Orphangate resolved?

The two boys who need a home

The two boys who need a home

Well, the New York-Constantinople brouhaha seems resolved — sort of (see: Abp. Demetrios on the way out?). You still wonder though why a hierarch wrote of Abp. Demetrios in terms we could charitably call disparaging over what should have been an easily resolvable dispute. It’s all a misunderstanding Constantinople assures us, even though it took a synodal meeting to reach this conclusion.

Metropolitan Theoliptos, the hierarch who wrote the screed, allegedly went rogue. If so, then shouldn’t his disparagement of Abp. Demetrios (“conscienceless shepherd”) require a public apology? After all, if you besmirch a man in public, you owe him an apology in public.

What we see instead is reassurance that the Ecumenical Patriarch supports Abp. Demetrios alongside the statement that the majority of the synod did not want to send out the letter of support. Yet even the EP’s support is qualified. He says that American Archons (lay members who support the Ecumencial Patriarchate) made him do it. So, no apology, the statement that Abp. Demetrios does not have the support of the synod, and the admission that the EP was “pressured” by some Archons to offer the support that he did. Tepid reassurance all around.

What does it indicate? Relations between New York and Constantinople are rockier than anyone is letting on.

Oh yes, the release mentioned that Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lampryniadis, the Constantinopolitan legate who delivered the untimely speech at Holy Cross Seminary last year, was also in attendance. Why this was reported is anyone’s guess.


From the National Herald

By Theodore Kalmoukos

His All Holiness Was Reportedly Pressured By U.S. Lay Leaders

BOSTON – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew declared his complete support for Archbishop Demetrios of America regarding the way he handled the case of two orphans of Greek heritage from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The children’s uncle had requested that they be admitted to St. Basil’s Academy.

Archbishop Demetrios’ refusal prompted Metropolitan Theoliptos of Iconium of the Ecumenical Pariarchate to address a letter to The National Herald castigating Archbishop Demetrios.

The Patriarchate’s press release reads as follows:

It is announced that the letter written by His Eminence Metropolitan Theoleptos of Iconium to the newspaper in America, The National Herald, was a result of the author’s own personal decision and initiative.  This letter was sent without the knowledge of the Mother Church and its content does not reflect the views held by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The sentiments of appreciation and love of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios were expressed by His All Holiness repeatedly during his official visit to the United States this past autumn, which was also intended to honor the conclusion of His Eminence’s 10th year of fruitful ministry to the Archdiocese of America.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 18th of January 2010

From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod.

Patriarch Bartholomew issued the above announcement approximately ten days after the parent publication of The National Herald, Ethnikos Kyrix, broke the story of the orphans in its Greek edition. According to reliable sources of The National Herald, Patriarch Bartholomew was pressured by members of Archdiocesan Council to publicly support Archbishop Demetrios.

On Monday, the Patriarch called an unofficial meeting of hierarchs who reside in Turkey to deal with the issue, at which the following hierarchs were present: Evangelos of Perga, Konstantinos of Derkon, Demetrios of Sebasteia, Chrysostomos of Myra, Ireneos of Myriofitos and Peristasis.

Also present was the chief secretary Archimandrite Elpidoforos Lampryniadis.

The majority of the hierarchs did not want to issue such an announcement, but Patriarch Bartholomew – who also praised Metropolitan Theoliptos during the meeting – insisted, saying that he had been pressured by prominent laymen from the Archdiocese of America.

The National Herald reported the drama of the twin brothers, Kostakis and Demetris, in last week’s edition The boys were born to a Greek father and a Congolese mother. They lost their father (Stylianos Sporidis) in 2002 and their mother is terminally ill with cancer.

Mr. John Sporidis, the brother of the twins’ deceased father who resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is retired, legally blind and advanced in age.

He called on St. Basil’s Academy as well as the Archdiocese of America with a request for help to save the orphaned twin boys and help them find shelter.


  1. George Michalopulos :

    This whole brouhaha has been unfortunate on so many levels. Ultimately, it besepaks a complete lack of integrity on the part of the Phanar. Among them:

    1. +Theoliptos publicly slandered +Demetrius, as such he owes him a public apology (as you stated).

    2. Clearly +Theoliptos is not a “rogue” as no action was taken against him and in fact, was praised at this meeting.

    3. This shows that the Phanar is quite literally the gang that couldn’t shoot straight; they want it both ways and can’t bring themselves to rectify a situation.

    4. They act impulsively. There’s no way +Theoliptos would have written this letter and had it published openly without the support of the Phanar. It just blew up in their faces.

    5. +Bartholomew has no real power and very little remaining influence. Rich, powerful laymen can force him to back down. Not only does he look weak to the Americans, he looks weak to his own holy synod. Look for more connivance against him, after all, if one bishop was repudiated, then any of them can be as well. (Was Lambrianides the “Deep Throat” who leaked this to The National Herald?) The EP has already lost the respect of the American flock, now he’s in danger of losing the loyalty of the the rest of the Phanar.

    6. Ain’t no way now he’s going to get any American real estate.

    7. All this couldn’t have happened at a worse time for him. The EP’s getting ready to go to Moscow and he’s shown that he can be rolled by prominent laymen. Worse, he’s shown that he won’t go to bat for an embattled bishop (+Theoliptos). He’s going to look weak to +Kirill, hence, he’s in no position to make demands (not that he ever was). Indeed, he’ll probably have to sit and take whatever the Russians dish out to him.

    What about the GOA? Although they clearly won in the sense of staving off the expulsion of the present archbishop, things aren’t necessarily peachy-keen for them either:

    8. The GOA and its lay supporters have made a tactical blunder as well in that they can’t now present themselves as being the “premier eparchy” of the EP.

    9. Although it was the Phanar that first blundered, the original question still remains: were +Theoliptos’ harsh accusations against +Demetrius and the GOA correct? The answer regrettably, remains “yes.” Consider: The GOA moved heaven and earth to quietly raise money to pay off the victims of priestly pederasty; it appears that no similar efforts were made for these boys. (To those who raise the objection that these boys are not Americans, I say, the GOA could have used its good graces with the Greek gov’t to step in and care for these unfortunates. After all, the Greek gov’t owes the GOA big-time for all the efforts it extends in the halls of Congress on behalf of Greece.) And let’s not forget that +Demetrius’ original letter was ham-handed.

    10. All of the above erodes the moral authority of the GOA. It is doubtful that the other bishops of the erstwhile Episcopal Assembly are going to want to forever bask in the glow of the GOA primate (whoever he is). After all, if it weren’t for the intercessions of some prominent laymen, +Demetrius would have lost his job. No bishop is going to view the GOA primate (or any GOA primate) as a moral colossus in these circumstances. Simply put, his job is contingent on a foreigner and how much spine he has on any given day(don’t forget: +Spyridon lost his job 11 years ago because the EP buckled under similar pressure).

    11. There appears to be a growing sense of sobriety in the upper echelons of the GOA’s laity as well. The real-estate grab was a wake-up call, the request for Turkish citizenship for American bishops was another. To my knowledge, no mention of either of these idiocies was made in the GOA parishes. And now the attempted railroading of +Demetrius. Eventually a critical mass of Greek-American laymen will start talking openly about severance of ties with Istanbul.

    12. Ultimately, it all may be for naught. Because of this and other imbroglios, the center of gravity in the Orthodox world has now shifted decisively to Moscow. It will be hard for the GOA to now argue its standing within American Orthodoxy, kinda like pushing on a string. It’s weird, but all the GOA and EP have going for them is publicity, and they need each other in order to bolster their respective standings. This was clearly evident during the recent river boat tour: the EP would not have been invited to the seats of power in the US had it not been for the supposed importance of the Greek-American vote; conversely, prominent Greek-Americans would have not been able to be invited to high-faluting events had they not been high-rollers who support the EP. There’s no way now that the GOA can look other American Orthodox in the eye and play the Constantinople card, the jig is up.

    13. In the interim, the MP’s influence in America will grow. It not only has two eparchies (ROCOR and MP parishes), but the OCA is aligning itself even closer with Moscow. The Bulgarian and Serbian eparchies in America will no doubt also be drawn closer into Moscow’s orbit. (How about ACROD and the Uke’s? I don’t know). I’m going to go out on a limb here: I would not be surprised if even the Ephraimite monasteries break their ties with the GOA as well and move place themselves under the MP. Say what you will about them, but almost all the energy in the GOA is there.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    P.S. regarding point #11: the laymen within the GOA displayed more sobriety in this manner as well: they conveyed their displeasure privately to the Phanar and probably through the correct channels (I guess). This is in stark contrast to the letter to the editor which caused this whole thing to erupt in the first place, so for that matter, they deserve kudos.

  3. George, I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis. I would like to add that it is also pretty evident now that the entire Green Patriarch project has bombed.

    As for Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, if you missed him on his last Omogenia before Orthodoxy tour and its stop in Boston, readers will be pleased to know he is coming back for an encore performance at SVS during its Hellenism and Orthodoxy Symposium.


    Honestly, I don’t how all this can work out without some type of major change of perspective on one side or the other.

    Of course if you hand out notecards to control questions anything is possible I guess…..

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, I’m really curious as to what both men will say. Especially in light of the recent missteps.

    • George, I am really curious too what will be said especially since this event is in a decidely American venue. You cannot pull the usual Greek Shenanigans. Also consider the list of participants may be incomplete and some gifted pastors like Archbishop Hilarion may participate. Now a free an open discussion between Archbishop Hilarion and Archbishop Demetrios would be one of the most positive events in recent memory. It could even be a game changer for the American Church.

      We should all pray for the best. However as you well know George, never underestimate the GOA/Phanar capacity to self-destruct and blow it.

  5. I was surprised that “Orphangate” occurred at all. The GOA has access to people who are connected in various ways. A quiet request could have been made to the U.S. Government (through either a member of Congress or directly to the Secretary of State) to grant humanitarian parole to the boys. You would think that such a request would have been reviewed sympathetically if not outright granted (see, e.g., the recent arrival of Haitian orphans through this legal mechanism), with all the fawning over Secretary Clinton and other liberal politicians over the years. And New York is home to the most prominent members of the immigration bar; no lack of resources there, either.

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