"Greek American" - April 11, 1998

Old Calendar Church Brought Back into the Fold

NEW YORK - Having grown independently of the Mother Church for over 20 years, the Old Calendar Greek Orthodox Church of St. Irene Chrysovalantou has been accepted into the canonical Eastern Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In a compromise deal struck in Istanbul this week, St. Irene Chrysovalantou will continue to follow the old or Julian calendar traditions, but now will fall under the "direct canonical jurisdiction and protection" of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The agreement transforms St. Irene into a canonical church, which will enjoy the same privileges as all the other Greek Orthodox Churches in America. But it also keeps St. Irene outside of the administrative control of the Archdiocese of America. The St. Irene church and all other of its affiliated institutions, such as its daycare center, will now be supervised by the Patriarchate.

This decision, however, does not include all Old Calendar churches. The other Old Calendar churches, which call themselves Genuine Orthodox Christians (GOC), are led by Archbishop Chrisostomos of Athens, and they remain a separate institution, with affiliated churches in the United States.

As part of the agreement, the two clergy leaders of St. Irene, Paisios Loulourgas and Vikentios Malamatenios, were elevated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Metropolitan and Bishop, respectively. Their ordinations are scheduled to take place on April 11 in Constantinople. Upon their and Archbishop Spyridon's return from the Phanar, Metropolitan Paisios's installation as Abbot of the Patriarchal and Stavropegiac Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou will take place.

The reason the church of St. Irene decided to join the Greek Orthodox Church was for purposes of preservation, according to an administrator at St. Irene's, Mr. John Kotsaridis. He explained that the "future of the [St. Irene's] work was unclear." Mr. Kotsaridis stated that the decision to become a part of the Greek Orthodox Church was taken by Metropolitan Paisios. The metropolitan wanted "to protect the work being done." Mr. Kotsaridis added, "We are happy to be under the umbrella of the Patriarchate. With that, of course, we are [still] going to follow the old calendar."

In response to the news from Constantinople, the GOC Metropolitan of North and South America Pavlos Estratigeas, based in St. Markella's Church in Astoria, said that the union does not affect his community in any way. Metropolitan Pavlos said that in July of 1995 the Holy Synod of the GOC "deposed" Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios for renouncing Archbishop Chrisostomos. Metropolitan Pavlos said that "they split off from us." He added that among the original separatists, "most of the others came back. But not them." An official communique from the GOC will be released within the week.

For the Greek Orthodox churches in Astoria, the recognition of St. Irene by the Patriarchate could translate into a possible loss of revenue, specifically for the churches of St. Catherine and St. Demetrios. Since the sacraments performed by St. Irene are now recognized by the Church, the Orthodox community of Astoria has a third choice of where to get married, baptized, or attend Sunday services.

Fr. John Antonopoulos, a priest at St. Catherine, is respectful of the decision made by the Patriarchate; but he said that financially "we'll be a little hurt." For Fr. Antonopoulos, the financial issue is not as important as spreading the teachings of Christ. He added that we should "love one another" and the rest will be taken care of by God.

Nick A. Andriotes, a community leader at St. Demetrios for 30 years, said of the decision: "Since the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to accept St. Irene, it must have decided that no problems will be created for the area's canonical churches that belong to the aegis of the Archdiocese."

The head of the St. Demetrios and St. Catherine community, the Very Reverend Pavlos Papalexiou, was pleased with the outcome in Turkey. "I am very moved and happy because I can say that a serious problem has been resolved within our Church," he said. Fr. Papalexiou went on to say that the decision not only benefits the Archdiocese of America, but will strengthen Orthodoxy everywhere.

The Metropolitan and Bishop must be embraced by the community and given support and love, concluded Fr. Papalexiou.

[ EKKLISIA |  -  April 11, 1998 ]