By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At the Clergy Family Dinner
Centennial Clergy-Laity Congress
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola
New York, New York
July 5, 2022
Most Honorable Delegation of the Mother Church of Constantinople:
Your Eminence Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnon and Avlopotamos, and Very Reverend Grand Ecclesiarch Aetios,
Your Eminences and Graces,
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
And your wonderful families,
To be with the clergy is always joyful for any hierarch, but to see your families – your Presvyteres and children – well, that is excessive joy! Thank you all for joining in this evening’s fellowship. Being with all of you is a very powerful reminder to me – and I think for any hierarch – of our responsibility to you, as your spiritual fathers.
I am proud of the progress that we have made to restore your pension to financial health. At first, this looked like an insurmountable challenge. But with goodwill, cooperation and innovation, we have been able to right that ship and put it on a course of wellbeing for the future. You should all feel that the APC has served your interests very well.
The other aspect of clergy life that is very important to me is how you and your families feel that you are being treated when you are in need. This could be a health consideration, or even an economic one. Or it could mean that your family wants to move somewhere in order to be closer to your support systems – whatever they may be.
I want all of you to know – especially in this time when the Charter situation has caused a degree of consternation among some – that your interests, together with those of your families, are a primary concern of mine. And I know that the same holds true for all the Brothers of the Holy Eparchial Synod, too. Sometimes your families need to move. And other times, they need to stay put. Many of you have the education of your children and their interests, which outweigh even those of your parishioners. As the Apostle Paul says:
Whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)
Those are strong words, indeed! But as the Church, we have to take them very seriously. If our clergy cannot care for their own families, how will they care for the family of God? We know that our contemporary society is replete with numerous technological stressors. In fact, there are so many choices available now for individuals, that in order to draw them to the pristine Gospel of Orthodoxy, extra effort is often required. Therefore, we must pay even more special care to our clergy families.
Finally, we honor here tonight some very special brethren – one of them posthumously. When the beloved Father George Poulos fell asleep in the Lord earlier this year, he had lived to be one hundred years in age! I don’t use the word “old,” though. For Father George was one hundred years new! And he inspired me to take this verse from the Great Prophet Isaiah, as a prophetic word for this Congress:
Ἔσται γὰρ ὀ νέος ἐκατὸν ἐτῶν…
For the young man shall be one hundred years old…
We honor him tonight and invite his son, Peter George, and his nephew, Peter James, to receive the award posthumously on his behalf. Indeed, we are so, so grateful to the memory of this extraordinary priest! And together with this, I also would like to recognize the Reverend Protopresbyter Costa Sitaras, who has steered the Academy of Saint Basil for many, many decades. His love of this singular institution of our Archdiocese is unparalleled, and we are deeply grateful to him for all of his hard work over the years. Truly, his veteran service and quiet, humble example are most commendable and worthy of the highest honor.
In closing, I would like to re-emphasize my personal commitment to you, as your Archbishop, and as your brother in Christ. May the Good Lord always bless you and your families, granting you length of days, spiritual and physical health, and the joy of the Holy Priesthood. Many blessings to all!