Weekly Political and Financial Review
Issue Nr. 1459 - March 17, 2005
Phanar games with Yiosakis and Patmos
The Ecumenical Patriarchate connected
to the Archimandrite and the Monastery scandals
A revealing account of the great money and real estate racket
Exclusive to Politika Themata
With reports by Patmian journalist Nikos Melianos, Rhodian
newspapers Dimokratiki, Gnomi and Rodiaki and by the
New York-based Greek-American daily The National Herald.
The affair of embezzlement on the island of Patmos reveals incredible Byzantine intrigues with leading roles played by the former Chief-Secretary of the Holy Synod, Meliton Karras, and even Patriarch Bartholomew himself. Meliton, soundly criticized for his involvement in numerous transactions made by the historical Monastery of the island, was recently dismissed from his position as Chief-Secretary of the Phanar so that the Center of Orthodoxy could be absolved of any connection to the scandals. However, there can be no hiding from the fact that the holy site where Saint John wrote the Revelation reeks of secret dealings, illegal transactions and bloated bank accounts of abbots and monks and is in dire need of immediate cleansing.
It is imperative here that we not forget Metropolitan Meliton's role in the Yosakis affair for it was the Synod's former Chief-Secretary, together with Metropolitan Athenagoras of Panama, who forwarded the application of Iakovos Yosakis to the Archdiocese of America in 1998. An application that was, of course, rejected by Archbishop Spyridon's chancellor, Fr George Passias, given Yiosakis' dubious file. And, according to well-informed sources, it was Meliton himself who recommended Yosakis to the Old Calendarist bishops, Paissios and Vikentios, who, however, eventually expelled him from Chicago when they were confronted with irregularities perpetrated by the now jailed archimandrite.
A History of Pillage
On the island of Patmos, the former abbot of the Monastery, Isidoros Krikris, currently under indictment for financial irregularities, had prepared things so that certain hierarchs of the Throne ---chiefly Patriarch Bartholomew and Meliton Karras, his Chief-Secretary until a few weeks ago--- could profit privately. As early as 1983, Krikris is known to have been siphoning abundant sums from the Monastery and accompanying hiearchs of the Throne on their frequent trips across the world so as to be able to pay for their lavish demands. It is also well known that Bartholomew Arhontonis, before being elected to the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople, was repeatedly the summer guest of Abbot Isidoros Krikris at the latter's luxurious private villa in Eximnia on the island of Patmos.
The party grew bolder when, in 1992, Metropolitan Meliton decided it was time to endow his beloved brothers, Yorgos and Yannis Karras, with precious Patmian real estate. That year, the Abbatial board of Patmos passed an act favorable to Yannis Karras thereby enabling him to purchase a large piece of monasterial land in the Plaki area at the ridiculous price of 1 million drachmas --a piece of land that was at that very time assessed by the Leros Public Service for Real Estate sales (DOY) at 8,4 millions drachmas!
A second purchase of monasterial real estate ---this time by Yorgos Karras, the other brother of the Phanar Metropolitan--- was cancelled as soon as the successor to Isidoros Krikris, Abbot Amfilohios Kamitsis, ordered a financial investigation into the monastery's shady transactions.
In 1998, Isidoros Krikris, comfortable with his bloated bank accounts, decided it was time to withdraw from his abbatial position. The Patmos monks elected a new abbot in the person of Amfilohios Kamitsis who was soon confronted with the many irregularities committed ---with the blessings of the Patriarchate of Constantinople--- by Krikris as well as by two other monks, Gerasimos Mihelis and Polykarpos from the Koumana Abbey who made milllions from sales of monasterial real estate.
Deciding to cleanse the Augean stables, Abbott Kamitsis ordered an internal investigation into the Monastery's finances which led to the initiation of a public inquiry in 1999 as ordered by the District Attorney of the Dodecanese Court of Appeals to determine whether charges having to do with the "plundering" of real estate belonging to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the provocative life of certain of its monks were with merit.
The inquiry determined the soundness of the charges made and a penal prosecution was ordered against the monks responsible for the monastery's administration until 1997 as well as against various persons who had benefited through sales of monasterial real estate. The suspect legal transactions also included the bogus lease of monasterial real estate to Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Zakynthos and approved by Patriarch Bartholomew Arhontonis himself in 1994.
Soon after, the authorities blocked all bank accounts of the monks involved including those of former Abbot Isidoros Krikris. To their surprise, they found most with zero balances but, in the course of the investigation, it was eventually discovered that Abbot Krikris had many different accounts with enormous sums in each.
It was during this period that Meliton arbitrarily forced Amfilohios Kamitsis to hand in his resignation. At the beginning of 2000, he unexpectedly arrived at Patmos "through the backdoor" as part of a three-member Patriarchal Delegation to elect a new abbot of his "preference and approval" and, as such, with disregard to the Sacred Canons and all moral rules...
The events of that tragicomic day were described on January 28 by the correspondent to the New York-based National Herald, Theodoros Kalmoukos :
"The day before yesterday one more act of the Patmos melodrama was played out when, with Byzantine methods (Mount Athos monks of Patmian origin were drafted and transported ---by helicopter believe it or not--- to Patmos) a three-member Phanar delegation composed of Athanasios of Ilioupolis and Theira, Iakovos of Laodicea and Meliton of Philadelphia engineered the appointment (I am ashamed to use the term "election") of a new abbot after Bartholomew had forced Abbot Amfilohios Kamitsis to resign."
"Well, that suits Amfilohios just perfectly, doesn't it? Who told him to be honest and denounce all unacceptable transactions made by his predecessors? Didn't he know that the disclosure of operations, even those that transpired on the Island of the Revelation, is a punishable act!"
"So, to resume, the Patriarchal Delegation arrived with great caution via Samos but the Patmians became aware of their coming and strongly booed them at their arrival. Indeed, when Meliton appeared in church and began to read the official announcement that Antypas Nikitaras (nephew of the late Gerontas Pavlos) was elected as abbot and that the resignation of Amfilohios and other similar acts would not be recalled, the infuriated Patmians began attacking him with their umbrellas!"
"Imagine the scene: this huge Meliton, Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Great Church of Constantinople being struck with a rain of umbrellas!!! Let alone the loud and meaningful cries of "This is not Turkey here!" by the island's residents that shattered the visitors to the bone."
"Such outbreaks of rage from the habitually loyal, peaceful islanders will be remembered by Meliton throughout his whole life for, openly speaking, the water has long overflowed the brim. Not for any other reason, but so that all, chiefly Bartholomew, aware of everything for years, may understand that the Patmians are not naοve Greek Americans. When they become aware that someone is making fools of them, especially in matters connected to their faith, they become outraged."
Meanwhile a fact finding investigation was ordered by the Ministry of Finances with its inspectors instructed to look into the cash register, funds and books of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.
The conclusions derived were forwarded to the judicial authorities in May of 2000. It was determined that 318 million drachmas were missing from the Monastery's funds (moneys that had not been deposited from the real estate transactions) and that the Monastery had suffered a 1,6 billion drachma damage by the extremely low sale prices of its real estate. In September 2000, Monk Gerasimos Mihelis was charged, placed under restriction and forbidden to leave the country while, at that same point, the former abbot, Isidoros Krikris, was ordered to pay bail of 80 millions drachmas.
Paradoxically, in September, the public prosecutor of Kos, Mrs Smyrli, presented a proposal to the Magistrates' Court requesting the entire penal prosecution be stopped. According to her assessment, the investigation had not generated sufficient elements to incriminate the defendants in spite of the fact that the act of accusation contained no less than 160 specific monasterial real estate transactions in which no payments were made to the Monastery.
In October of that same year, the Magistrates' Court of Kos passed a resolution (protocol number 137/2002) in which only 6 defendants were referred to the three-member Criminal Court of Appeal accused of misappropriation, infidelity, recurrent fraud and repeated acceptance of products of crime along with breach of duty.
However, with the passing of time, the offences of 2 of the 6 defendants were cancelled, and, in December 2004, the entire process was judged invalid due to purely procedural reasons. And, for reasons of blatant sensationalism, an inspector of the Ministry of Finances brandished the Patmos file on the TV morning show of Giorgos Aftias but what will really happen in the end?
Who will stick the lancet deep in the flesh of a story in which Patriarch Bartholomew along with his close adviser, Meliton Karras, are involved? Who will assume the responsibility of providing closure to this sad chapter in the everyday life of Orthodoxy --a sorry chapter full of intrigues, sinful transactions and dissolute lives of holy men?