Bishop Athenagoras Apologizes

The following was a joint effort by both George and Gail.

As you know, Monomakhos, as well as other Orthodox websites, recently criticized Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzen for participating in the consecration of the Hindu temple in New Jersey. 

On the attached video below (beginning at 2’12”), His Grace clearly realized his mistake and –with some qualifications–offered a public apology while visiting St Anthony’s monastery in Florence, Arizona.

(Courtesy of Byzantine, Texas

This is not the time for us to second-guess His Grace.  Gail and I appreciate his apology if for no other reason than he acknowledged that we were scandalized which he regrets.  As a result, he regrets being there altogether.

We appreciate his apology and thank him.  

The greater problem here, as we see it, is that he was roped into doing something that again demonstrators how bereft we are of mature eccelsiascial leadership within the Greek Archdiocese.  It has gotten so bad, that even our Fathers in Christ at Mt. Athos, brothers of Archbishop Elpidophoros under Patriarch Bartholomew, want nothing to do with Archbishop Elpidophoros due to his repeated missteps, and yet unlike His Grace Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzen, he doubles down rather than apologizes.

During his tenure as Archbishop, NOT ONCE has he apologised for anything he has done to scandalize the Greek Archdiocese of America which use to be a source of pride in our Church, our country, and around the world.

Now, even good bishops from other jurisdictions are being led astray by not fully understanding the latitude the Archbishop has employed with even the simplest, most straightforward of canons.  Canons like the prohibition against praying with those who worship multiple deities (including cows). 

When you go into a place of worship, even if it’s just an elaborate tent, there is going to be praying.   

Scripture says that to whom much is given, much is expected.  Much is expected from us.  As Orthodox Christians, our greatest responsibility is to practice and teach what the Church has taught us.  Had we done so on this occasion, God may have used it as an opportunity to educate these well-meaning Hindus that thought enough of us to invite us there in the first place.  

Instead, we offered good wishes and platitudes.  And we did something else.  We spoke that which we know not to be true.  Orthodox Christians do not recognize the “boundless tapestries of creation looking for diverse ways to connect with the divine.”  There is but one path to God and that is through Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.    

     

Comments

  1. Perhaps an increasingly secularized world associates churches and temples with social activity and activism more that we do with prayer. In this case it appears the situational awareness was tilted towards good public relations without fully considering the implications of being in the presence of what I am sure were prayers to many entities, they were concentrating a temple after all. I didn’t even like going to the Masonic Lodge that was our local voting booth during election years!
    BTW I’m asking for your prayers, going though some stuff and I’ve been away from church too long! These are challenging times.

    • Mark E. Fisus says

      As far as public relations go, there were ways to be present without participating. “Greetings” instead of “blessings.” The neutral, academic term “temple” instead of “sacred space.” Wrap up with some banalities about peace and religious freedom in America. Should’ve been easy peasy. Diplomats the world over speak without saying anything all the time. But how Bishop Athenagoras handled it — it’s amateur hour over at GOARCH, the blunders are sophomoric. That’s the real story — utter ineptitude.

  2. Nah…this publicity stunt doesn’t fly.

    Athenagoras only apologized after noise was made on the internet. A resignation in silence would have been far more convincing of someone who has actually repented.

    He blames “obedience to his 2nd master (Elpidophoros)” as an excuse, but doesn’t seem to care about obedience to Christ and the Canons of the Church.

    There are Canons for a reason. He should be defrocked, because bishops are held to a higher standard, and these are not “mistakes”…

    But defrocked by whom? The same spiritual court that consists of people who have done equally shameful things?

    “Truly I do not know you”…that’s the only quote that applies here.

  3. Sir Gatanas says

    Well gotta give the Bishop Athenegoras credit for this apology – have we ever heard apology from the American Archbishop Elpidophoros??
    HELL NO

    & notice he says he was only obeying orders???

  4. Mathew Kakis says

    In our multi-cultural society as clergy, we can be invited to gather for prayer or remarks as representatives of our Holy Mother Faith. While the Canons require to abstain, it is an opportunity to expose non believers to the Word and teaching of Christ the Lord as directed by Him just prior to His Ascension. I am not advocating disobedience but I do believe we should consider some understanding and respect required.
    As a Deacon serving at the Cathedral of St. Paul at Hempstead N.Y. I have been blessed to assist His Grace Bishop Athenagoras at the Divine Liturgy. I am honored to state that I found him to be beyond words as a loving yet humble hierarch that exudes the greatest love in serving His Lord. Listening to his sweet words of his sermon shows his dedication to the faithful that truly “Christ is an n our midst.” I am certain that our faithful are joyfully looking forward to Bishop AthenagorS’ next pastoral visit. I pray that the Lord always shower him with the blessings of The Holy Spirit for many years to come.
    In Christ,
    Deacon Mathew Kakis

    • Antiochene Son says

      Simply being present at their pagan temple does nothing at best. At worst it creates the perception that we’re all on our own paths to “the God of our conscience.”

      If a Christian cleric is offered the chance to speak at a pagan event and he preaches the truth of Christ (politely but clearly), then I would agree with you. This never happens, however.

    • Father Matthew,
      For how long will the GOARCH clergy tow the party line talking point of, “showing the gospel and truth of Orthodoxy to the heterodox”. The heterodox and non-christians are not buying what we sell for a myriad of legitimate reasons.. But we sure love to adopt heretical positions through incrementalism, including Hindu practices such as yoga and cremations. I remember 25 years ago the same exact line was used at the very same cathedral you serve, where I was a one time alter boy under Fr. Nick Magoulias and Fr. Joachim. Since then the Anglicans ordain women and openly practicing homosexual clergy. They heard the Orthodox gospel, rejecting it and ridiculing it. Yet we have adopted their teaching, of sprinkling (you know the 6 inches of water in the baptismal fount we use for babies that can’t even fit into the fount because Greek patent are slowly rejecting infant baptism and waiting later and later. Or the neobaptismal belief that baptisms in the name of the Trinity are all “valid” even if performed by a sect of the greatgrandaughrer of Rome, two times removed splinter group who happens to be my dishwasher at the diner who baptises in the triple basin restaurant sink. How about the abused children of that homosexual couple who after the baptism said soon enough Orthodoxy will accept their sin? That sure sounds to me like Elpi was influenced by the lesbian clergy we engage with at the WCC, does it not???

      Let’s stop making excuses and defending these spineless cowardly ecumentic bishops. Let’s stop defending the ignorant secular nominal Greek laity who promote the globohomo agenda. Instead call them out and clearly teach right belief and proper praxis over cacodox practices. Let’s stop with parroting the effeminate anti-masculine, antichristian “European values” and whatever other descriptor the modernists use

  5. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    The Archbishops’ apology is meaningless. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. Love him and pray for him, but let us not be naive. He knew what he was doing and did it anyway. Then after the scandal is done Mea Culpa! Sorry, not buying it. Very sad. SMH.

    Peter A. Papoutsis

  6. Axios!

    “There is joy in the presence of the angles of God over one sinner who repents.”

    Humility & repentance open the doors of paradise to us. Bishop Athenagoras has shown us the way. We should pray that Archbishop Elpidophoros & Patriarch Bartholomew might also find this way.

  7. What was an Orthodox bishop doing there in the first place—we all have to understand that the ecumenicism taking over the church has a agenda. It’s like we should throw out Christ’s teachings, because “THEY” have a better idea. Let’s just throw out 2000 years of Christianity because “I” have a better idea! I can’t for the life of me see why Orthodox Christians keep sending their hard earned money to these people that live in wealth and splendor.

    • Antiochene Son says

      This nonsense that obedience is the greatest virtue. Maybe in the monastery this may be true, but bishops and parish priests are not living in monasteries. What they do has an immediate impact on the faithful. At what point does saving their flock mean more than obedience?

      Of course, obedience to falsehood is just heresy and false teaching. Each man who wears vestments will be held responsible for what he did, and “Just following orders” won’t fly.

      And, what obedience anyway? They fear their human superiors, not God.

      We are sheep, but we are RATIONAL sheep. We have brains, we have consciences, we have our own relationships with God. This is like the ultimate clericalism, the likes of which is being practiced by Rome currently too.

  8. I agree, it is laudable that he apologized! What is pathetic is that in his apology, he says:

    “I thought I was obedient….. This, of course, was not done by my choice. I did not volunteer to go there.”

    So of course we know where the buck stops. Who wrote the speech, and who sent him.

  9. No apology from the State Department or White House…

    Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s reply
    to a media question about the death of video blogger,
    journalist and film director Gonzalo Lira

    https://mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1925776/

    ‘Question: On January 12, the world media reported the death of Gonzalo Angel Quintilio Lira López in a Ukrainian prison. He was an American journalist, film director and video blogger and had Chilean citizenship as well. What can you say about this tragedy?

    Maria Zakharova: First, I would like to draw your attention to this truly unprecedented situation. Gonzalo Lira was a national of both the US and Chile but these countries preferred to leave him without attention and support from the moment of his arrest by the Security Service of Ukraine. They essentially consigned this “inconvenient” journalist to execution. Santiago has done all it could to hush up this issue even when his tragic death became public. For many months before, the Chilean authorities ignored the repeated appeals of international and local human rights activists not to abandon him by shifting responsibility for his fate to the US Department of State. This suggests a question: What were American officials and relevant organisations doing the whole time? When they find it advantageous, they immediately rush to defend supposedly oppressed journalists. This is what happened with Evan Gershkovich who was caught red-handed while collecting classified information on instruction from the US authorities, and the American reporter Stavros Niarchos detained in July 2022 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    In the meantime, the reasons for the blatant disregard for the journalist by the US and Chilean authorities that refused to defend him and did not even note his death in a Ukrainian prison are obvious to all those that followed without bias the fate of this courageous man.

    In May 2023, it became known that the blogger was detained and accused under the article “Justification, defence as legal and/or denial of Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine and glorification of its participants.” After posting bail, he was put under house arrest. But soon thereafter, in July 2023, the Security Service of Ukraine placed him in a pre-trial detention centre, ostensibly for “violating the law and attempting to evade justice.” He stayed there until his death after eight months of torture and lack of proper medical care. Obviously, the journalist’s refusal to follow the American mainstream and Washington’s line could not go unpunished. But in his case, the punishment was truly inhuman and literally murderous.

    The tragedy of Gonzalo Lira, who dared have his own opinion, has vividly revealed again the face of the collective West. A zealous advocate of speech and press freedom in word, it defends them in deed only when convenient to its interests.

    We are urging Gonzalo Lira’s colleagues to raise their voice in defence of the prisoners of the Kiev regime. This is necessary for those that are still alive and can still fight for the truth. It is also a tribute to the memory of those that died as martyrs for the cause of freedom.

    We would like to convey our most sincere condolences to Gonzalo Lira’s family and friends.’

  10. The problem is, these people knowingly do these things then turn around and say “I’m sorry”. What a easy way out.

    • I find the turning around and saying, “I’m sorry” is a rarity.

      • Much more common are the weasel words:
        “I’m sorry if you think I have offended you”
        “I’m sorry that you think I have got it wrong”;
        making the problem one of feelings, not facts.

  11. Ronda Wintheiser says

    I don’t comprehend or accept the idea of public relations in the first place.

    Was that something that the Apostles were concerned with? Or the Fathers?

    I don’t know. I mean that in the sense of ignorance. I don’t know enough to know.

    But it seems to me to be just part of the trappings of Western culture. We are careful and quick to put a good face on things so we are accepted or lauded by the culture at large. What does that have to do with… the Church, or the mission of the Church?

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