Is the Ecumenical Patriarch Forcing Archbishop Demetrios To Retire?

April 30, 2010

A slew of stories in recent hours tell conflicting details about a supposed attempt to oust Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The National Herald reports:

Intense discussions have begun to develop over recent days — both at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople where Archbishop Demetrios of America had visited over the weekend, as well as among high-level officials in the Greek American Community regarding the possible resignation of Archbishop Demetrios as head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. (Source: http://www.thenationalherald.com/article/44896)

Why the supposed attempt? Many reasons are cited, but in particular,  the National Herald reports that Patriarch Bartholomew appears to be displeased with the inclusion of the OCA in the upcoming Episcopal Assemblies:

Patriarch Bartholomew was reportedly particularly annoyed over this issue, as he had instructed Archbishop Demetrios not to include the Orthodox Church in America led by Metropolitan Johah at this conference. The OCA was the former Russian Metropolia, which was unilaterally granted autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Moscow – a decision not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Archbishop Demetrios extended an invitation to OCA after all, which he attributed to an oversight, although Rev. Mark Arey, Director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, offered a different explanation. (Source: http://www.thenationalherald.com/article/44896)

Also supposedly feared is the possibility of American independence from the Ecumenical Patriarch:

Some officials in the Phanar have expressed fear that this sort of a meeting, although sanctioned by the Ecumenical throne, may derail and result in a ecclesiastical coup d’etat intensifying the movement for the establishment of one singular Autocephalous Americanized Orthodox Church of America. A similar attempt had been made by the late Archbishop Iakovos at Ligonier, Penn. in 1994, which ultimately led to his removal from his Archbishopric. (Source: http://www.thenationalherald.com/article/44896)

However, Archbishop Demetrios was quick to respond to the reports. The GOA Press Office made this statement:

Upon his arrival in New York yesterday, Archbishop Demetrios was informed about some false reports in the Media referring to information of a supposed resignation. His Eminence stated categorically that the reports were baseless and patently false. The Archbishop further added that there is no discussion about any resignation whatsoever. He said that he is looking forward in the coming years to the continuation of the sacred and vital mission and work of the Holy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, with the same faith, zeal, methodical planning and love, especially in view of the difficulties confronting our contemporary world. (Source: http://goarch.org/news/visitphanarandathens-042910)

These recent events come after a conflict in January where a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch made what the GOA’s Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council called a “malicious and premeditated” attack on Archbishop Demetrios which was widely said to be an earlier attempt to remove Archbishop Demetrios from power:

We, the undersigned members of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council, on behalf of all the members of the Archdiocesan Council of the largest Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, convey to Your All Holiness and the Holy and Sacred Synod our profound distress and disgust over the recent embarrassing letter of Metropolitan Theoleptos of Iconium to the newspaper, The National Herald. It is unconscionable that any Hierarch would attack the good name and reputation of another Hierarch in the press, but when the Metropolitan of Iconium, without any regard to the record or to facts, calls into question the integrity and indeed humanity of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the insult goes well beyond the person of the Archbishop and the Metropolitans of the local Eparchial Synod. The insult goes to the heart of every Greek Orthodox Christian of this Archdiocese, clergy and laity alike.

Your All Holiness, if the Metropolitan of Iconium was so concerned over the two orphaned children, why did he not call the Archbishop and learn what the facts were?

Clearly, his intent was both malicious and premeditated. How is this Metropolitan allowed to write such a letter directly to a newspaper? Who authorized him to do so? (Source: http://www.aoiusa.org/blog/2010/02/orphangate-reopened/)

But for the moment at least, Archbishop Demetrios remains in office despite reports to the contrary.

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{ 1 comment }

George Patsourakos May 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I believe that Archbishop Demetrios has done an excellent job as head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America for the past decade.

For Patriarch Bartholomew to call for Archbishop Demetrios’ resignation or retirement can only indicate one thing to me; namely, that the Patriarch is threatened by Archbishop Demetrios’ independence and fears that an independent American Orthodox Church may be established soon. We saw a similar scenario in the case of Archbishop Iakovos who was forced into “early retirement” by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1994.

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