Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bishop met victim

Bishop Elias Met Alleged Sex Abuse Victim
Author: Theodore Kalmoukos

Date Published: 2/24/2011

Publication: The National Herald online (USA)

Bishop Elias met on Feb. 18 with an alleged victim of sexual misconduct of Metropolitan Paisios. The man, identified only by the initials AG, reportedly recalled, in detail, what he said was sexual abuse beginning when he was 11 years old. Costas Bej/TNH

Bishop Elias of Philomelion, Interim Abbot at the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, N.Y., met on Feb. 18 with an alleged victim of sexual misconduct of the former Abbot, Metropolitan Paisios. The man, identified only by the initials A.G., reportedly recalled, in detail, what he said was sexual abuse beginning when he was 11 years old. The man brought his attorney, Irwin M. Zalkin, while the Monastery’s attorney George Tsougarakis, was also present. Bishop Elias, in an interview with The National Herald, verified that he met with the alleged victim, but declined to comment on what was said. He said, “There are victims and when someone is a victim, he suffers, and on that pain we as clergy and spiritual fathers should show the necessary sensitivity.” A letter written by Zalkin charging that Paisios had sexually abused their client was sent to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the members of the Holy Synod by The Zalkin Law Firm New York on Jan. 10, which also claimed that Church officials did nothing to prevent alleged sexual misconduct or help the victims. “This letter is written on behalf of Andrew G., survivor of repeated acts of sexual abuse inflicted by your brother and servant Metropolitan Paisios Loulourgas,” it said.

It also added that: “Andrew has already shared the details of the abuse in a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Andrew also met with the Patriarchal Exarchy team headed by Metropolitan Nikitas that was sent to New York to investigate allegations against Metropolitan Paisios.” It further stated that, “As you must be aware, the acts inflicted upon Andrew resulted in substantial damage,” and it said that, “Andrew must be provided a remedy for what he endured,” without stipulating what was being sought, although similar cases have cost the Church considerable monies. Zalkin told the Patriarch and his Synod that his office specializes in sex abuse cases. “Our office has substantial experience representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including people abused by clergymen. In this case, our preliminary investigation has revealed allegations that Metropolitan Paisios routinely crossed the physical boundaries of others and inflicted great harm upon the faithful of all ages and genders.”

The letter alleged that while directives have been given for the reorganization of the Monastery by the Patriarchate, nothing had been done about Paisios’ alleged victims. “Press reports indicate that Ecumenical Patriarch ordered Metropolitan Paisios to leave the United States. It has also been reported that the Patriarchate is planning to reorganize the Monastery in Astoria and its Dependencies in the U.S. administratively, financially and legally. Yet nothing has been done to respond to the human suffering. It is fair to infer from these reports that the Church to date has been more worried about the possibility of scandal than responding to survivors and their families.”

The National Herald has learned that Zalkin made clear to Bishop Elias that he is determined to press the case. There are at least two more alleged victims who are getting ready to join in suits against Paisios, the Monastery and the Patriarchate, and New York magazine is reportedly preparing an extensive article on the Chrysovalantou monastery and Paisios. Bishop Elias told TNH that, “I cannot talk yet because the issue is in its process and it is not right to say anything now.” Asked if the meeting was at his initiative or if he was following Patriarch Bartholomew’s directive, he said, “These are our inner things” and he added that, “We are trying to help the situation. When we finish you will be informed.”

When he was told that people have the right to know, Bishop Elias said, “I do not want to comment on issues that are in progress in order to avoid misunderstandings. These are sensitive issues.” He reminded that he is the interim abbot “and I always respect my superiors.” Bishop Elias also said that, “We are trying to protect the Church and the sensitivity of all those involved.”

The decisions that were made at the special meeting of the Legal Religious Corporation of the Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, N.Y. on January 21 to put new leadership in place at the scandal-scarred institution do not comply with the laws of the State of New York. Also, the First Central Savings Bank in Astoria where the monastery’s accounts are held has not released the funds from the frozen accounts because the new corporation that was put in place during the special meeting is not recognized, so the monastery cannot pay its financial obligations towards its vendors and personnel. Bishop Elias said in response to that, “We are going step-by-step and we want the cooperation of everyone,” and he added that, “I think we are on the right track and we are waiting to finish all the process that the law requires.” As to why the monies in the monastery’s accounts haven’t been released, he said, “Because we have not finished our job.” Asked about what was discussed and agreed on in a recent meeting he had with Bishop Vikentios of Apameia, Bishop Elias said, “We agreed that we want to resolve the problems with the best possible way for the Church and the Monastery for which Bishop Vikentios has worked.” As to why it took three months for the two to get together, Bishop Elias said, “It was also in the development of things.” As to who is Chairman of the Legal Corporation of the Monastery he said, “I am the interim abbot and that has a meaning from an ecclesiastical view point. Also to the Corporation and all the papers it has also a significance and at this time we are trying to resolve the issue and do whatever the law requires, we are on the process.” In terms of the finances he said, “I think we can meet our obligations. People continue to support the work of the monastery.”

The National Herald has learned that Bishop Vikentios met for more than three hours on Feb. 10 with Bishop Elias. It was the first meeting between the two hierarchs since Vikentios, who, along with Metropolitan Paisios, was removed as one of the monastery’s leaders, and it was done at Bishop Elias’ initiative. In a telephone conversation with Bishop Vikentios, he verified the meeting with Bishop Elias but said, “I will not make any comment about the meeting at this time.”

Bishop Elias in a letter to the Patriarchate explained that the proxies of representation that were given by Metropolitan Theoliptos of Ikonioum and the former Abbot Paisios were invalid and that Metropolitan Theoliptos’ resignation as Chairman of the Legal Corporation has complicated the issue even more. Bishop Elias also informed the Patriarch that the State of New York recognizes as valid the previous Corporation, which consisted of Metropolitan Theoliptos as Chairman, Paisios and Vikentios. He also stated in his letter that the lawyers who had come to the Special Meeting of Jan. 21 to advise the board did not specialize in Religious Corporation Laws. It was said in the Synodal meeting that the only way to change the Legal Corporation of the Monastery was for the three hierarchs - Theoliptos, Paisios and Vikentios - to hold a meeting and decide accordingly. TNH reported on Jan. 27 that Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles chaired the meeting, representing by proxy the corporate President, Metropolitan Theoliptos of Iconium of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. Bishop Elias represented Paisios by proxy.

Five attorneys for the monastery were present. Bishop Vikentios refused to attend because his attorney George Razis was barred from entering. The names of those elected members of St. Irene’s new Corporation which now has been declared invalid were: Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles; Dr. Anthony Limberakis, Commander of the Order of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; attorney Nick Matthews, son of Rev. Constantine Matthews from the Annunciation parish in Stamford Connecticut; and Presbyetera Anthi Katsoulis, whose husband was killed in a car crash a few years ago in Cyprus.

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