Stylianos Kementzetzidis and the “Miracles of the Crypto-Christians in Turkey” Hoax

Stylianos Kementzetzidis was a well-known, respected man throughout Greece and the Greek Orthodox world. In 1971, with the prayers and blessings of Elder Philotheos Zervakos, Papa-Dimitri Gagastathis, and other holy fathers, he started a publishing house in Thessaloniki called Orthodox Kypseli. This publishing house had close ties with many spiritual circles throughout the world, including many of the monasteries on Mount Athos. Orthodox Kypseli published a lot of Elder Ephraim of Arizona’s writings as well as other spiritual giants in Greece.

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Orthodox Kypseli has also published many books in English which are translated from various languages. A large majority of the English books were translated and edited by two long-time spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim: Fr. Nicholas Palis and Fr. Mark Andrews, both of Pennsylvania. In turn, these books are also distributed by the St. Nicodemos Publications which is owned by another long time spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim, Constantine Zalalas (also from Pennsylvania).

Fr. Nicholas Palis (Translator of Orthodox Kypseli's books)
Fr. Nicholas Palis (Translator of Orthodox Kypseli’s books)

http://orthodoxoskypseli.gr/226A676C.el.aspx

Fr. Mark Andrews (Editor of Fr. Nicholas Palis' Translations)
Fr. Mark Andrews (Editor of Fr. Nicholas Palis’ Translations)

http://saintnicodemos.org/catalog.php

Constantine Zalalas with Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios
Constantine Zalalas with Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios

Stylianos did a lot of missionary work (both in person and via mail—sending icons, books, and pamphlets as blessings, as well as giving speeches on spiritual subjects). He travelled to many different countries to distribute blessings and preach. He also published an orthodox journal, Ὅσιος Φιλόθεος τῆς Πάρου (St. Philotheos of Paros). In many of these periodicals, one can see photos of Fr. Savvas Filotheitis all over the world with various bishops, priests, monks, nuns and lay people. He had a blessing from Elder Ephraim to travel the world and preach about Christ, spread Elder Ephraim’s teachings on watchfulness and the Jesus Prayer as well as talk about Elder Ephraim’s apostolic work here in America. Also, it was an opportunity to set up connections and contacts with various dioceses around the world (after the “false union with Rome” becomes publicly official, the monasteries will have to find a canonical jurisdiction to join which has remained orthodox).

The late Fr. Savvas Filotheitis.
The late Fr. Savvas Filotheitis.

Anyways, back to Stylianos. In the mid-2000s, in conjunction with visiting Elder Ephraim in Arizona, Stylianos did a speaking tour in America to raise funds for a number of “persecuted crypto-Christians incarcerated in Turkey.” He told numerous stories about divine visions and visitations, miracles, etc., involving these imprisoned crypto-Christians, as well as the lifestyle of these crypto-Christians who appeared as Muslims during the day but had secret prayer rooms in their houses, etc. The stories he told were very beautiful; they moved many to tears, gave goose bumps, and helped strengthen and solidify faith in many who listened. Stylianos also spoke about an extremely large number of crypto-Christians residing in modern-day Turkey and hinted at the prophecies concerning Constantinople coming near to fulfilment.

Stylianos Kementzetzidis
Stylianos Kementzetzidis

With some people, however, these stories didn’t sit right. Questions started to be raised, and accusations of “lies” were being made. No one had heard these things before, not even people connected with the Ecumenical Patriarchate or Asia Minor itself. Some people wondered why Stylianos was the only one privy to this particular information and how no one else in the orthodox world was talking about these things. Why weren’t the clergy and hierarchs in Turkey aware of these people and wondrous events? At a speech he gave in New York, before it finished, some people even walked out scandalized.

Stylianos Kementzetzidis
Stylianos Kementzetzidis

After Stylianos went back to Greece, it came to light (and this was confirmed by many Gerontissas and Gerontas here in America) that his stories were a hoax. Apparently Stylianos was having financial difficulties at the time and his publishing house was in danger of going under. This revelation of falsehood left many of the faithful shocked and broken. No one likes feeling duped; especially when it comes to the orthodox faith and donations.

Πνευματικές ὁδηγίες γιά ψυχοσωματική καθαρότητα, Γέρ. Ἐφραίμ Φιλοθεϊτου
Πνευματικές ὁδηγίες γιά ψυχοσωματική καθαρότητα, Γέρ. Ἐφραίμ Φιλοθεϊτου

People wondered how such a pious man who has done so much for the church and throughout his life could stoop so low. He was very close with Mount Athos and had the blessing to meet and know many of the holiest elders of Greece, and the orthodox world in general, during the 20th century. Furthermore, he had also just seen and confessed to the holiest man alive, Elder Ephraim, while here on his speaking tour.

Δοκιμασμένες Νουθεσίες, Γέρ. Ἐφραίμ
Δοκιμασμένες Νουθεσίες, Γέρ. Ἐφραίμ

The abbot of St. Nekatrios Monastery (NY) was very saddened by these revelations as not only had he been repeating Stylianos’ stories of miracles and visions to pilgrims to the monastery, he had also known Stylianos since he was a child growing up in Thessaloniki and had looked up to him.

Geronda Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY).
Geronda Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY).

The one advantage to covering up this scandal in America was the fact that a large majority of the orthodox population here are not really connected with the spiritual circles of Greece thus most people were unaware of the “miracle” stories in the first place (except the few that were circulating on the web). The spiritual children of Geronda who were aware of the hoax were politely ask not to spread the story—i.e. gossip—as creating scandals do not benefit the church (not to mention it looks bad on Geronda Ephraim since Stylianos was so connected with him and his monasteries in Greece and somewhat here as well).

Ἐλπιδοφόρες Διδαχές μέ πατρικές ὁδηγίες, Γέρ. Ἐφραίμ
Ἐλπιδοφόρες Διδαχές μέ πατρικές ὁδηγίες, Γέρ. Ἐφραίμ

The publications that came out with these stories are almost impossible to find now. Orthodox Kypseli does not offer them for sale in their catalogs anymore and one has to search hard to find used copies at ridiculous prices. Every once in awhile a story or two will be circulated again on a Greek forum, but overall the hoax and scandal has been buried for good.

KryptoxristianoiL

Since 2011, due to Stylianos retirement, the publishing house operates under the eponym Sons S. Kementzetzidi (ΥΙΟΙ Σ. ΚΕΜΕΝΤΖΕΤΖΙΔΗ), with Philotheos S. Kementzetzidi as director.

http://orthodoxoskypseli.gr/EBDE3552.el.aspx