BOSTON – Rev. Christopher Metropoulos, the newly-appointed president of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC), granted his first exclusive interview to TNH in which he addressed many and serious issues confronted the Schools.
He also spoke about his vision concerning the Theological School. Fr. Christopher discussed the issues of homosexuality and pederasty in the clergy with reference to the recent scandal caused by Rev. Adam Metropoulos, a priest of the Metropolis of Boston who was pastoring for the last thirteen years at the St. George parish in Bangor, ME.
Metropoulos, who will assume his presidential duties on July 1st also discussed the search committee’s selection process and he verified TNH’S information that he is a “koumparo” to Committee Chairman Tomas Lelon, appointed to that position by Archbishop Demetrios. Christopher was chosen among 41 other candidates.
The interview follows:
TNH: How do you feel about your selection to the HCHC presidency?
CM: I am very humble. I was there for the interviews at least for the last segment when it became public who the two candidates were, and that day I began meeting with the faculties and students and staff. I went to Chapel with the students, I prayed during the Orthros, I went before the icon of Christ in the Chapel, which is the same icon I stood in front of 35 years ago, so there was a feeling then of unworthiness of becoming a priest and then now going back as I have been selected to lead the School is a very humble experience.
TNH: When did you learn that you had been selected for the presidency?
CM: I received a phone call the day that the Executive Committee, the Presidential Search Committee, and the full Board of Trustees met to have the official election. Archbishop Demetrios, the Chairman of the Board, called me that afternoon.
TNH: What did say?
CM: He said: “I want to inform you that you have elected unanimously by the Board of Trustees to assume the position of president; you are president-elect until Fr. Nicholas Triantafillou steps down, and then you become the president.
TNH: Do you know who the other 40 candidates were?
CM: I do not, because it was a confidential process. I must tell you that I was very impressed with the process itself, it was kept completely confidential.
TNH: Speaking about the process, were you interviewed by Demetra Manis over the phone?
CM: Yes she was one of the individuals I spoke with during the process.
TNH: Isn’t that bit strange? Manis, a layperson, interviewing an accomplished clergyman for the position of the President of the Theological School? After all the Theological School is no just a Department store or a perfume company.
CM: You have red all the communiqués that have come out of the School with the number of candidates that applied and then the Search Committee went through its process. The Committee was appointed by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. The Presidential Committee responds to the Executive Committee and the Executive Committee did the report.
TNH: I understand that, but I am asking you specifically about the interview over the phone by Mrs. Manis.
CM: No, I didn’t find anything strange about it. If Archbishop Demetrios had confidence in her abilities, he had checked her background – she is quite an individual – personally I didn’t have any problem. She was very good; she was very encouraged, very concerned about the future of the Church and I found her to be professional and a person of integrity.
TNH: Fr. Christopher, we are talking here about the Holy Cross School of Theology, and not about a commercial corporation, like a department store.
CM: I understand what you are saying, but again, I was perfectly fine in process.
TNH: What are some of your immediate priorities upon assuming the presidency?
CM: There are two things I think that will very much outline the first months on campus. There two central points to my presidency. The first is the faithfulness to the sacred calling of the School and that is the increased focus on the School’s core, an identity, a place of worship, a spiritual formation, and preparation for Christian leadership – both lay and clergy.
TNH: Does the School have a clear mission today?
CM: I believe it does. I don’t think it has been shared enough and it might be because of Fr. Nick’s [Triantafillou] inability because of his illness to fully be involved, but the School and the Church has stated very clearly what its mission is through the process of the strategic plan.
TNH: What is the purpose of the existence of the School for you?
CM: Number one, faithfulness to the sacred calling. The second is a bold adaptation for the future. Being faithful sometimes means we don’t need to change to serve the Church and the world and the students in the 21st century. Some changes will be necessary, a bold vision that takes advantage of what I feel are tremendous opportunities out there represented by technology and partnerships. Possibly new degree programs, and working with the faculty and the administration.
TNH: Has the departing president apprised you of the School’s condition, financially and administratively?
CM: I asked for many items. They shared the bylaws, the strategic plan. They have begun under the direction of the archbishop and Dr. Lelon to prepare transition books from each of the offices so that I am completely brought up to date on the budgetary issues as well as the enrolment. As you know, those two are keys to HCHC’s success.
TNH: Do you think that a $12 million annual budget for HCHC, which has only 170 in the two schools combined, is a lot of money?
CM: I don’t know enough yet to tell you that for sure, but I do know that enrollment needs to go up.
TNH: How are you going to increase enrollment? Why do you think Fr. Triantafillou was not able to achieve that despite all the proclamations he was making all these years?
CM: Fr. Triantafillou is a legend within the Archdiocese and he has sacrificed his entire life for the Church. I have the outmost respect for Fr. Nicholas. We know the last two years of his ministry at the School have been very, very difficult.
TNH: Do you think the School has neglected the Greek-American community?
CM: No. If anything, the Greek-American community needs to know more about the School.
TNH: With all due respect to Fr. Triantafillou, he spent most of his time traveling to find money and students, He was rarely present on campus. Why wasn’t he successful in getting more students all these years, excluding the last two years he was ill?
CM: Fr. Nick did his best and I am not here to criticize Fr. Nicholas.
TNH: I did not hear anything from you all this time about the Hellenic Heritage, the Greek language; it is not included in this faithfulness to the calling you have mentioned?
CM: When we say faithfulness to the call I use the terms Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Greek is a given, it is not something that it is excluded intentionally or unintentionally. The Greek language is a part of it. Every priest coming out of the School who will serve the Greek Orthodox Church must know the Greek language. Frankly, it behooves everyone to learn the Greek language so they can study Scripture and be able to converse in the Greek language.
TNH: Would you bring in some students from Greece?
CM: I have no problem bringing students from Greece. The problem is how to fund students?
TNH: The same way we fund students from the United States. The Leadership 100 is acting actually as HCHC’s fundraiser.
CM: It is one of the fundraisers.
TNH: What do you think the relationship should be between the School and the Eparchial Synod?
CM: I do not know where you are heading with that question, but I do know that every member of the Eparchial Synod is a member of the Board of Trustees. They are an integral part of the School.
TNH: Where do you stand on the issue of homosexuality and pederasty?
CM: I don’t think feel that it has any place in this conversation; we are talking about the presidency of the School.
TNH: The School had problems and a recent one was Fr. Adamantios Metropoulos from Bangor, ME.
CM: The Church is very clear in the relationship of a man and a woman and their correct sexuality.
TNH: Let me ask you this way, would you accept students at the School of Theology who are known homosexuals or pedophiles.
CM: I would be hard pressed to do that, I do not know legally if I can stop that, but I say to you that the choice of that lifestyle has no place either at the Seminary or in the College.
TNH: Are you related in any way to Dr. Lelon?
CM: Dr. Lelon and his wonderful wife, Alexis, are the Godparents of my oldest daughter, Eleni.
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