Showing posts with label St. Irene Chrysovalantou. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Irene Chrysovalantou. Show all posts

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hand of Peace

St. Irene Chrysovalantou reliquary,
basil & jasmine

I was accidentally drawn into an outdoor Astoria procession with an icon and holy relic held on the shoulders of many men.
Chanting and incense wafted into New York City police cars. Locals sipping Sunday coffee at a cafe stood up as the silver-encased hand of St. Irene Chrysovalantou processed under the subway tracks on the familiar pavement, full of somber faithful instead of traffic.
Long ago, St. Irene was renowned as a young monastic leader who saw clearly into the future. She was born in Cappadocia, which is now in Eastern Turkey, and refused marriage to Empress Theodora's son in Constantinople (now Istanbul). (Bios on Wikipedia & local church Website.)
The local icon of "St. Peace" and the reliquary (at right), are surrounded by yellow coins and jewelry left by prayerful penitents.
Participants in the procession wore traditional Greek garb. The rest received a lapel sticker, apple slices thought to work miracles, and sweet bread laced with mastic and orange. At the end of the procession, the icon was passed over the faithful, who lined up on closed streets for a blessing.
Several ducking under the flower-framed image were clearly ill and in need.
The St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox church and monastery in Astoria, New York were plagued in recent years by scandal, detailed here.) The church reports directly to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who defrocked the founding leaders in 2012 and assigned new ones. More in my other post here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ugliness & Beauty

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY
This post as been updated: St. Irene Chrysovalantou is the prettiest Greek Orthodox church in Astoria, but was tainted by allegations of sex abuse.

This church-monastery adhered to the old Julian calendar, unlike the majority of Greek Orthodox and other Christian churches that follow the "new" Gregorian calendar. St. Irene functioned without official blessing or affiliation in the 1980s and 1990s, but was absorbed into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 1998. It now reports directly to the Ecumenical Patriachate in Turkey. 

Someone brought me to St. Irene for a visit in 1998. I had a dark dream afterward that instructed me not to enter the doorway. I visited a decade later, and the sermon contemplated the likelihood humans will be implanted with computer chips. Later, at a summer festival, a priest was shouting about Greek nationalism and women were selling gold jewelry that penetents had left at the icon of St. Irene to exact miracles. Λουκουμάδες to go, please.

As for the scandal: without any U.S. court accountability, a verdict was doled out by the mother church decades after many events allegedly occurred. In April 2012, former St. Irene Chrysovalantou Archbishop Paisios and former Bishop Vikentios were demoted to the status of monk, in Greece, by the Patriarchate, following an investigation of horrible abuses. The sordid allegations, some involving groups, were not confirmed nor denied. Paisios initially fled to Greece, preventing New York cops from talking to him. In the unprescendented private church hearing in New York, in 2011, dozens of St. Irene abuse victims and those with knowledge were videotaped for review by the Patriarch in Istanbul. The defrocking followed. 

Christian forgiveness likely enabled a predatory psychological power game. How many people are responsible? How do victims recover, and what is the collateral damage to others? How does a worship community rebuild? Will lawsuits cripple the church? And what really happened?  

The big leak: a young St. Irene nun gave up her vows, said she suffered sexual travesties at the monastery, and turned over roughly $260,000 in cash, and gold coins, to the NYPD 114th Precinct in Astoria, according to this WSJ/Fox video The woman says she turned over $500,000. (See the National Herald article.) Things came to a head when Vikentios' brother Spyros Malamatenios made shocking sexual allegations about Paisios in "Predators in Our Midst," a National Herald exclusive republished by 

The former nun, now in her late 20s, was a typical story: the daughter of a priest named Fitzpatrick with 12 children, she was brought up in the monastery to believe males and females, tonsured and otherwise, of all ages, living in close proximity, was normal -- TOTALLY contrary to all church rules and common sense. Another very sad story: the confession of a woman who divorced to become a nun at St. Irene Chrysovalantou -- with her 9-year-old daughterThis nun eventually left St. Irene for the nearby, renegade St. Markella Greek Orthodox Church and monastery, and explains how she didn't protect her daughter.

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY

Sadly, there is a website dedicated to survivors of abuse in Orthodox Churches called This is a relatively new phenomenon for the U.S. Orthodox. One case that emerged decades after the fact in Chicago and Texas is outlined in court documents here. The story of Fr. George Pyle also is explained in an article.

And then there's a rather grotesque-but-humorous caper about monks in Greece who tried to fly the bones of a dead nun from Athens to an island, but airport officials would have none of it. "It's ok," the monks told security, "She's a saint."

More reading here on the cult mentality that can creep into Orthodox Christian churches steeped in strict tradition and obedience.