. Andrew Athens, while Mr. Michael Cantonis of Florida participated by phone. The previous day a letter signed by the majority of the members of the Executive Committee had been sent to Archbishop Demetrios requesting that the Archdiocese immediately execute its resolution of June 15, 1999, regarding Archbishop Spyridon's pension.

On the subject of Archbishop Spyridon's pension, Archbishop Demetrios informed the members of his proposal to grant to the former Archbishop the sum of $80,000 a year. At the same time, the former Archbishop would have to meet with him in New York and would be legally bound to go to Constantinople to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch.

According to reliable sources, Archbishop Demetrios mentioned that the amount that the Executive Committee agreed to give Archbishop Spyridon (approximately $140,000 a year) is excessive, while he himself is collecting a salary of $100,000 per annum.

Intervening, Executive Committee member Michael Cantonis mentioned that the conditions given to Archbishop Spyridon are unacceptable. At the same time, he noted that it is an error for His Eminence to maintain that he costs the Holy Archdiocese $100,000 a year with the cost of housing, a driver, a cook, and such services, whose total exceeds $250,000. He also said that the former Archbishop would have to be permitted to leave with dignity, indicating that these funds are not sufficient, and brought as an example the amount of the pension of former Archbishop Iakovos of America, who receives $250,000 annually

Interrupting Mr. Cantonis, Archbishop Demetrios asked him to stop patronizing former Archbishop Spyridon. Mr. Cantonis answered him, saying that he was not doing any such thing, he was simply defending the dignity of the Church, and he hung up.

About forty five minutes later, Archbishop Demetrios was once again in communication with Mr. Cantonis, saying that the telephone line had been cut off, only to get the answer that it did not cut off by itself, but rather, he himself had hung up.

Finally on this topic, the predominant view among members of the Executive Committee is that the theme constitutes a good beginning for a dialogue and they will return for another meeting, expecting former Archbishop Spyridon's answer.


FINANCES

The discussion about the Archdiocese finances was yet another source of tension at the meeting. Archbishop Demetrios called upon members to galvanize themselves for a collection of funds to cover the cost for expenditures. Committee member Harry Pappas intervened and said that in order for this to happen, there would have to be a complete transparency in the financial disclosures, something which does not comprise the true situation at the Archdiocese nowadays. On this point, Archbishop Demetrios intervened, indicating that the requirement for transparency and economic accountability is an insult to his personal integrity.

Finally, the demand for the collection of the amount $1.4 million (approximately) from the Executive Committee was approved with the abstention of Mr. Cantonis.

It is to be noted that many complaints were heard form almost every member about the Leadership 100, which did not fulfill its promises for the support of the Archdiocese and its institutions with the donation of $3 million.


LETTER FROM MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

The following are excerpts of the letter from committee members to Archbishop Demetrios.

"We, the members of the Executive Committee, understand with great disappointment that the Archdiocese failed to, refused to, and omitted to begin making payments to the pension of His Reverence Archbishop Spyridon. As you know, on June 15, 1999, the Executive Committee unanimously adopted the following decisions on this matter:

Recognizing that Archbishop Spyridon has served the Church for 31 years in varying degrees as clergy, his years of previous service must be recognized and he must be installed in the "Clergy Pension Program" of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

This decision of the Executive Committee was made after much thought and in harmony with the existing pension plan for Bishops. Moreover on August 5, 1999, the Executive Committee created and financed an irrevocable Trust to support part of the capital of the pension treasury of the Bishops.

Below, the members of the Committee point out that the has been no precedent not to execute this decision of the Executive Committee underscoring that this committee honored the decision previously made to deliver a generous pension and benefits to the former Archbishop Iakovos."

"Please be reminded, the members of the Executive Committee added in their letter, that the pension to the former Archbishop is to be paid as soon as he retires or leaves active service for any reason, regardless of age.

We will not enter into a process to consider under what circumstances the former Archbishop Spyridon left.

The fact that his decision could have been influenced by an ecclesiastical act of the Patriarchate does not change the contents of our decision and the regulations that guide the acts of the Executive Committee."

In addition, the letter mentioned that a former Archbishop of America could not have failed to secure his future and become a beggar.

"The Executive Committee urges you to immediately activate its decision of June 15, 1999 to reward a pension to the former Archbishop of America. There has never been a case in the past of disharmony between laity and the clergy in the Archdiocese. We know that our deep respect is shared for the application of civil law in America upon which the administrative structure of our church is based."


RUMORS ABOUT YENNADIOS' RESIGNATION

At any rate, the complaints of the Executive Committee members towards the Leadership 100 are not the only things that are being heard. Many dioceses and communities have begun to complain because many of their usual donors are being approached to give money to Phanar. The financial backers are limited and specifically when monies are being funneled to the Patriarchate, they are depriving communities, dioceses and our church institutions, we were informed by a priest in a high position in one of our dioceses. Certainly, he told us, there are Metropolitans outside of America who, every two to three months, come to the United States and go around to various communities collecting money.

To be noted that with the opportunity of His All Holiness Bartholomew's visit to America in November, "Friends of the Patriarch" went around collecting substantial amounts for the cost of the trip. These collections have no connection with covering the expenses of the Diocese of Detroit.

Certainly the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch in America has caused even more serious problems in Latin America where Metropolitan Yennadios of Buenos Aires has declared his inability to cover expenses of the Patriarchal visit and, according to ecclesiastical sources at the Phanar, he has conveyed to the Patriarchate his intention to resign before November. The outcome of this request of Yannadios has not become known anywhere, the Hierarch himself is, for some time, facing health problems and many times in the past there have been reports that he is resigning and is being replaced by an American Metropolitan.

To be noted that similar grievances with the Metropolitan Yannadios have been expressed according to the same sources and the Metropolitan Athenagoras of Panama. The same sources in fact speak of a related correspondence that was exchanged between him and the chief secretary of the Holy Synod, the Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia.

Ecclesiastical observations indicate that if finally there will be changes in Latin America, these will follow the same course of development as in the dioceses of the United States.

[ Translated from Greek ]

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