“Most people I know respect, support and love Archbishop Demetrios and do not want to see him leave at this time”, told the Greek News
New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
Delegates from the 550 Greek Orthodox parishes across the United States will gather in Boston, Massachusetts, from July 1 to 5, 2018, for 44th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the National Philoptochos Convention. The Congress is hosted by the Holy Metropolis of Boston and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios.
The Clergy Laity Congress will begin with the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy, Sunday July 1, 2018, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Boston, while the official opening will take place on Monday July 2, with the keynote address by Archbishop Demetrios.
Metropolitan Geron Derkon Apostolos, and Metropolitan Maximos of Sylibria will represent the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The theme of the 44th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, “All Things Are Possible to the One Who Believes in Christ (Mark 9:23),” is probably the boost that the Greek Archdiocese needs, in order to overcome the financial troubles that’s led the reconstruction of St Nicholas Shrine in New York City to seize, due to lack of funds.
The financial troubles of the Archdiocese increased the attacks against Archbishop Demetrios and the calls to resign. Prior to the latest meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarch Bartholomew asked for the first time Archbishop Demetrios whether he is considering resigning. According to sources, His Eminence said he won’t do it before he puts the reconstruction project and the finances of the Archdiocese on track.
“Greek News” has spoken to the Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council George Tsandikos, on the recent calls for resignation, the pending auditing report, the prospects for speedy restart of the reconstruction of St Nicholas and the upcoming Clergy Laity Congress. He stressed that his hope is that Archbishop Demetrios will continue to lead us “as the Executive Committee, complete the steps taken to ensure the Archdiocese is restored to full financial strength and the resumption of work on his legacy project, the St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine.”
- There have been calls recently for Archbishop Demetrios to resign. What is your reaction?
A.- His Eminence enjoys deep support across our community, clergy, and lay leadership. That a few individuals are using the media in an attempt to create the appearance he does not, conveys a brazen disrespect for our holiest leader and disregards the Church, and flouts our processes for succession and election.
Archbishop Demetrios is a man of great wisdom and faith.
Having celebrated his 90th birthday, Archbishop Demetrios is naturally contemplating retirement. He makes decisions according to what is in the best interest of the Church, not according to the interests or agendas of the few. He will not resign at the behest of certain individuals making dubious claims against him.
I will say, as someone who works closely with His Eminence, I marvel at his faith, intellect, and endurance. My hope is that he will continue to lead us as we, the Executive Committee, complete the steps taken to ensure the Archdiocese is restored to full financial strength and the resumption of work on his legacy project, the St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine.
The progress we’ve made on both fronts would not have been achieved were it not for his openness, insistence that all necessary steps be taken to address the issues, and his full cooperation. I believe that disrupting His Eminence’s ministry at this point would be detrimental to the completion of our work. It is in our community’s best interest to have his successor enter into the role from a position of strength.
Q.- Archbishop Demetrios was accused for “disobeying” the Ecumenical Patriarch who asked him to consider to resign. Is this the case?
A.- His Eminence is not one to disobey. Again, he is naturally considering the timing of his retirement. We are at a critical juncture in our work on restoring the Archdiocese’s financial strength, and are entering the final phase of the St. Nicholas review, before construction resumes. Continuity at this time, with an Archbishop who clearly understands the issues and fully supports the path towards transformation, transparency, and accountability, will make it easier for us to complete the important tasks at hand.
Q.- What is your sense on how your fellow executive committee and Archdiocesan Council members feel about it?
A.- I have not taken a poll, but most people I know respect, support and love the Archbishop and do not want to see him leave at this time. People want unity. They are opposed to any attempts to divide our community.
Q.- One question I often hear is that although there are tens of millions “parked” in Lead100 and Faith, we just do nothing to restart building St. Nicholas. What is your answer and are you hopeful that we will move ahead with the project?
A.- You would need to ask Leadership 100 and FAITH about their positions.
I do know that day after day I hear from people, from across the country, that St. Nicholas must be completed. Support and enthusiasm for this important project remains as solid as ever.
Before construction resumes, however, we are reviewing how the project has been managed in order to enhance the organizational, financial, and project management structures. Improving how the project as a whole is run will lead to greater efficiencies in the time, expense, and fundraising required finishing St. Nicholas.
The second phase of the review is underway and we expect it will be completed before summer’s end. We are nearing the final phase of the process and are looking forward to resuming fundraising and construction.
Q.- When do you expect the follow up audit report on St Nicholas finances to be issued? Although we are still waiting for the full investigation, it is clear that something went wrong in the administration. Do you have an idea what is the real problem and what has to be done?
A.- The Phase 1 report was released in May. Phase 2 is well underway and we expect to have the results by the end of the summer. We have begun strategic planning for the completion of the project and we will resume fundraising with robust controls, oversight, and transparency once the plan is finalized. Having separated the administration and finance roles within the Archdiocese, and having appointed new leadership of the Finance and Audit Committees, I am very confident that we are already well-positioned to move forward.
Q.- Do you think there is a real movement for autocephaly in our Archdiocese?
A.- This issue has been discussed for years. I recall when Archbishop Iakovos, of Blessed Memory, was wrongly accused of moving in that direction. I do not see a real movement for autocephaly. I believe that the faithful here in America honor our sacred ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. At the same time, most people I have spoken to are committed to upholding, as inviolable, a Charter that affords our Holy Eparchial Synod the dignity and respect it deserves—a charter that was granted to us by the Mother Church.
Q.- How do you think we could utilize the upcoming Clergy Laity Congress to move forward and strengthen our unity?
A.- The Congress gives us a much needed opportunity to correct the mistruths and fake news that threaten our unity. There, we will have the opportunity to present data-based and factual information that establishes the truth about
the issues we have seen manipulated and misrepresented to serve the interests of those seeking to divide us for personal, political gain .
We also have so much good news to share. We continue to make progress in correcting past issues, implementing change that precludes them from happening again, and restoring the financial bedrock our Church needs to serve future generations. These are inarguably positive developments for the Church and its faithful. There is simply no place or reason for division on these points.
I pray we leave the Congress united, having reaffirmed the support of our faithful and committed leaders, and having truly dispelled the mistruths and fake news propagated by detractors. I pray we leave the Congress resolved to work together for the glory of God and for His Church in America.