New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America presided at the first Archdiocesan Council meeting following his election and enthronement as Archbishop. The meetings of the Council were held over the span of two days, Thursday Oct. 17 and Friday Oct.18, at the New York Hilton Hotel, and the prevailing feeling and tone of the meetings was one of renewed optimism and hope for the affairs of the Archdiocese and the future of our Church.
The Executive Committee with its new Vice-Chairman John Catsimatidis, and new Secretary Judge Theodore Bozonelis, as well as the Standing Committees of the Council, met on Thursday. The Council convened as a body Thursday afternoon for its first session and Friday morning for the second and final session.
The Archbishop opened the plenary session with prayer and his Keynote Address that followed set the tone:
“I can promise each of you that our beloved Archdiocese of America is back on course and headed to the safe harbor of stability, progress and growth,” he said while at a later point stated: “What we genuinely want and need for our Archdiocese is transparency, accountability, and responsibility.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros reiterated his three main priorities outlined in his enthronement address, namely Youth, Hellenic College Holy Cross, and the completion of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.
“The Shrine will be a shining City on a Hill, and a beacon of hope for all people of good will, and it will be the most observed and visited Orthodox Church in the world, as long as we are faithful to its mission. We must re-commence the building of the Church immediately, and open the doors by September 11, 2021, as a tribute to those who perished that fateful day, and as a lead off to the centenary year of our Holy Archdiocese,” he said.
Following the Archbishop’s address, the Vice-President of the Council, John Catsimatidis conveyed his optimism and said that as a community we have the people and the resources to do the job well and we will succeed as long as we work hard all together and in unity. He also recommitted that Saint Nicholas will be completed by September 11, 2021.
“We must face the truth that we stumbled. Leadership failed. There were improprieties, incompetent management, bad decisions and ultimately a nearly two-year work-stoppage that has severely hurt the image of our effort and embarrassed the Greek Orthodox Community”, John Catsimatidis said.
The Vice-President of the Council went on by introducing the steps that are currently in process, aiming to bring us “to a bright and brilliant conclusion”.
The first step is the new creation of the “Friends of St. Nicholas”, a new structure responsible for the construction.
“An independent non-profit based on accountability and transparency and which now has the responsibility to complete the Shrine.”.
Dennis Mehiel and Mike Psaros are respectively the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the organization, while Archbishop Elpidophoros is the Honorary Chairman and Fr. Alex Karloutsos the Spiritual Advisor.
The “Friends of St. Nicholas” has a bank account at Atlantic Bank controlled completely by the organization. Richard Browne, partner at Sterling Project Development (the owners of CitiField) will serve pro bono as COO (head) of the Construction.
“A position that literally didn’t exist in the past and one which would have saved the project millions of dollars”, Catsimatidis.
He also revealed that plans have been completed to reflect the cost cutting measure of Archbishop Elpidophoros and soon, subcontractors will be submitting bids.
“Once those bids have been received, the final cost will be submitted”, he said.
During these two years that the project was shut down, water has infiltrated the interstitial space beneath the platform and the mechanical systems underneath the platform need to be replaced.
In order to “rebuild and repair our credibility”, the Vice Chairman said that a story about St. Nicholas will be showed at CBS’ “60 Minutes.
“In the process of this repair, we expect to attract interest and support from the wider society. To this end, the friends of St. Nicholas are engaging with an initiative to fund – raise outside the Greek American Community”, Catsimatidis said, expressing the belief that a portion of the funding required to complete the Shrine can be found outside our community.
In concluding, John Catsimatidis said that “we fully expect that construction can commence as soon as the platform and mechanicals re finished. By God’s grace and the intercessions of St. Nicholas, we expect the date of the “thyranoixia” – the opening of the doors – to be the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, September 11, 2011.”
The proceedings were presided over by the new Secretary of the Council Judge Theodore Bozonelis. He thanked the previous Secretary Catherine Bouffides-Walsh for her assistance during the transition and her long dedicated service to the body.
Additional presentations were made by George Cantonis who presented a detailed report on the state of Hellenic College Holy Cross and the actions taken to secure its future. Followed by Treasurer Elaine Allen and Lazaros Kircos, Chairman of the Finance Committee who presented the Financial Report and the 2020 Budget, while several resolutions concerning financial matters were discussed.
National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis of the Order of Saint Andrew Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate presented the Order’s Annual Report on the Order’s continuing efforts to promote religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all Orthodox Christians worldwide.
The work of the Council continued on Friday morning and included reports and presentations on the following: Pension Plan, Audit Committee report, Saint Nicholas Shrine, Youth Safety, Saint Photios Shrine and Spanish Ministry resources by His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, and a report by Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, on the 2020 Clergy Laity Congress to take place in Cleveland.
At the conclusion of the session, Archbishop Elpidophoros said he was very pleased and thankful from his first Archdiocesan Council meeting and expressed his gratitude to all the members of the Council for their dedication.