Moderators' Note: The following is a Special Article (Oct. 10, 2013) to the National Herald by Columnist Theodore Kalmoukos and the TNH staff. For those with subscriptions to the Herald the original online article may be viewed here.
Our Greek readers may view the original article here.
NEW YORK – Rev. Anastasios Gounaris, Presiding Priest of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of New York, sent a scathing e-mail to Parish Council President Dean Poll, wishing him “to lose everything and to end up homeless on the streets of New York,” TNH has learned.
Poll is a prominent Greek-American businessman and the owner of the famous Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. He was appointed President of the Parish Council a few months ago by Archbishop Demetrios.
Gounaris’ email followed Poll’s TNH interview last month, in which he cited problems at the Cathedral, including dwindling attendance for church services, a mounting $250,000 deficit resulting from a $1.9 million annual budget, a large chunk of which is more than $200,000 toward the choir – which includes expenses to hire professional singers, many of which are not Orthodox, nor even Christian.
He also had spoken about the settlement of a lawsuit that the sexton’s family had brought against the Cathedral for unpaid overtime, but did not disclose the amount. The sexton continues to work at the Cathedral.
Though he did not directly link the low turnout of congregants to problems involving the Cathedral Dean and Gounaris, Poll acknowledged his relationship with Gounaris has been strained at times.
TNH has learned that Demetrios and the Archdiocesan Chancellor Bishop Andonios of Phasiane are aware of Gounaris’ polemic email to Poll. Sources close to the Archbishop’s office told TNH that Demetrios is extremely upset with Gounaris but is not doing anything about it because he does not want it to appear as if selecting Gounaris to lead the Cathedral had been a mistake in the first place.
Poll confirmed to TNH that he had in fact received the e-mail, but declined to comment. Gounaris declined to comment as well. TNH has also learned that the entire Parish Council is preparing to request to Demetrios that he remove Gounaris from the Cathedral.
Known for exhibiting flamboyant if not outright eccentric behavior, Gounaris in his Oct. 6 service spoke from the pulpit the praises of Metropolitan Augoustinos Katiotis of Florina, Greece, who died in 2010. Kantiotis was known in Greece and beyond for his extreme militant fundamentalism and extremism to the point that he had interrupted the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch from the Divine Liturgy and the Sacred Services because of the engagement of the Orthodox Church in Theological Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. Kantiotis was against women’s beauty pageants in Greece, and he saw “enemies” of Orthodoxy virtually everywhere.
Gounaris not only read Kantiotis’ Characteristics of an Orthodox Priest, he also published it in the Cathedrals bulletin and he also e-mailed to many parishioners, referring to Kantiotis as a “defender of traditional Orthodox beliefs.”
Excerpts from a “loose translation” that Gounaris wrote of Kantiotis’ sermon follow:
“We must confess the bitter truth: the faithful who struggle to maintain Orthodoxy are few. The vast majority have gradually fallen away from the Orthodox Faith.
“The most important characteristic for the bishop or the priest is militancy, outspokenness. As the Apostle Paul said: “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). If you see a priest, theologian, metropolitan, or archbishop who isn’t persecuted and is loved and honored by all, then the words of Christ – “woe to you when everyone speaks well of you” (Luke 6:26) – apply, and you know that he is not on the right path. If he is to be considered Orthodox, he must confront the coming tide, the blizzard that threatens to destroy the world…For the devil is behind the cowardly and seductive arguments with which they attempt to cool the zeal of the handful who suffer and are oppressed for our Christian faith…
“I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know what persecutions that we, the hierarchs … will endure. I don’t know to which Holy Mountain we will flee.
“I do know one thing, that whatever happens – even if the stars fall from the sky and the rivers run dry and the world is turned upside down – I firmly believe that Orthodoxy will prevail in the end. When the moment of the persecution of our Orthodox Faith arrives, we have our plan – as does every person of faith. And I expect all of you to disseminate all that I have told you here today so that one becomes two, two become four, four become eight … and a great wave will wash over the world, bringing Orthodox Christianity to all.”