The Hilton Hotel
New York, New York
October 29, 2021
* * *
Venerable Hierarchs and Reverend Clergy,
Honorable Members of the Archdiocese Council and
Senators for Orthodoxy and Hellenism,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today’s Archdiocese Council Meeting will surely go down in history because of the presence and blessing of the Spiritual Father of us all, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. As we conduct our business today, we welcome his prudent counsel and heed his wise words.
And this meeting is extraordinary for a number of reasons beyond the presence of His All-Holiness. First, we came together for the first time in a joint meeting of the Archdiocesan Council, Philoptochos, the newly established Senators for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, and the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
I believe the inclusion of all the Archons to be of significance, even though there are many Archons in this room at this moment. The establishment of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation is a watershed moment in the support of the Mother Church by our daughter Archdiocese. The Archons are to be particularly commended for this visionary initiative that will help to secure the mission and ministries of the Mother Church for generations to come.
The upcoming visit of His All-Holiness to Ground Zero — in order to bless and open the doors of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine — reinforces the fulfillment of our Archdiocese to complete the mission to rebuild the Church lost on 9/11. This was a commitment that I made when I arrived in the United States as your Archbishop. Together with the extraordinary efforts of Father Alexander Karloutsos and the Friends of St. Nicholas — whose report we heard today from our own Michael Psaros — not only has the funding been raised to complete the Shrine, but enough has been gathered to commence its endowment upon completion.
The second priority of the three — which are truly all equal in value and importance — was to bring stability and institutional health to Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Under the leadership of the esteemed Archon George Cantonis, the School’s President, every challenge has been met and overcome by him and the exceptional team that he has assembled.
Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done with rebuilding the financial foundation of the School. Indeed, the accreditation issues have been sorted, and the institution is on the proper course of academic sustainability. However, we are now tackling the issues of financial sustainability. And this is where the Archdiocese and Leadership 100 play essential roles in filling in the gaps while the School fully recovers.
Finally, the third leg of the stool is the Pension Fund, which as you all know has faced a real crisis. Together with the representative bodies of all the affected constituencies, we have devised a plan that will give long-term stability to the plan.
Therefore, I would like to thank all of you for the support and contributions you have made to the process of healing the breaches that were found when I assumed the mantle of Archiepiscopal leadership two and a half years ago. Collectively, we have made substantive and impactful changes in the way the Church conducts its business.
I also want to note that through the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, which I chair as the Head of the Archdiocese and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we have established a new Agency for Youth and Young People, which we hope will revolutionize youth ministry and education here in the United States for all Orthodox. And one of the side benefits, of course, will be in Hellenic cultural and linguistic education.
We will have more to say about this in the coming year, which will mark the centenary of the establishment of the Sacred Archdiocese of America. This anniversary will culminate right here in New York City next summer with the consecration of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine on the Fourth of July — the quintessential American holiday.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic — of which we are not yet clear — our Archdiocese has weathered this with responsibility, compassion and reason. I thank my fellow brother Hierarchs, who have led their flocks through this very difficult terrain. And I thank the lay leadership of the Church as well for standing strong in the faith while still listening to science. I know that it has not always been easy.
Therefore, with faith in our mission, hope in our future, and love for you all, I will conclude my remarks here and await with eager expectation the reports and work of the Council today.
May the Lord bless us in all of our works and ways!
Your Eminences and Graces,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
While our work has come to a close for today, as ever, our mission continues. Tonight, we celebrate the creation of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation. Tomorrow, we spend time with His All-Holiness and celebrate at the Annual Athenagoras Human Rights Award Banquet. And on Sunday, we have the blessing of a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy together with the members of the Holy Eparchial Synod, including the installation of the new archons as well.
Our Church is enormously blessed:
blessed to have such a Patriarch;
blessed to have such dedicated clergy and laity;
and blessed to live here in America with such freedom and opportunity.
May we always be grateful for these and all of our blessings in Christ, Who is glorified with His Eternal Father and the All-Holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.