FROM LATEST E-MAIL CORRESPONDENCE TO THE GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF GREATER SALT LAKE:
His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah has directed that the attached original correspondence he received from Parish Council President, Dimitri Tsagaris, be sent to the parish via e-mail.
October 24, 2012 SENT VIA OVERNIGHT MAIL
His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver
4550 East Alameda Avenue
Denver, CO 80246-1208
Again thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you in your office on Thursday September the 27th, 2012, to discuss many issues facing our beloved community.
As I mentioned in my letter to you, the attached summary report of our meeting was given to the Parish Council on Monday Oct 1, 2012. Besides our conversation, as reflected in the summary report, I also apprised you and presented to you written documentation and audio materials about two very sensitive issues: a) the issue ofthe Icon, and, b) the necessity for Fr. Michael Kouremetis' immediate reassignment.
On the issue of the Icon:
I provided to you a letter that I found in one of our employee's personnel file, Mr. Bob (George) Marcooles, along with his audio and written transcripts that provided explanation about the letter that was written on official Church stationery dated October 25, 2010, in which Bob signed the following statement:
"I, Bob Marcooles am writing this letter freely and I verify that I did not spill any oil on the miraculous Icon of Christ the Archpriest. This is truly a miracle from God."
Sincerely, Bob MarcoolesAs I explained to you, at our meeting, upon discovery of the above-mentioned letter, I informed the Executive Committee about the existence of such letter, and the allegations, (as many of our community members heard over the last couple of years), that Bob did not compose such a letter. He did, however, sign such letter under pressure and fear. Most importantly, due to the sensitive issue regarding the icon, it was decided that I would proceed and contact Mr. Marcooles and give him the opportunity, if he wished, to explain the letter.
After my meeting with Bob, in the presence of Mr. Angelides, an attorney and retired military officer, who took the minutes of the interview, and also created the summary transcript of the audio tape, it became apparent to me that Bob was not the writer of the signed document, and that Bob was also directed by Fr. Michael not to discuss the accidental oil spill while he was filling the oil lamp hanging above the Icon.
Under these circumstances, I feel that we are dealing with a very serious issue, and most importantly with a very sensitive issue, of a premature declaration of a miracle, followed by actions of a cover-up.
I, along with the Executive Committee of our Parish Council, felt it was our duty and responsibility for you to know the details before the issue and documentation is to be discussed with Fr. Michael and Bob in the Parish Council and consequently with the community.
I also expressed to you my true struggle and concern for two reasons.
- First, our Community and Church cannot afford such damaging controversy and it is vital for you to address this sensitive issue in a timely manner.
- Second, because Fr. Michael was not present to explain and defend himself, I was planning to immediately provide him with the same materials I provided you with and or meet with all involved.
I tried to communicate with you via telephone on Friday and Saturday, October 19th and 20th, and left messages with your secretary and on your answering machine, (before we received your latest letter dated October 17, 2012), in order to follow up with our September 27th 2012 meeting. I will keep trying to verbally communicate with you.
We received your two letters, dated October 1st and 17th, with regard to the icon. For this we thank you. I also wish to tell you that those letters raised more questions, rather than providing answers, about this sensitive issue.
I mentioned to you that I have personally seen members of our parish as well as other Christians kneel in front of the icon as we all often do with icons. The issue, as we discussed at the meeting, is not whether people find relief when they pray to an icon or when they ask from Panagia or other Saints of our Church for their help with the various issues that they face, concerning health, career or well-being. We, as faithful Orthodox Christians, experience these kinds ofMiracles, Thavmata constantly in our daily lives. The real question that we face here is the circumstances under which the oil appeared on the icon of Christ the Archpriest at Prophet Elias. Also, the subsequent actions of Fr. Michael to silence Bob Marcooles to talk about the accidental spillage of oil, while he was filling the oil lamp overhanging directly over the icon, on his hands and the surrounding area by directing him to not talk about it. In addition, by pressuring Bob to sign the letter dictated by Fr. Michael and typed by his secretary verifying that this is "a true miracle from God." For these serious reasons I wanted to meet fust with you in private, before informing anyone else including Fr. Michael and the Parish Council at large.
It was my oversight not to mention at our meeting that Bob is going through emotionally hard times because of what has transpired. I am concerned and do feel for him as well.
On the importance of Fr. Michael Kouremetis' immediate reassignment:
I made it clear that Father Michael's liturgical and social abilities are superb and I admire him. However, I stated to you that there is another side of his personality and actions that have resulted in his inability to be effective as a priest in our community. He has, as well, put you personally in a difficult situation by repeating that he is following your directives (sometimes for trivial things). Most importantly, he has simply failed to provide the example of a good spiritual shepherd to the overwhelming majority of this community.
We have deep concerns that Father Michael has abdicated his role of community healer; he is now considered to be a highly divisive force. We are equally concerned that Fr. Michael has lost the trust of the larger Salt Lake City Greek Orthodox Community and is no longer an effective shepherd of our parish and Parish Council.
I explained to you that I hear, time after time, from many parishioners, and also from our own Executive Committee and Parish Council members that this community will not in any way move forward spiritually, fmancially or otherwise while Fr. Michael is among our clergy.
I provided you with a list of concerns and reasoning as to why Fr. Michael should be peacefully reassigned by the end of the year to another community because of performance and credibility issues. I also mentioned that this Parish Council does not wish to place itself, Your Eminence, and most importantly our parishioners, in a UPR fight or in a circus-like situation in front of a Parish Assembly. I do not view it as a UPR or Metropolis and Archdiocese conflict issue. I see this transfer as a required, necessary and prudent administrative action that will move our community forward. Fr. Michael announced from the pulpit on Sunday October 7th that the people who do not believe in miracles have "black souls" and also on October 14th Fr. Michael announced the two year anniversary of the miracle and mentioned that "there are among us people that do not believe in miracles and are antagonists of the Church". Statements like those do not move the community and Church forward.
Thank you for listening and also sharing your personal thoughts with me; I understood that this is an issue known to you from other sources, and that you will look into it.
In order for this community to move forward, the Parish Council has no other option but to discuss, among other employee personnel issues, Fr. Michael's issue as well, and to take the appropriate action.
In closing, I humbly and respectfully request that, this time, you take appropriate actions and allow this community to move forward and to finally heal. You have a capable Parish Council to assist you, and most importantly a community that is willing and determined to do so. Give us a chance. There are past mistakes and hard feelings across the board, however as we discussed, leaders have no luxury to take things personally. You have the power and the authority to let us move forward. The good of our community, our Church, our children and the legacy we leave to our future generation of leaders is at stake here.
In His Name and Service,
2012 Parish Council President