His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America on Monday officiated at the funeral service of the late George Zapantis, at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone, New York.
George Zapantis, a 29-year-old Greek-American, was killed by police in New York’s borough of Queens, after a neighbour misreported that he was carrying a gun inside his own home.
In an act of good will, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America stated that the funeral expenses will be covered by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, as reported by Greek City Times.
The Archbishop, in His eulogy, said the following:
Beloved Athanasia, dear and bereft mother,
Family and Friends of George Zapantis,
Today, we hear the cry of a mother, a mother unjustly deprived of her son, a mother whose heart is rent in two, a mother who has come to the Church of the Holy Cross upon which the Son of the Theotokos died, to bury her son. To mourn her son. To grieve her son.
Her cry is the cry of the Prophet that echoes through the ages:
Οὐ πρὸς ὑμᾶς πάντες οἱ παραπορευόμενοι ὁδόν;
Ἐπιστρέψατε καὶ ἴδετε εἰἔστιν ἄλγος κατὰ τὸ ἄλγος μου,
ὃ ἐγενήθηφθέξαμενος ἐν ἐμοὶ.
Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow,
which is done unto me.
Beloved Athanasia, I want you to know that your cry is heard.
Heard by your Church.
Heard by your community.
Heard by your People, the Omogeneia around the world.
We gather with you to provide this crumb of consolation, but nothing to bring justice to George and to your family.
We must seek justice outside of this moment of mourning.
We must seek justice from our Righteous God.
And we must seek justice by speaking the truth to the powers that be.
We are in the midst of this global pandemic, and we are in the midst of our American society that has been rocked by the very kind of abuse that brings us around George’s coffin today. And there is no justice in this moment as we pray for God’s mercy upon his soul, as we pray for comfort for Athanasia, a mother bereft of her son.
No more fitting Ναός could be found for our funeral rites today; because this is the Church of the Holy Cross. Therefore, we stand with our Panagia at the Cross, the cross of an unjust death perpetrated by the Roman Empire. And we also stand with another mother, our beloved Athanasia, by the cross of the unjust death of her son, George.
So what can we do? What must we do?
In this moment, we offer our prayers, our solace, our love for this family robbed of their George.
But we must also steady ourselves to hear their prophetic cry.
Is it nothing to us, as we pass by this moment of grief?
Can we not turn to take into our full view their sorrow, pain, and grief?
Will we settle for less than a full accounting of justice now in this moment, so that it will not come to be justice denied?
We are a community—not the biggest for certain, and not the most influential. But we are a family of believers and a family of Hellenes. Our responsibility is to work for the justice that George was denied.
Our vocation is to stand up for him because he was brought down, even into the shallows of death, by ignorance, by cruelty, by mistrust, and by incompetence.
Let us, my beloved Christians, not desert the cross that Athanasia stands by today, a cross that she will carry for the rest of her life. We may not be able to raise George back to life, but we can raise his cause and not let his banner fall until “justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
We can uphold his cause and uphold his family in their search for the rule of law, for integrity, for honesty, and for the due process that George was denied, and that so many of our fellow citizens have been denied.
The illness that caused his death was not in George. The illness that caused his death is in our society, a society that has lost its capacity for empathy, for compassion, and for understanding.
But, my dear Athanasia, we will not let this be the end of George’s story. We will not let George’s death – so very cruel and so very far before his time – we will not allow his death to be in vain.
We will honor his memory by our search for justice.
We will hold his name precious by our fight for his vindication.
And we will hold his life in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls as we fight the good fight to make our world a better world for all people.
Where love conquers hate.
Where knowledge conquers prejudice.
And where wisdom conquers fear.
The memory of George Zapantis will be eternal because we will not let it die, and our All-Holy God will hold it forever in the Divine Mind that holds all creation in love and peace.
Αἰωνία του ἡ μνήμη!
Ricky Noble, a neighbour of Zapantis, blamed another neighbour entirely for the incident and described the deceased as a good person who often brought them Greek food, caused no trouble and looked after his down syndrome sister, as reported by Greek City Times.
George Zapantis, who suffered from bipolar, was in his basement dressed as a gladiator and was carrying a samurai sword when police arrived at his house. When police entered the house, they ordered Zapantis to drop the sword, but when he refused to, they tasered him. As they attempted to handcuff him outside of the house, police tasered him again.
It is suspected he died of cardiac arrest in an ambulance and was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital.
Athanasia Zapantis said the family was waiting for the results of an independent autopsy on her son’s cause of death, and expressed her frustration that police didn’t call in a social worker to defuse the situation.
“If my son was wrong…” she said. “I don’t think he was wrong at all. He had so good a heart. He was kind to everybody.”
Athansia Zapantis said she will move out of the neighbourhood knowing that one of her neighbours is responsible for causing an incident that led to her sons death. The neighbour was seen clapping as George was being tasered and handcuffed.
“If I see him, I’m going to spit in his face,” said Athanasia.