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Archbishop Demetrios Convenes First Archdiocesan Council Meeting Following Sept. 11 Terrorist Attack

New York, NY – His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, convened the first meeting of the Archdiocesan Council since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The Council, which was to originally have met in late September, discussed at length the proposed Archdiocesan charter in their fall meeting, Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

At the Archdiocesan Council’s opening joint session with the National Philoptochos Board, Archbishop Demetrios reflected on the aftermath of Sept. 11, and the coincidence of holding their meetings on the Feast Day of St. Andrew. “It is very significant that we meet in the aftermath of such an event on this apostolic day,” he said. “On Sept. 11, we witnessed one of the most ugly, dark sights of evil with a tremendous impact on people’s lives, domestically, internationally and here in New York. It was an explosion of evil but an explosion that caused also an explosion of love.... Love expressed in terms of unconditional support and generosity."

As of early December, the Archdiocese September 11 Relief Fund has reached about $1.8 million. Church officials said distribution of the funds would begin around Christmas time with children of Orthodox Christian survivors of the terrorist attack.

His Eminence discussed the future of the demolished St. Nicholas Church near Ground Zero. He said the new church that will rise on the site "is not going to be simply a parish church. In addition, it will be a shrine with a national and international radius of action and influence. He said an outpouring of generous financial donations and offering of free services to help rebuild the church are "indicative of the way people responded."

Archbishop Demetrios reported significant pledges of $500,000 each from the city of Bari, Italy, and from the Greek Government and $400,000 from the mayor of Athens, Greece, $10,000 from the American Jewish Committee and $50,000 from the American Plumbers Association. Additionally, as many as seven architects and engineers have offered their services free of charge to design and supervise the rebuilding of St. Nicholas. Also offered free are the services of iconographers, woodcrafters, electricians and others.

“This is indicative of the change from a negative to a very positive impact,” said the Archbishop. “We realize we have Orthodoxy as a gift. It has been received, it has been transmitted. It has to be given by us to other people. And this is the spirit in which we should conduct our work in general and this meeting in particular.”

The Charter

The Council spent a considerable portion of their two-day session discussing a draft of the proposed charter. Council Vice Chairman Michael Jaharis asked for comments from Council members “to help form a consensus to present to the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” which grants the charter. Before the discussion, however, he asked the legal counsel of the Archdiocese, Mr. Emanuel Demos, to offer a concise history of the process that led to the formulation of the proposed charter.

In the ensuing discussion many Council members expressed their opinions about the charter, with several relating to technical language and the agreement of the English translation with the original Greek text.

Discussions also centered on questions relating to the unity of the Archdiocese, the process of electing metropolitans and the archbishop, and the roles of the clergy-laity congresses and Archdiocesan Council. Archbishop Demetrios and the members of the Holy Synod assured the Council that the new charter would not diminish the unity and the oneness of the Archdiocese, or the role of the laity.

Mr. Jaharis told the Council members that their input along with comments received from the people would be included in the consensus to be presented to the Patriarchate.

At the end of the charter discussion, Archbishop Demetrios expressed “deepest thanks for a discussion done with dignity in peace, and a spirit of real contribution to the life of our Church.

The Finances

The other major focus of the fall meeting was finances. In his introductory remarks to the discussion, Mr. Jaharis remarked, “We have come from a near crisis situation a year ago to a relatively stable situation.” However the events of Sept. 11 have adversely affected revenue.

In his presentation, which he described as bad news and good news, Finance Director John Barbagallo said the Church was on its way to “a record year before Sept. 11” as revenue amounts for each month “exceeded total commitment” that had been projected in the budget.

Nonetheless, due to Sept. 11, we ended up with a net loss of $550,000 as of Oct. 31, because of a significant decrease in total commitment contributions. Parishes have fallen behind by about $1.3 million. “Total commitment is cyclical and economic issues affect it,” said the Director of Finance, alluding to the current recession affecting the U.S. economy.

Other factors contributing to the deficit include a legal settlement of $400,000 and a drop of about $300,000 in estimated unrestricted donations. But the good news, Mr. Barbagallo said, includes a decrease in total expenses for 2001 over past years, a reduction in accounts payable by more than $100,000, a restructured $1.2 million debt to Atlantic Bank that will result in considerable savings, and tight, internal controls for restricted funds, which cannot be used for the Archdiocese’s general operating expenses.

Several recommendations were discussed to alleviate the situation and provide for future development, including a revitalizing of total commitment, modifying the 2002 budget, creating a development office, eliminating the Atlantic Bank debt, and creating a new endowment fund for the Archdiocese to help fund the Church’s growth.