Reprinted from the National Herald, Monday, June 5, 1989
“Not in accord with the Church and inappropriate. The presence of monk Ephraim from Mt. Athos in New York. The Patriarch advised him to get to his senses, otherwise, he will be defrocked. The role of Panaghia Glykofilousa.”
[Boston] A serious clerical problem has been created in our community and really with possible division in the Church because of activities of the monk Ephraim, the abbot of the Philotheou monastery at Mt. Athos together with the Christian brotherhood under the name “Panaghia Glykofilousa.” The above referenced individuals operated “not in accordance with the Church and inappropriately,” to a point that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would punish the monk Ephraim with defrocking. The situation is as follows:
How the Monk Ephraim First Appeared in the U.S.A.
About ten years ago the monk Ephraim started visiting the U.S.A. and Canada with the excuse, in the beginning of getting therapy on his leg, and later, to hear confessions from people with whom “he had a spiritual union.” Most of the time, he was using the trick of receiving “permission after the fact” from Archbishop Iakovos, who as a matter of fact, even under these circumstances showed understanding and love and offered him the permission.
The following actually happened: The monk Ephraim would go first to Canada after having received “permission” of Bishop Sotirios and then he would come to the U.S.A. in the Astoria, New York area, by preference. He would then appear at the Archdiocese asking a blessing to stay from the Archbishop and finally, [Archbishop Iakovos] would act as a father and give him permission, but at the same time, making sure to tell Fr. Ephraim he omitted asking for permission ahead of time. Fr. Ephraim, who is considered by some who know him as a spiritual leader, started handling confessions at their homes and many times even performed liturgy, something that would reach the level of “outside the Church activities,” although he [Fr. Ephraim] would insist that this was done “for practical reasons.”
Around the year 1984 in Astoria, NY, a “Christian brotherhood” under the name “Panaghia Glykofilousa” was created with Mr. George Dimopoulos as the head of the organization which was established in the most part by “followers” of Fr. Ephraim. This brotherhood opened a store in Astoria selling religious items and, in a way, became the home base for Fr. Ephraim. Please note that similar situations have been established in other cities in the U.S.A. and Canada.
Fr. Ephraim’s visits started becoming more frequent to a point that he would spend more time here [U.S.A.] than in his monastery at Mt. Athos. Circumstantially, we say that he avoided performing the liturgy together with other clerics of the Archdiocese, sometimes offering excuses that would reach the limits of jokes, that is, that he does not like high profiled churches and big crowds, when in reality, he was trying to avoid including the Archdiocese in his universal movement. In spite of this, the Archdiocese faced him with love and tolerance. As a matter of fact, several discussions took place between bishops, Mr. Sotirios of Toronto, Mr. Iakovos of Chicago, and Mr. Maximos of Pittsburgh to use the monastic experience of Fr. Ephraim and start monasticism in the above referenced areas, which shows that the bishops embraced this with a spirit of love.
And Wealth Resulting from Property
Recently, though, the brotherhood “Panaghia Glykofilousa” of New York was not satisfied with just a bookstore and its “Christian activity” but bought a piece of property in the Poconos of Pennsylvania for $150,000 with future plans to establish a monastery, putting in charge Fr. Ephraim. We must underline, however, that construction-wise and administration-wise, it would belong to the brotherhood who then would only make a “typical report” to the Archdiocese. This way they would be appropriate and they would be fulfilling an obligation to the Church.
And a Green Card
Consequently, the brotherhood was able to provide Fr. Ephraim with a green card of permanent residence in the U.S.A., a fact that reveals many intentions and presents a lot of doubts. Without any doubt, this has legal implications because the questions as to why and under what occupation was he given a permanent residence, especially to an abbot of a monastery who promised at the time of his “tonsure” to remain in the monastery. Naturally, in this case, there are many serious theological reasons which we will cover in the future.
A Proper Stand of the Archbishop
As soon as Archbishop Iakovos was informed of the events, he informed by telegraph Mt. Athos (Holy Mountain) and ordered Fr. Ephraim to return there. As a matter of fact, at a meeting of the two at the Archdiocese, Archbishop Iakovos made clear the slip to Fr. Ephraim and called him to face his responsibilities before this case reached a level of no return for the Church and Fr. Ephraim personally. In the meantime, the other Brotherhood of Chicago “Panaghia Glykofilousa” had placed an agreement to purchase a piece of land with intent to build a monastery there, at the cost of $450,000. They had already paid a $20,000 deposit. Information has it that the contract was cancelled after the way things turned out.
Patriarchate: Pay Attention
Last week a committee of the brotherhoods of Fr. Ephraim, there exists 10 such brotherhoods, with George Dimopoulos in charge wanting to bypass Archbishop Iakovos, went to the Ecumenical Patriarchate hoping they will receive the blessing [of the Patriarchate] so they can proceed. However, the position of the heirarchy of the Church was ecclesiastically proper offering a serious order to Fr. Ephraim “to return immediately to the monastery where he was tonsured.”
In case he refused to obey, the Patriarchate is determined to proceed with defrocking him, a fact that the Patriarch mentioned in a conversation with the committee. The Patriarch Mr. Demetrios is commonly known as a man of God, filled with forgiveness and truth, simple, wise and with a lot of love for everyone. For such a man to reach that point and speak about defrocking Fr. Ephraim means that he wanted to maintain the unity of the Omogenia # and not allow any type of “extra-religious activities.”
The Omogenia is not a Vineyard Without a Fence
Something that Fr. Ephraim and his followers did not take into account is that the Church and the Omogenia* has ecclesiastical limits. They are not a vineyard without a fence “activities exceeding the limits” unless they want to be equated with Peters, Paissiuses, Pangratioses, Panteleimones, and all the remaining “high-handed” bandits of the purely non-existent….
* Omogenia=native-born or fellow Greeks
NOTE: The Panagia Glykofilousa Brotherhood shut down in the early-2000s. Mr. Photios “the Cretan” rented a Uhaul truck, loaded it with all the bookstore’s books, and drove them up to St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, where he donated them. The Abbot, Geronda Joseph, let his monks have first pick, then he took some to sell in the bookstore, and donated the rest of them to the Apostle Paul Bookstore in Toronto, Canada (via Mr. Tzimi).