NOTE: Although Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos is not a part of Geronda Ephraim’s family here in America, there are many overlaps between the two lineages. Fr. Panteleimon claimed that he was a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast: “Fr. Panteleimon was the last and youngest disciple of the Blessed Elder Joseph the Cave Dweller and it was with Fr. Joseph’s blessings that Fr. Panteleimon undertook the establishment of a monastic community in the United States.” Also, several of the letters published in Monastic Wisdom were written to him, as were all the letters that were published in Geronda Arsenios’ biography.
Brief chronology of Fr. Panteleimon’s relationship with Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his disciples
• 1956: When Fr. Panteleimon was 21-years-old, he met Elder Joseph in 1956 and the newly tonsured rassaphore monk stayed with the Elder for 2 weeks at New Skete. From that point on, Fr. Panteleimon started calling himself a disciple of Elder Joseph (before visiting the Elder, he was a disciple of the abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery, Mt Athos, where he was tonsured). It is uncertain if the fathers at New Skete knew that Fr. Panteleimon was under the authority of the abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery and thus technically stealing a monk. The fathers say that Elder Joseph encouraged Fr. Panteleimon to leave the Holy Mountain.
• 1958: Fr. Panteleimon returned to the USA, a 22-year-old self-made “elder,” a new “disciple” of the Elder Joseph, and with the title of a monk and a new name “Fr. Panteleimon.” It is also believed Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, dean of Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, MA, ordained him to the diaconate.
• 1958: During this period Fr. Panteleimon received a letter from the Elder Joseph. The Elder Joseph exhorted him in this letter to pursue the virtue of purity. He talks about purity more than once and tries also to encourage the young man to love God first in his life. Only 3 of Elder Joseph’s monks started monasteries (Frs. Haralambos, Ephraim, and Joseph the Younger); these three monks lived with Elder Joseph for many years and were under blind obedience to him. What makes Fr. Panteleimon somewhat unique is the fact that he started a monastery, but was only a disciple of Fr. Joseph via having visited for two weeks, not as the others who lived with him for many years. Fr. Panteleimon states that Elder Joseph gave him a blessing to start a monastery.
• 1959: Fr. Panteleimon wrote a letter to Elder Joseph informing him on his intention to return. Elder Joseph replied in April and told him not to come to Mount Athos. The Elder Joseph reposed on the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 28/15, 1959.
• 1961: Fr. Panteleimon visits the Holy Mountain, and since the Pateras family from Athens was a benefactor to the fathers of New Skete, Fr. Panteleimon was directed by those fathers to extend their gratefulness to this family, and thus he became associated with them. (Note this is the same family that would later be involved in the Christine H. Coryell scandal.)
• 1962: Richard Stockton of Harvard University and former professor of Holy Cross Seminary was convinced by Panteleimon to purchase a house in Jamaica Plain, MA. The house became Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The young monk, Panteleimon, in his 20s, calling himself an Elder, found that people had difficulties being obedient to him who had never spent even one year under obedience himself.
• 1963: During a visit to the Holy Mountain, Fr. Panteleimon was tonsured a great-schema monk at New Skete by Elder Arsenios, the co-struggler of the Elder Joseph. The Church however, ordains that a man should remain a novice for three years of testing before he is tonsured into the Great Schema. The Fathers on the Holy Mountain made use of economia in this case since they tonsured someone they really did not know, except for the fact that he was a disciple of the Elder Joseph by correspondence.
• 1964: Around this time, the young 29-year-old monk was ordained a priest. It is said that the millionaire abbess, Mother Maria Pateras, paid Metropolitan Vasilios of the Jerusalem Patriarchate—one one of the many bishops of the Jerusalem Patriarchate who lived with a concubine—to ordain Fr. Panteleimon a priest.
• 1965: Up until 1965, Holy Transfiguration Monastery was under the Greek Archdiocese. It would most likely have stayed that way for years to come had not the fathers of the Holy Mountain strongly recommended that the monastery be taken to the Russian Church Abroad, under the confessing bishops of that Church. The young “elder” did not have the spiritual discernment to make this move on his own. It was only when they, the monks of New Skete and St. Paul’s Monastery told him that if he did not leave the Greek Archdiocese, they would sever whatever connection they had with him.
• 1967: Fr. Panteleimon was caught and arrested for smuggling while attempting to return from a visit to Greece. He was incarcerated and the abbess, Maria Pateras, used her influence to have him transferred to her home under house arrest. Shortly afterwards, he obtained his passport and Abbess Maria immediately bought him a ticket for the next plane to Boston.
• It should be noted that almost all the relics that are at Holy Transfiguration Monastery have been smuggled out of Greece. These relics and reliquaries came from the Holy Mountain and more specifically from the monastery of St. Panteleimon. The Russian monks there at that time, when they understood that Fr. Panteleimon was in the Russian Church Abroad, gave him many relics to smuggle from the Holy Mountain and smuggle out of Greece to America.
• Geronda Ephraim mentions in a cassette homily On the Old and New Calendar that he had visited Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos in Boston and talked with him:
“…And I, with Fr. Panteleimon, who is in Boston, America. Namely, Fr. Aresenios, the little old man that we have today, as you know, is the next after Elder Joseph, he took as a great schema, and I read as the chaplain in the skete where we were. Fr. Panteleimon removes the ordination of deacon by Athengoras of Thyatira. You know, the one who left history as a non-Orthodox in London—he was the first bishop in Boston and afterwards became bishop of Thyatira, England. Then, Fr. Panteleimon came as a deacon and we co-liturgized below. In the meantime, Fr. Panteleimon was with the New Calendarist Thyatira when he was in Boston, with the church of Iakovos. Then he became a priest in Jerusalem, by the Jerusalem Church, which is perfectly understood to be with the entire Church and is not with the Old Calendarists. He received the ordination from there, too right from both sides. But now he believes that there is no salvation nor…well, to us it is clear I believe it.
When I asked him then, “Father, are you with the Old Calendarists?”
He told me, “No. I’m neither with the Old Calendarists or the New Calendarists.”
Anyway, he has his own firm line and he says that there is no salvation except on his onw side, and he doesn’t commune or confess to people of the New Calendar. Of course, this happened in front of me and no one can tell me that I am wrong. When I went to Boston and went to his monastery, these things happened in front of me and I know them. Certainly, we are spiritual brothers and we have love, etc., but we utterly disagree in these respects. My own geronda told him, amongst other things, that, just as you believe him to be a saint and you have his holy relics and you do miracles with the relic of Geronda, so our Geronda died in the Church, we are ordained by the Bishop, who was in the Church and even then when we were ordained, we commemorated the Ecumenical Patriarch—who was Athengoras then—and Geronda was sanctified in the Church. Now how can we say that this Church, which sanctified Geronda, is heretical? It is terrible! …Better with the error of the calendar in the Church than to become a super-Orthodox and be found outside of the Church by dogmatizing that the mysteries are invalid and men are not saved…”
The Similarities Between Ephraim and Panteleimon in Regards to Founding Monasteries in America
There are some interesting similarities in the founding of Greek monasteries in America:
1 – Ephraim and Panteleimon were both given blessings by Elder Joseph the Hesychast to open monasteries in America.
Some of Elder Ephraim’s followers dispute Panteleimon’s claim and they insist that Elder Joseph told him not to open a monastery in America.
There are a couple different accounts of Elder Ephraim’s blessing. One states that Elder Joseph gave him a blessing before he died to open as many monasteries as he wanted. Another states that it was an obedience received through the Elder Joseph’s skull. Elder Ephraim has stated on more than one occasion that his Elder, Joseph, would speak to him through his skull during his late night vigils at Philotheou Monastery.
2 – Ephraim and Panteleimon Both Leave the GOA for ROCOR a Few Years After Establishing Their First Monastery in America
In 1965, almost 3 years after Fr. Panteleimon started his monastery in Massachusetts (1962), they left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese–accusing it of ecumenism and modernism–and joined Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (1965).
In 1991, almost 3 years after Geronda Ephraim started a monastery in Saxonburg, PA (1989), he left the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [and Ecumenical Patriarchate] and joined ROCOR (1991); though he returned to the EP/GOA less than a year later. Elder Ephraim stated that in both instances–leaving and rejoining the EP–he was just doing obedience to the Virgin Mary who appeared to him and gave him these counsels.
3 – The “Remnant.” Panteleimon believed his church was the last true church in the world. Elder Ephraim teaches that his monasteries will become the “remnant” church and the only place to find genuine orthodoxy just before the end of the world.
Almost 20 years after joining ROCOR, Fr. Panteleimon broke communion with all churches and started his own exclusive church.
Almost 25 years after leaving ROCOR, there is serious talk among Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries of breaking communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the GOA.
4 – Both Ephraim and Panteleimon took relics from Mount Athos to place in their own altars and sometimes give to their most loyal disciples.
Fr. Panteleimon was caught stealing relics from a monastery in Europe that he would have brought back to display in his own monastery.
Geronda Ephraim successfully brought back Elder Joseph’s skull from Filotheou Monastery to his own cell at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. Generally, relics are forbidden to leave Mount Athos without the proper paper work and bureaucratic processes completed…and they’re usually only allowed to leave on loan. Many relics in American monasteries were once property of the Athonite monasteries Elder Ephraim took over during the 60s and 70s.
• Geronda Ephraim of Arizona, Concerning the Old and New Calendar: