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THE CHRONICLE OF MY PROTESTS



I first went to Jerusalem as a young boy in the 1961 where I studied at the Boarding Patriarchal School of Jerusalem. At the age of 17 I was ordained a Deacon (in June of 1962) and in June of 1964 I was ordained a Priest and was assigned to be in charge of the Boarding School of the Patriarchate from which I myself graduated.  In the year 1967 I was assigned to be Superior (Pastor) of our Greek Orthodox Community of Haifa. In 1969 I was transferred to the Greek Orthodox Community of Lydda and from there, in 1970 I left the Holy Land to go to the USA to study because Patriarch Benedict refused to send me for higher studies, as I wanted to and had the right to demand for, as a good student. I left the Holy Land along with two other Brothers of the Patriarchate: Archimandrites Theoktistos Samios and Damianos Manolis. Patriarch Benedict defrocked all three of us for leaving the Patriarchate.
     
After the completion of my studies, in 1980, I returned to Jerusalem after the election of Patriarch Diodoros, late in 1981, and served at different positions including Office Assistant of the Chief Secretary, Chief Dragoman, and Superior of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1988 I was ordained as a Bishop with the title “Bishop of Constantine”. In the same year I was assigned to be the Patriarchal Representative at Irbet, Jordan, where I served until April of 1989.

Serving at the Patriarchate for all these years, I realized that the situation at the Patriarchate was unacceptable in many ways and that things were going from bad to worse, especially due to the dictatorial behavior of the Patriarchs who were taking advantage of the special circumstances prevailing in the Patriarchate. These included that we were living abroad and that the local government, as well as the Greek Government, accepted and recognized the person we elected as our leader as the representative of the Patriarchate.  The Patriarch ruled the Patriarchate as if it is his own private business, giving account to no one and for nothing, causing great damage to it and putting in grave danger its own existence as a Greek Orthodox Church. I realized that no one was willing to protest the situation because they were worried about their own safety and place in the Patriarchate.  They feared the hardships such a protest entails, something which I know first hand. Unfortunately, many Brothers, including Archimandrites, Priests, Deacons, Monks and students, abandoned the Patriarchate, unable to suffer through the situation. Those who at times dared to protest, one away or another, were forced to leave the Patriarchate.  The rest were either forced to keep silent or they compromised and tried to manage as best as they could under the circumstances, hoping for better days in the future.

For a long time I considered my choices. One would have been to ignore the situation and try to pass my time as best as I could, but this was simply not something I could live with. The other choice was to abandon the Patriarchate and try to settle elsewhere. I could not accept the idea of just leaving and letting the Patriarch enjoy the ride unopposed. The third choice was to try to protest with the hope that I would be able to spur some changes there, and this is what I finally did, believing that I not only had a right, but also a duty, as a Bishop and member of the Synod to, at least, express my opinion.

In 1988, during a Synodal meeting, I protested strongly against the unacceptable behavior of the Patriarch and continued to do so for almost a year asking nothing more than some respect. Unfortunately the Patriarch not only refused to show any willingness to listen to my protests and cooperate with the Synod for the good of the Brotherhood and the Patriarchate but, on the contrary, tried through threats and intimidation to force me to keep my mouth shut.  All these things forced me to quit from the position of the Patriarchal representative in Irbet and to return to Jerusalem, determined to fight to the end for what I believed was the best interest of the Patriarchate.
            
Because of my resignation, the Patriarch punished me in several ways: he removed me from the Synod un-canonically, without a vote; he forbade me to serve in the Patriarchate; and he cut my salary, declaring that he would give me back the salary only if I returned to Irbet.  However I was determined to continue protesting to the end and this is what I continue to do, even today, until there is a change in the situation there. (See letter # 1, May, 18, 1989).

Since May of 1989, living in the Patriarchate, I kept protesting publicly with interviews, speeches, and letters to the Synod; the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre; the other Orthodox Churches; the Flock of the Patriarchate; and to anyone I thought was interested to know and willing to help, primarily through the public Press, with intention to pressure Patriarch Diodoros to change his behavior, since any other effort to this end through dialogue and compromise proved fruitless. Unfortunately neither the Patriarch nor anyone else from the Patriarchate cared to help.

In April of 1994, six years after my public denunciations, the Patriarch, in an effort to get even with me, called a reporter from Cyprus, to whom he gave an interview against me. In this interview, along with many accusations, he said that if I would stop denouncing him and went back to Irbet, Jordan, everything would be okay.  This showed that all his accusations against me were not true, and that the only thing he cared about was not be accused for the damage he was doing to the Patriarchate.  When I learned of the interview, knowing that all the things said were lies, I informed the Patriarch that I demanded a retraction of the accusations he made or else I would sue him in the courts. He ignored my pleas, forcing me to take him to the courts, which condemned him as a liar and slanderer.

When the Patriarch learned that I had taken my case to the courts, he hired my lawyer to work for the Patriarchate and abandon my case.  He then called the Synod, 4 days after I filed my case to the courts, and defrocked me.
This defrockment was completely un-canonical and baseless for many reasons.  Professor Vlassios Fidas of the Theological School of the University of Athens looked into the matter and found it to be un-canonical(Patriarchal Archives,  File: Nikiphoros   A/03).  Furthermore, the case simply does not stand for many plain reasons and simply by common sense.

1. No legitimate accusations of any kind were filed against me.
2. No canonical procedure of any kind took place.  There was no invitation to apologize for any accusations, no apology, and no vote.  
3. The only reason why the Patriarch attacked me was that I was denouncing him in public.  He did not put forth any accusations and did not consider whether my accusations were right or wrong.  However there is no law that condemns one Bishop merely for the fact that he is accusing another Bishop.  
4. I accused Patriarch Diodoros for certain things, and he, while accused, became the judge and condemned me for my accusations. Can this be called judicial process?  He should have exempted himself from the process and allow others to make the judgment and sign the decision.
5. Patriarch Diodoros accused me, as it is written in the defrockment decision, for taking him to the Israeli courts, thus proving that he defrocked me in order to take revenge against me.  
6. He lied, saying that I refused to go to my assignment in Irbet. I did go to Irbet and I did serve there for nine months and it is from there that I submitted my resignation.
7. The defrockment decision was so-signed, weeks later, by one of the members of the Synod, Archbishop Gregory of Tiberias, even though he was not present when the decision was made.

For all these reasons and for others, whom an expert in law can pin point, but especially because my accusations against Diodoros were all true, my defrockment was completely un-canonical and I did not accept it. I would only accept it if another independent court would examine the case and issue a judgment. Unfortunately my plea to the other Orthodox Churches to intervene was not answered. However, even under these circumstances I did remain in the Patriarchate, filling my time with the guidance of Pilgrims, in anticipation of a change in the situation.

In December 2000, Patriarch Diodoros died. All the Brothers of the Brotherhood, including the later elected Patriarch Eirineos, were telling me that under the new administration I would be reinstated and would be able to offer my services to the Patriarchate.

Unfortunately, the situation did not develop exactly like that. The new Patriarch Eirineos, determined to continue in the same path of the previous Patriarchs, that is, to use the Patriarchate as his own private operation, and for the satisfaction of his personal desires, asked me, in order to reinstate me, to submit an application in which I would declare that I was wrong in my protests against Patriarch Diodoros and that the punishments he imposed on me were justifiable. Of course I told him I could not do such a thing.

Patriarch Eirineos, from the first day of his administration showed signs of his intentions. He expelled three bishops from the Synod completely un-canonically. He then started to persecute all those who were against him during the Patriarchal elections. He also started to sell parts of the properties of the Patriarchate under the pretence that he had no money to run the Patriarchate. In general he created a situation that was even worse than that under Patriarch Diodoros.  What came to compound the situation was the unwillingness of the rest of the Brotherhood to confront the new Patriarch and try to set some kind of order and respect in the Patriarchate.  Finally, realizing that there was not much hope for a change, I left the Patriarchate in protest after I wrote an open letter to the Brotherhood to that effect (See Open Letter #1) and settled in Greece from where I decided to continue my protests against the situation in Jerusalem.

Living in Greece I published several articles concerning the situation in Jerusalem (which will posted here soon). Patriarch Eirineos did not like my articles and sued me in the Greek Courts. Unfortunately for him, the Courts accepted my version of the truth and threw out his petitions. At the same time he was overthrown from his throne!

After the dramatic events that led to the expulsion of Eirineos and the election of the new Patriarch Theophilos, I hoped for my reinstatement. Again I was wrong. Theophilos, for whose candidacy I worked hard and whom I respected and trusted, and his immediate assistant, the Chief Secretary of the Patriarchate, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantine, also someone I was considering a friend, proved worse than all their predecessors. They proved to be without honor and without conscience. What they did is this: As it appears in the minutes of the Synodal meeting #9, of 4/28/2006, and in the formal announcement of my reinstatement (See Official announcement of my reinstatement), they wrote that they reinstated me only after I “expressed sincere regret” in my application for reinstatement, something which is a lie. I never expressed any regret for my protests even though I told them that I would do so if they would tell me what I did wrong and why I should retract my protests, something they never did. If I would do that, I mean, if I would express regret, that would mean that I was wrong in protesting against the Patriarch and that the situation in the Patriarchate was okay.

When I confronted the Chief Secretary about this he told me that they made a mistake.  He said that they should not have written this, but now it was done and it was very difficult or rather impossible to change that. I told him that for me it was very serious and I demanded a correction of the mistaken expression. He promised to do his best towards this end, but nothing was done. When I confronted the Patriarch, (See Letters to Patriarch Theophilos, #1 and #2),  he said that this is how it should be written and that there was nothing he would change.

I tried through intermediaries to make them change the unacceptable phrase, to no avail. When I realized again that they didn’t care a bit about what I was feeling, I decided to quit from the Brotherhood and from the title they gave me as Archbishop of Askalon and I did express that through an open letter to all the Brotherhood and the Greek Press. (See Open Letter to the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, #2).

The Patriarch ignored my letter and insists on considering me as a member of the Brotherhood and the Patriarchate.

I did not like this situation at all. In order that no one would ever think that my protests are only words without any meaning, and because I had no other means to pressure them to change the unacceptable phrase,  I decided, with great sorrow, to “anathematize”  Patriarch Theophilos and the Chief Secretary Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantine, as well as all those who willingly and conscientiously signed that decision, something that I communicated to the Brotherhood and the Greek Press with another open letter in October of 2007. (See Announcement #2).       

After this action of mine I expected the Patriarch to call on me and ask me to explain my action. Until now nothing has happened. To people who asked about me they say that I am welcome to return to Jerusalem. To others they say that now I have to apologize for this action of mine, before I can be accepted back into the Patriarchate.  Well, this publication is my answer to their latest request.

Because, as I mentioned above, this situation is unacceptable to me I do declare publicly that I will continue protesting against the situation in Jerusalem, against their lie about me, until they will change that immoral phrase, and they will remain anathematized until they do so. I also warn them against trying to do something like that after my death (I am not immortal, I know that), because I will anathematize them even after death.

Until today, I was willing to accept a compromise with them to the extent that I would accept a neutral expression which would not accuse anybody for doing wrong. Now I declare that I demand from Patriarch and the Synod no less than a full apology for their lie and an apology for what they did or did not do, for me and for the rest of the Brotherhood, all these years.

Archbishop Nikiphoros
Athens, March, 2009