Reunions


Dear readers,

Today is dedicated to the Feast of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos, when we commemorate the Theotokos’ deliverance of the city of Constantinople from invaders in the 10th century. In the Greek tradition, we celebrate this feast on October the 28th so that it coincides with  “ΟΧΙ” day – the day in 1940 that the Hellenic Republic famously said “No!” to Italian occupation during World War 2. In this way we also recognise the protection of the Theotokos of the Greek nation.

As we commemorate this day, we are reminded of another “οχι” which we commented on this time two years ago: the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW saying “No” to schism, rejoining the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and being restored to canonical status. This day two years ago was a very special Οχι! day, because it marked the first time since the schism began in NSW that GOCNSW was represented at the Archdiocesean Cathedral in Redfern for their “Οχι!” day celebrations together with the Archdiocese. Likewise, this year’s celebration is also special because it is the first “Οχι!” day that Fr Nicholas Despinoudis has commemorated in the canonical Orthodox Church, having followed the example of GOCNSW two years earlier by himself saying “No!” to the irregularities and corruptions within GOCSA, “No!” to schism.

May the blessed Theotokos by her intercessions, protect our holy nation (the Orthodox Church) from the evils that currently afflict us in this city (schism and division). And by her intercessions, may GOCSA also one day soon find the courage to follow the example set by their NSW counterparts and by their beloved former clergyman Fr Nicholas, saying “Οχι!” to the prospect of continuing schism in our blessed city.

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Dear readers,

Ordination of Fr Nicholas Despinoudis by His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Doryleon

Ordination of Fr Nicholas Despinoudis by His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Doryleon

This week is a great week, and one that will be well remembered in the history of the struggle against the local schism and our fight for unity for all Orthodox of Greek descent in this great and blessed city of ours.

Wednesday morning (24th of October 2013), at a Divine Liturgy commemorating the Brother of our Lord, the Holy Apostle James, with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia and by the grace of God, Mr (now Fr) Nicholas Despinoudis was formally received into the ranks of the clergy of the Orthodox Church and of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, when he was ordained a deacon by His Grace Bishop Nikandros of Doryleon at the parish of St Panteleimon (the headquarters of the Archdiocese). The next day he was ordained an Orthodox Priest at the same place. This was announced in an encyclical that was read in all parishes of the Archdiocese this weekend. May he be worthy (axios)!

Vesting of Fr Nicholas Despinoudis at his ordination to the priesthood. Axios!

Vesting of Fr Nicholas Despinoudis at his ordination to the priesthood. Axios!

It is possible that our readers may not have known who Fr Nicholas is, as we have not had cause to mention him much on this blog. In brief: until very recently, Fr Nicholas was the long-serving parish “priest” at GOCSA’s central parish – the Cathedral of the Archangels. According to our information he is quite well respected in the community (and the fact that we haven’t had cause to mention him on this blog is probably a reflection of his good standing!) As of Thursday, he finally received the legitimate Orthodox priesthood that he has longed for all these years. Sadly for him, GOCSA – the organisation that he loved & served – has not (as yet) come with him (though of course many of his faithful followers from the community are likely to do so). We pray that this day will come soon.

This unexpected move is obviously further evidence (as we have said) that all is not well within GOCSA. However, rather than turning this into a post of criticism, for now we’d rather focus on the positive, joyous occasion that this is. To Fr Nicholas: we gladly & wholeheartedly welcome him into the bosom of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church. May God bless you in your new calling.

For those who caught yesterday (Sunday) evening’s news on Channel 7 Adelaide, you may have caught an answer by Elias Gratsias (on behalf of GOCSA and the Autocephalic “Greek Orthodox” Church of America and Canada) to the question of why a division exists (and remains) between GOCSA and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. He gave the following answer (we paraphrase):

The division exists because of disputes over property ownership.

We are absolutely gobsmacked that this bold-faced lie continues to be circulated by officials closely connected to the GOCSA executive after all this time.

Here we are, more than two years after the reunion between GOCNSW and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and not a single property transfer has taken place from GOCNSW to the Archdiocese. To this day,  there are dozens of Greek Orthodox parish-communities in the Archdiocese that own their own property in their own name, and have done for decades. Further, His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos and His Grace Bishop Nikandros have categorically denied that they are interested in the property. And as we have explained previously it’s not even legally possible for the Archdiocese to take property without a Community’s consent.

Of course, we have addressed this vicious rumour before, but hitherto we thought it was a misconception mostly among the GOCSA faithful and that the Executive knew otherwise. But now it is obvious that this is misconception is held (perhaps even perpetuated) at the highest levels of their organisation. Or perhaps even more sinister, this lie is deliberately and knowingly perpetuated by the executive – they know the truth but continue to spread the lie because the lie is more convenient. Either way, this has to stop. How can an organisation call itself “Christian” while propagating such blatant and defamatory lies?

To all those of our readership who love truth and hate lies (both those of GOCSA and those of the Archdiocese), we implore you to help put these vicious rumours to an end. As we wrote on the post on Unity way back in 2011: the Archdiocese does not want your property, and it does not want your money. It wants one thing and one thing only: your souls. It wants to bring them back into the safety of the Orthodox Church, to be ministered by real priests and served real Mysteries (Sacraments) and nourished with the real Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this is what you want too, then spread the word!

The politics of the recent budget have again put St Nicholas Greek “Orthodox” Church, Thebarton under the spotlight, due to the $5 million grant that they were awarded for sound-proofing their building. This time the spotlight is nation-wide and not just in Adelaide.

For our part, we don’t really have a problem with St Nicholas receiving such funding in principle. The money that is being spent on noise reduction was collected by a special levy placed on airports for that purpose (see the Aircraft Noise Levy Act 1995), and so this seems like an appropriate use of such funds. Many private houses and public buildings under the flight path have received Federal funding under this scheme (including a few other churches in the area – among them St George Greek Orthodox Church, Thebarton). If St Nicholas is under the flight path they certainly deserve to get their fair share of the levy as other churches have. One may quibble about whether the amount of money being spent is reasonable compared with what other churches received (and it does seem a bit high, given that St George apparently received only $3.4 million according to this article from the ABC), but we’ll leave that to the accountants and engineers to figure out for certain.

Of more interest to us is the fact that since the parish of St Nicholas has returned to the spotlight, so has their so-called “priest”, Mr Panagiotis (aka Prokopios) Kanavas, whose litany of unethical behaviour is again being subjected to scrutiny.

Adelaide Now has run a story on him which can be found here. The Australian’s Michael Owen has also run an independent story on him here. Both stories list most of the scandals that he has been involved in over the last couple of years since he arrived in Australia, which we have detailed previously on this blog. However, what is new in these articles is the fact that the police are investigating fresh allegations around St Nicholas church, and while they did not explicitly state what these allegations were or who they involved, the clear inference to be drawn from the articles is that they are again centred on the activities of Mr Kanavas.

Mr Panagiotis (aka Prokopios) Kanavas

Mr Panagiotis (aka Prokopios) Kanavas masquerading as an Orthodox priest (source: news.com.au).

Even more interesting is the fact according to the Adelaide Now article, the allegations apparently came from people within the community of St Nicholas itself – indicating that there is dissent within the ranks. It seems that even the members of GOCSA are becoming concerned about this man’s unethical behaviour – concerned enough to report matters to police (and rightly so). The articles state that the police investigations are only in their initial stages, so we assume that there will be more information to surface in the coming weeks and months.

We pray that the community of St Nicholas and of the wider GOCSA community will respond to their own community’s concerns and remove this man from the position of responsibility for which he is clearly unsuitable. In doing so, they will pave the way to approach the Archdiocese to supply them with properly ordained Orthodox priests as a replacement (as they have already done for the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW), and thereby at long last return them to the Orthodox fold so that we may be united once more.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia

Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia Inc.

Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia Inc.

We’re approaching the four-month mark for our blog now, and recent events have inspired us to dedicate another post to reflection on the past four months.  In particular, we’d like to focus on the practical concerns of re-unification from the perspective of “ordinary” people.

A few people on our FB page have stated that they want to see GOCSA reunite with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. This is very encouraging. However, they also recognise that questions like “what happens to the GOCSA clergy” are out of their hands. A fair question may be asked, then – for the average person who wants to re-unite, what can they do about it? In answer to this question, we think it is important to re-visit the last attempt at reunion to see what caused it to fail and see if there is anything that can be done about it.

As recently as earlier this year (2011) there were serious attempts to bring about a reunion. However, these attempts fell through. This failure is undoubtedly due in large part to the fear campaign that was distributed in the form of not for sale flyers around the time of the GOCSA AGM. This flyer claimed that the Archdiocese would seek to sell off GOCSA property if a reunion took place. No doubt it caused enough fear to scare people away from reunion.

As we have shown in various posts on this blog, this rumour is false. Here is a summary of the evidence offered:

  • His Grace Bishop Nikandros has explicitly denied it: “I repeated categorically that His Eminence Stylianos is not interested in the properties as only the people are the wealth of the Church” (see this Neos Kosmos article).
  • We gave reasons in our second-ever post why their claims are inconsistent with the Archdiocese’s track record on this issue (including the fact that it’s never sold a Church).
  • We showed that this didn’t happen in the recent reunion with GOCNSW.
  • “His Grace Bishop Nikandros added that if a future agreement eventuates within the South Australian Greek Orthodox community, it will be along the same lines with the agreement within the New South Wales community.” (from the same Neos Kosmos article).
  • We explained that it is not even legally possible for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia to sell GOCSA property under an agreement like the one with GOCNSW.

In short, there’s no rational reason to believe that the Archdiocese plans to sell GOCSA property (or even that it would be able to), given the evidence that we have available.

We’re not sure who started these false rumours or distributed these flyers (though we have our suspicions), but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they are an unnecessary barrier to reunion, and as long as they continue they are likely to impede any reunification attempt.

So, for the average person who wants reunion, here is a very simple and practical way that you can help:

  1. by denying these false rumours ourselves,
  2. by speaking out against these false rumours,
  3. by gently correcting people who may be spreading these false rumours (bearing in mind that most people do so without realising that the rumour is false).

In this small way we can do our part and make a difference. We encourage all those who desire unity to do the same.

We commented recently on why certain clauses may have been added to the GOCNSW constitution by the MOU signed with the Archdiocese. Interestingly enough a recent example of scandalous misuse of liturgical items was brought to our attention and photos of this public misuse were published on Facebook. Due to the photos being taken off Facebook in response to false copyright claims we will republish them here with some commentary.

It is clear from the photos that an artophorio has been set up on top of a fridge in the public dinning hall of a nursing home. This is not accidental either as candles have been carefully placed on either side and appear to be used for some sort of activity as they are being burned and replaced.

A person who claims to work at the nursing home excused this behavior by saying:

it wasnt set up there purposely so once again get your facts before passing judgement would u prefer them to put it under the bench? because thats the only other place there for it to go i know because i work in there

This was followed by claims that it is needed there as elderly people may not be able to attend the church services. Presumably this is intended to imply that the Eucharist can be kept and distributed from there.

Although the practice of private keeping and receiving of the Eucharist did exist at one time very early on in the Church this has been forbidden by the Church due to the potential for sacrilege and abuse.

For instance the thirty-sixth of the canons attributed to Saint Athansius says,

“No priest shall carry forth the Mysteries and go with them about the streets, except for a sick man, when the end and death’s hour of need draw nigh. And when they carry the mysteries [without], they shall suffer none but the sick to partake. And they shall not do according to favour and give unto one beside the sick, but unto the sick alone. . . “

Of course this sort of abuse can occur even in the canonical Church but there the oversight of a bishop helps to prevent it. In the case of an organisation like GOCSA where is the oversight of a bishop? Lay people are not always familiar with proper ecclesiastical behaviour or care for holy objects, which is why they should not be burdened with this responsibility. It is no suprise that the Archdiocese would request that GOCNSW change their constitution so that the Bishop is able to intervene in these sort of situations.

See this post for more commentary on the changes to the GOCNSW constitution.

A couple of valid questions were raised on our face book page regarding some of the clauses in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Archdiocese and GOCNSW.  Although we cannot answer for the Archdiocese in any official manner it is relatively obvious why such clauses would be inserted into the MOU and we will try to explain their purpose.

The first question is

 Operative part 1 states that the Community’s assets are to remain undisturbed ie. real estate, and other assets shall remain within its sole ownership, custody and control. Yet, in part 5 it states that the Community are not to make any changes or modifications to the Church without prior consultation and written approval of Archdiocese? Why so?

The clause in question is actually 4 b)

The community agrees:  ….. Not to make, or cause to be made, any changes, additions or modifications to those church’ internal decoration, including all iconography, ecclesiastical articles, fittings and furnishings, without prior consultation with, and the written approval of, the Archdiocese;

The Archdiocese is concerned foremost with ensuring that Orthodox temples remain as recognisable and functional Orthodox churches and this clause promotes this.  If this clause was not inserted then it would be possible for a community to modify the church building in some completely unorthodox manner such as adding a statue or an icon of Buddha within the church building.  This is not a completely ridiculous concern.  For instance in a Brisbane catholic church a Buddhist statue was set up in recent times.

In our own lives we have sole ownership of our homes yet we are still subject to council regulations with respect to modifications to the house.  The church operates in a similar manner with community parishes.  The parish retains full ownership of the church building but it is subject to the authority of the church with regard to modifications.  The bishop retains the final authority on what is allowed in an Orthodox church to prevent potential anomalies that could mislead faithful Orthodox Christians.

The second question was:

More importantly, please explain to me the Proposed Amendments to the GOCNSW constitution, in particular clause 7 where it states that any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship (churches), such real estate assets to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee. What is the exact meaning of this clause?

The addition to clause 7) states

‘…(except for any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship, such real estate assets are to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee for the members of the Association and to continue to be open to the public as Greek Orthodox Churches.)’

Clause seven appears to be the “windup” clause of the association’s constitution, and this phrase is being added to the end of the clause.  This is the section of the constitution which specifies what will happen if an association is brought to a close. This protects the sacred places of Orthodox worship from misuse if GOCNSW should close down for any reason, and it only comes into effect if GOCNSW closes down.

Heaven Nightclub

Heaven Nightclub


Again the concern of the Archdiocese is that Orthodox temples remain as Orthodox temples.  The Archdiocese has never closed or sold a church in Australia yet nor does it wish to see a temple once used for Orthodox worship turned into a secular building or used for worship by other religious groups.  Here in Adelaide we have many examples of this happening to churches belonging to other Christian faiths.  For instance, St Paul’s cathedral in Adelaide which was sold and became Heaven nightclub.

We should be grateful as Orthodox Christians that these protective clauses were inserted as it helps ensure that Orthodox churches remain in the future recognisably Orthodox and open to the public for worship.

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