The GreekAmerican - June 30, 2000

Patriarch Calls for "ALLOWANCE" for Former Archbishop

Pension debate moves toward resolution ahead of Clergy Laity Congress

By Eleni Daniels

New York -.  Word to move ahead with the implementation of former Archbishop Spyridon's pension came in the form of a letter, addressed to Archbishop Demetrios and dated June 22 (obtained this week by The GreekAmerican), from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.

The long awaited decision comes days before the 35th biennial Clergy-Laity Congress and shortly following an Archdiocesan Council executive committee resolution tagged with a deadline for a response and a letter to Demetrios by committee member Harry J. Pappas threatening to file suit "to compel the lawful action of the Resolutions"

Six months of debate and discussion between executive members, Archbishop Demetrios and the patriarchate, and a week following the deadline of June 19, a resolution of the Spyridon issue appears imminent. But executive committee members are not fully satisfied with the patriarchal decision since it does not fully comply with the committee's initial resolution. They have some reservations and are asking for clarification and assurances on the terms for the "allowance" or pension.

The Patriarchal letter calls for an allowance for life for Spyridon (with no mention of the word "pension"), beginning with an initial payment in the amount of $20,000 (for back payments from April 2000 to June 2000) and dispensed from a Patriarchal Fund, established for the patriarchate and held at the archdiocese.

"The said allowance shall be for life for the above mentioned brother in Christ and shall not exceed the amount of eighty thousand United States dollars ($80,000) per year," writes Patriarch Bartholomew in his missive. The letter also states that if Spyridon were to accept another permanent position in the future offered to him by the patriarchate, the allowance would cease and, in turn, be replaced by the "stipend of the said position."

Overall, executive committee members see this as a positive step towards a resolution. "We have traveled 2,900 miles out of a 3,000 mile trip," says John Catsimatidis, vice chairman of the archdiocesan council's executive committee. "There's a few edges that need to be smoothed out and we are close to having a solution for each party."

These "edges" refer to the vagueness of the decision. Reservations and concerns on the part of the executive committee members encompass the issue of whether the monies are restricted and solely for Spyridon's pension, the issue of security, and that the arrangement abide by certain legal requirements.

However, Catsimatidis was not too concerned over the wording of the document, in which the pension is termed an "allowance."

"If the money gets to the source irrevocably, then I don't have an opinion on that. A rose is a rose by any name."

Catsimatidis is in direct communication with Spyridon and says that he is "very encouraged because he wants a peaceful solution" and added that Archbishop Spyridon is "willing to take a lesser sum if it means peace and harmony in the Church. But Spyridon does not want to settle in a matter that anybody change."

Executive committee member Harry J. Pappas was optimistic but is expecting clarification. "It's a good first step in that it recognizes the moral and legal right to a pension for His Eminence [Spyridon]. Now we are no longer arguing over a pension and His All Holiness and Archbishop Demetrios should be commended for that. The issue which remains is how it will be funded legally so that when all of us are dead and gone the arrangements for economically secure funds are there," asserted Pappas.

But according to him, "it ain't over till the fat lady sings." Pappas is adamant about the legal ramifications of the executive committee's binding resolutions. "Our clerics are good-hearted people who studied theology and Christian history but never studied business law and business.

"It is very difficult to assess exactly what the conclusion is [regarding Spyridon's pension]," said Peter Pappas, member of the executive committee. "There is a conclusion that is on the table now. There is an agreement that has been submitted by the patriarch; it's somewhat of a compromise; I don't think it is what the resolution of the Archdiocese of America concluded early on in 1999, but nevertheless, it is an agreement and hopefully all parties will take that into consideration."

Whether the pension issue is closed and whether it will be on the table at next week's Clergy-Laity Congress remains to be seen. And what is the likelihood that this issue will continue to be an "issue" when the new archdiocesan council is appointed by Demetrios and enters the Church arena soon after the Congress?

A regularly scheduled Archdiocesan Council meeting set for July 1 has been cancelled "due to scheduling conflicts by many members of the Archdiocesan Council and time limitations at the Clergy-Laity Congress" by Archbishop Demetrios. A luncheon has been scheduled in its place.

"The archbishop is the chairman and the chairman calls the shots," said Catsimatidis. "Jerry [Demetriou, administrative director of the archdiocese] doesn't make the agenda, the archbishop does," he said, referring to recent statements made by the archdiocese's administrative chief that the issue of Spyridon's pension would not be on the agenda at this year's Congress.

"I think [this entire debate] takes the focus off the purpose of our Church. People should come together and not bicker over money," Catsimatidis added.

[ The GreekAmerican - June 30, 2000]