His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Archdiocesan Council Opening Remarks
May 25, 2021
New York, NY (Virtual)
Your Eminences and your Graces, beloved Hierarchs of our Archdiocese,
Rev. Protopresbyter Andreas Vithoulkas, Chancellor,
Archon John Catsimatidis, Vice President of the Archdiocesan Council,
Distinguished Members of the Archdiocesan Council,
Esteemed Senators for Orthodoxy and Hellenism,
My dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord,
Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! [and in response: Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!]
Christ is Risen! [and in response: Truly He is Risen!]
We come together today in these days of the continuing celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with abundant thanksgiving in our hearts for the blessing of a return to a measure of normalcy that we experienced this past Holy Week. This, by no means, should allow us to relax our prudence and caution regarding the pandemic. We have come through tremendous difficulties, and we want to continue to make progress for our Archdiocese and all our parishes.
As we convene in the midst of this Pentecostarion period, and right before the kick-off of Summer on the Memorial Day Weekend, I want to note the tremendous strides that are being made in our Archdiocese, and the great things that are and will be happening both in this year and the next.
First and foremost, you should all be aware that we are planning to receive His-All Holiness our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Fall, the days of October 23 to November 3. During this historic visit, His All-Holiness will preside over the inauguration of the Saint Nicholas Church and National Shrine, which will be opened for continuous usage in the Spring of 2022. As the schedule of the Patriarch’s visit becomes more secure, we will be sending it to all of you for your information.
Second, about forty days ago, the Archdiocese Benefits Committee voted to secure the future of the Pension Plan for Clergymen and Lay Employees of our Holy Archdiocese. After months of careful diligent work, the Committee voted to accept the amendments to the Pension Plan document that will enhance its governance, improve its funding, and protect the vested benefits that are due its members. I should note that the funding changes to the plan were already implemented by the Archdiocese at the beginning of this year; changes that were designed to secure long-term stability and restore confidence. With these changes in place, the process of fundraising — which has already begun — can continue in earnest. As has been announced, the Nicholas J. and Anna K. Bouras Foundation has already made a one million dollar grant to strengthen and stabilize The Pension Plan. This kind of support will doubtless encourage the commitment of others.
Third, the Advisory Committee on the Charter has been formed. As we have requested the faithful from across the Archdiocese to submit their feedback and share their ideas as to the future of our Church in America, the purpose of this Committee is to solicit and develop these suggestions on how the current Charter can be modified and improved.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate will eventually establish the “Mixed Committee” of representatives from the Mother Church and the Archdiocese to pursue the parameters for the new Charter. Of course, during this time, we continue to function as a legal entity and with the full force of the Regulations.
Fourth, as part of the improvements in accountability and transparency of the Archdiocese — and in accordance with the changes that were instituted in the Regulations in 2019 — we are implementing new auditing standards for all the Metropolises. This will assist us in our goal of accountability and transparency across the entire Archdiocese, but also in understanding more clearly the financial condition of the Greek Orthodox Church in this Nation.
Fifth, allow me to mention both the current anniversary, and the anniversary that we are looking forward to in the coming year. On March 25, we commenced our year-long celebration of the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution. The Archdiocese has proven to be an outstanding clearinghouse for the wonderful programs that are taking place throughout America. It has been quite moving to see how deeply committed our Faithful are to commemorating the Heroes of 1821 and the formation of the modern States of Greece and Cyprus. Young and old, we have witnessed tremendous involvement throughout the Church.
I want to make special mention of the two co-Vice-Chairs of the Bicentennial Committee, Jim Logothetis and George Tsunis, whose committee has been so dedicated to this two-hundred-year anniversary. This Bicentennial reminds us that next year, in 2022, we shall observe the Centennial of the founding of our Holy Archdiocese.
The one hundred years of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – formerly of North and South America – should be and must be a truly national celebration. In fact, the Centennial commences later this year, and the visit of His All-Holiness will inaugurate our celebrations.
Argyris Vassiliou will chair the Committee for the Centennial observances. I know that we will all work together to make this most significant milestone meaningful to the Faithful of our Church, as well as to the greater society.
At this point, I would like to add a word about the tremendous progress at Hellenic College Holy Cross. Under the leadership of President George Cantonis, the accreditation issues have been solved; Father George Parsenios, a distinguished alumnus who has taught at Princeton, will assume the Deanship of the Theological School; the School Chaplain, who is also the Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod, has been elected to the episcopacy by the Mother Church; and in the Fall of this year, we will return to in-person classes. Everyone at our precious Σχολή deserves our abiding gratitude for their exceptional work throughout this past year.
Finally, as we all see in the monthly reports concerning the Saint Nicholas Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center, we are completing the exterior by the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, and will have a dedicatory Thyranoixia with the Ecumenical Patriarch on November 2. As we mentioned earlier, the Shrine is expected to be completed in the Spring of 2022, and will truly be a keystone of our national centennial celebrations.
The Visit of His All-Holiness will be the occasion for another joyous moment in the life of our Archdiocese: the official inauguration and induction of the Senators for Orthodoxy and Hellenism.
And as you have been learning in these past weeks, we shall mark the establishment of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation for the Sacred See of Saint Andrew. This monumental watershed initiative of the Archons Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle will become the major worldwide enterprise to ensure the economic independence of the Mother Church of Constantinople, so that the Ecumenical Patriarchate may fulfill Her apostolic mission in perpetuity. During the Visit of His All-Holiness, there will be a special convocation of the Founding Members of the Foundation, who have made this exceptional commitment to a firm and steady financial foundation for the Holy Mother Church.
With these encouraging thoughts and this exciting news, I turn the meeting over to the Secretary of our Archdiocesan Council, Judge Bozonelis, and I express to each and every one of you my abiding thanks and appreciation for your continued service to our Holy Archdiocese.