New York – By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was sending last week mixed messages regarding the situation in the parish of Transfiguration of Christ in Corona, New York, although according to sources in both Corona Community and the Archdiocese, the Church has opened the door to a compromised solution.
On one hand the Archdiocese leadership, not only pushed forward the case of parish council’s president Vassilios Livanos at a spiritual court, but also summoned two more parish council members, Dimitrios Spanos and Photis Mavridis, to present themselves at the spiritual court on Thursday February 3rd. Both men said they will attend.
The spiritual court that heard Livanos’ case in absentia, last Wednesday, although it concluded that “Mr. Livanos had in fact violated his oath to “uphold the dogma, traditions, holy canons, worship, and moral principles of the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as the constitutional charter, discipline, and regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese” (UPR, IX.4), by refusing to comply with the Archdiocese’s directives from May 12, 2004 to the present, and especially by inciting others to recite with him the oath of office, without the requisite episcopal ratification”, it decided to offered him extension of time until Monday February 28, 2005, “as an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness”.
On the other hand, responding positively to a proposal made last week by GreekNews, in an editorial titled “The crisis in Corona and our responsibilities”, Archbishop Demetrios removed from the Corona case Chancellor Bishop Savvas of Troas, appointing Bishop Philotheos of Meloa as his Personal envoy.
According to a press statement by the Archdiocese on Sunday, January 30, 2005, His Grace Bishop Philotheos of Meloa was expected to preside at the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Transfiguration, which will be celebrated by Rev. Fr. Nicholas Retselas, Proistamenos of the Church of the Panaghia in Island Park, New York.
“At the request of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, and with the continuous guidance and assistance of Bishop Philotheos, Fr. Retselas will continue to serve the Corona community until proper order has been restored and proper elections may be held.
Once the parish resumes a normal course of activity and accountability, a proper and legitimate parish assembly meeting will be convened, at which elections for a new parish council will be scheduled. Following the ratification by the Archdiocese of these elections, a permanent priest will be assigned to the parish”.
According to the statement, “these actions are undertaken after several months of unsuccessful efforts to restore order by less drastic means. Archbishop Demetrios exhorts the parishioners, benefactors, and supporters of the Transfiguration of Christ Church and its beloved and justly-renowned parochial school to support with heartfelt prayer and selfless action the efforts of Bishop Philotheos, Fr. Retselas, and the legitimate Parish Council, in working for the restoration of peace, in oneness of spirit and soul, for the glory of God and His Church”.
Non recognized Corona parish council president Vasilios Livanos reacted positively to the decision, when asked by the GreekNews..
“It is very positive that Archbishop Demetrios recognized that Bishop Savvas could not act as a peace maker because he was showing anger in dealing with the issue. Bishop Philotheos is a very respectable hierarch and I am looking forward to meet with him and find a solution to the issue”.
The Spiritual Court was comprised of Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Fr. Demetrios Moskovites of the Annunciation in New York City, Fr. Emmanuel Gratsias from the Church of the Resurrection, Fr. George Stavropoulos (President) from Holy Trinity in Hicksville and Fr. Nicholas Anctil from New Rochelle. .
According to well informed sources the members resisted to pressure to move immediately in punishing Livanos, considering the fact that Archbishop Demetrios in many of his letters praised Livanos’ service to the community and the Church. They also recognized that the issue didn’t involved any dogmatic violation, but merely Church governance.
Although the announcement was expected to be made on Thursday, there was a 24 hour delay.