MILWAUKEE– Rev. Angelo Artemas is leaving the Annunciation parish in Milwaukee, WI after three years of service there. He succeeded Rev. James Dokos, who has been charged for theft from the trust of a former parishioner. Fr. Artemas refused to cover up the problem as was the wish of his superiors, and he sent his correspondence with the Metropolis Chancellor Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos to the Attorney General’s Office.
In a TNH interview, Fr. Artemas verified the Herald’s information about his transfer and he clarified that he requested the transfer.
“I am leaving,” he said. “I have been here three years, a difficult three years. I used to be in New York in the 1990s and I was very close at the time to Chroepiskopos Alexios and we had an occasion to speak about a month ago. He offered me to come to his Metropolis in Atlanta. I requested that from my Metropolis of Chicago and they granted the release on May 1st, for July 1st. I don’t have a specific assignment form His eminence Metropolitan Alexios, but I am gratefully at his service. He will let me know within the next couple of weeks.”
What made this such a difficult three years? “The background is well known, from your coverage,” he said, “but let us leave it at this: the parish has financial difficulties and has conflict with the Metropolis of Chicago.”
He said “the parish is upset. They were hoping that I would stay longer.” They are wrongly interpreting that he was transferred against his will, Artemas said, and so they are upset with the Chicago Metropolis, but in general they are upset to see him go.
Regarding Fr. Dokos, Artemas said “there is going to be a trial in early October, I believe on October 5th, and I am sure when October comes the parish will be paying more attention to that. But right now, we are at working out our financial difficulties including on negotiating with the bank about our mortgage.”
But isn’t this a vibrant, thriving parish? “That was the perception,” Artemas explained, “but it was a wrong perception. The reasons are numerous and they are not for me to enumerate.”
Are the financial problems due to Dokos? “It certainly did make an impact, parish, but it is not the whole story,” Artemas said. “The rest of the story is that parish councils and priests should work together and keep each other accountable. Parish councils should keep an eye on the finances and keep themselves and the priest accountable also.”
As for the Chicago Metropolis’ reaction to Artemas’ transfer request, he said they have been fair and compliant, and he would not speculate as to whether they are relieved.
Where does Artemas see the Greek Orthodox Church in America heading? “I know that pre-Councils and Councils are coming,” he said. “Patriarchal Councils and Symposia and other things coming up. I have my own opinion but I am curious to see what comes out of these meetings and symposia and Councils.
“At the end of the day, I place a high value what is done at the local level and I think local laymen and priests need to be locally supported not just by the parishes but also by their hierarchy so they can do the real local work that hopefully builds the whole Church.”
What about restoring the Church’s ancient tradition of married bishops? Artemas says
“it is a fascinating tradition and historically, there was a time that the presbyter and the bishop had very similar if not parallel roles. I think it may be time to consider older married priests, whose children are older, and who have proven themselves in parish ministry, to become bishops.”
Where does Artemas stand on ordaining priests, bishops, and metropolitans who are known to be homosexuals? “That is a loaded question,” he responded. “I will borrow a phrase from Pope Francis and first and foremost I would say: ‘who am I to judge?’ Whatever orientation, those who take the vows of marriage should honor the vows of marriage and those who take the vows of celibacy should honor the vows of celibacy.”
As for, say, a bishop who is a “practicing homosexual,” then, Artemas says: “I would hope that his superiors will take up that issue because again it indicates a lack of respect for celibacy and the monastic tonsure, whether it is with a man or a woman.”
Regarding monasticism, and especially with the Ephraimite movement in the Church and parishes, Artemas said that “just last week, probably one of the most respected monastics of the last one hundred years, Fr. Roman Braga of the Romanian Archdiocese, passed on to the eternal life. I had met him numerous times. I had been in his lectures and retreats. It is clear that monasticism is valuable, honorable and beneficial to the Orthodox Faith. I think there is a danger when monasticism becomes condemning, judgmental, extreme, and fundamentalist. If that what is coming out of the Ephraimite monastery, then it is not a benefit to the Church.”
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