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GREEK ORTHODOX FAITHFUL ASK COURTS TO DIRECT ARCHDIOCESE

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  • Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
    GREEK ORTHODOX FAITHFUL ASK COURTS TO DIRECT ARCHDIOCESE TO ADHERE TO CHURCH RULES New York, Feb. 3 – A broad-based group of Greek Orthodox faithful filed
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2004
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      GREEK ORTHODOX FAITHFUL ASK COURTS TO DIRECT ARCHDIOCESE TO ADHERE
      TO CHURCH RULES

      New York, Feb. 3 – A broad-based group of Greek Orthodox
      faithful filed legal papers today in New York Supreme Court
      requesting an interpretation of language in the governing document of
      the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese known as the "Charter." In effect, the
      legal action asks the court to instruct the Archdiocese, which is a
      part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to abide by its own rules and
      cease violating provisions of its existing charter.

      The legal action is being underwritten by many Greek
      Orthodox faithful through a special fund established by Orthodox
      Christian Laity (OCL), an independent group of concerned Eastern
      Orthodox lay and clergy. Members of the Church filing the action,
      some of whom are former members of the Archdiocesan Council and
      Executive Committee, are doing so for the benefit of thousands of
      members of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States who have
      expressed grave concern about recent and questionable governance
      actions taken by the Church's Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey, and
      the Archdiocese based in New York.

      Mr. Evan A. Chriss, one plaintiff and a former long-term
      member of the Archdiocesan Council and its Executive Committee, said
      the legal action was justified, "Because for the past three years,
      the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the
      Patriarchate in Istanbul have repeatedly and arbitrarily disregarded
      the regulations and traditions governing the Archdiocese to the
      detriment of the church and its members. It is unfortunate but
      necessary that this legal action be taken to correct this situation
      and restore order and stability to the Church."

      There have been four Charters since the founding of the
      Greek Orthodox Church in the United States in 1922. Each Charter was
      approved by a Clergy-Laity Congress, the Church's legislative body in
      this country, and by the Patriarchate. The most-recent charter, known
      as the 1977 Charter, and the one still binding on the Church was
      approved by a Congress in 1978. That Charter clearly contemplates
      that modifications or changes can be made to it only with approval of
      a Clergy-Laity Congress.

      However, in mid-2001 the Patriarchate and Archdiocese
      internally agreed to a new charter but didn't make it public until
      late that year. Despite the announced intention of the Archdiocese
      that the proposed charter was final and not to be on the agenda of
      the 2002 Clergy-Laity Congress, it was placed on the agenda only
      after massive pressure brought by concerned faithful from across the
      United States. Instead of approving the proposed Charter, the more
      than 800 clergy and laity delegates of the Congress overwhelmingly
      adopted some 30 amendments to make the Charter acceptable to the
      delegates assembled. The Patriarchate disregarded the amendments and
      the expressed concerns of the Congress and unilaterally issued a 2003
      Charter, which is, in substance, a duplicate of the one rejected in
      2002. The Patriarchate and Archdiocese are imposing that 2003 Charter
      without approval of a Congress.

      It is because of those actions that the members filing
      the legal papers have asked the court in what is called
      a "declaratory relief" action to decide whether Article XXIV of the
      1977 Charter means what it says: "The charter herein may be revised
      upon the request of the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress as the
      need therefore arises. Revisions thereto shall be submitted to the
      Ecumenical Patriarchate for approval and ratification."

      Regretfully, the legal action has been brought after the
      Archdiocese has ignored requests from concerned members not to
      implement the 2003 Charter unless and until the provisions of the
      1977 Charter have been complied with. Since imposition of the 2003
      Charter, parishes and individual church members have demanded that
      the entire Charter question be placed on the agenda of the upcoming
      Clergy-Laity Congress to be convened this July in New York City. Not
      only has the Archdiocese ignored these requests but also repeated
      attempts by OCL members and other concerned Greek Orthodox to meet
      with the Archbishop were refused as were repeated verbal and written
      pleas for transparency and adherence to established Archdiocesan
      procedures.

      The governance of the Eastern Orthodox Church is
      conciliar where hierarchy, clergy and laity collaborate in good faith
      and with mutual respect. The 2003 Charter seriously erodes that
      historic concept in the United States and severely diminishes the
      voice and participation of clergy and laity in church governance. It
      is this radical departure that has troubled Greek Orthodox around the
      country, especially as their role has been so vital to the Church's
      life and growth in America. They are further concerned as they are
      confronted with demands by the Archdiocese for sharp increases in
      monetary support from local parishes because of the Archdiocese's
      serious and increasing debt.

      George Matsoukas, Executive Director of the Orthodox Christian Laity,
      urges concerned members of the Church to indicate their approval of
      the action taken by this group of Greek Orthodox by expressing their
      support in letters and emails to OCL as well as through donations to
      the OCL Legal Fund. Please note the new mailing address: PO Box
      6954, West Palm Beach, Florida, 33405-6954. The OCL toll free number
      is 1-877-585-0245 and the fax number is 1-561-547- 9362. Matsoukas
      also asks for help in disseminating the press release by sending
      copies to one's friends and colleagues as well as forwarding email
      addresses of fellow Orthodox to ocladm@... so that the OCL
      database can be expanded for future updates.

      # # #

      THE LEGAL PAPERS FILED ARE ONLINE (AFTER THE PRESS RELEASE)

      http://www.orthodoxnews.netfirms.com/105/GREEK%20ORTHODOX%
      20FAITHFUL.htm
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