The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy, this time with one of its own priests which it has accused of belligerent rhetoric, 'directed mainly towards those within the Church.'
In a detailed announcement issued yesterday 21 August, the Archdiocese accuses Fr Eleftherios Tatsis of engaging 'in a strategy of exploiting the holy Gospel and the teachings of the Church, towards self-heroization and self-divinization. It is a tactic that occasionally leads him down slippery paths, such as that of identifying himself with Saints of our Church and with the Holy Spirit.'
"Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this clergyman has shown discordant behaviour; in the past, he had clashed with the blessed Archbishops Ezekiel and Stylianos and with the Patriarchal Exarch, Iakovos of Philadelphia, as well as with all the Bishops without exception who served in the Archdiocesan District of Melbourne. In fact, Archbishop Stylianos of blessed memory had punished Fr Eleftherios for his behaviour and with a document of the Church, dated 28 November 2002, forbade him to preach from the pulpit, precisely because of his problematic, anti-ecclesiastical and provocative positions.
"His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia personally invited Fr Eleftherios and spoke to him with much love and paternity, in relation to the content of his sermons directed against the Church, the Archbishop, the Patriarch, the Bishops, the other clergy, as well as the political leadership of Greece, Australia and other countries. He pointed out to him that what he is constantly doing—namely, presenting himself as the sole judge of the allegedly bad texts of the Church and the world, together with his belief that he alone is working correctly—is a tactic which is wrong and demonic. At the same time, our Shepherd urged him to focus on Christ during his sermons, to avoid unrestrained criticism and not to despise the work of his fellow clergymen, reminding him that all the clergy of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia, each in his own domain, have, throughout the years, always given and continue to give their witness for the good of the local Church and the Greek Nation. And that, in every case, he is not the only one who is correct or the only one who has worked in the Church, while all the rest are useless, as is clearly deduced from his talks.
"During the last meeting he had with the Archbishop, which took place on 27 December 2021 at the offices of the Holy Archdiocese in Melbourne, for an hour and a half, he was praising himself and trying to convince that the whole world should applaud him and literally glorify him.
"He also referred, with obscene and indecent words, to Archbishop Stylianos of blessed memory, about whom he repeated, many times, that he could not remove him from his position because he “held him captive by the hand”. In addition, indirectly yet clearly, he threatened Archbishop Makarios that, if he does not tolerate his behaviour, a well-known fringe “journalist”, with whom he admitted to be collaborating, would take issue with him. Characteristic, in fact, of his style andbehaviour is that, if any third party had the opportunity to listen to that conversation, he would not believe that the one speaking with intensity was the subordinate and the one listening, the leader. However, despite what Fr Eleftherios said rudely and impertinently during this meeting, with shouts and indescribable audacity, the Archbishop again showed patience and love.
"The specific meeting, which was also the last communication that His Eminence had with Fr Eleftherios, concluded with a plea from the Archbishop, which related to the most critical issue of the pandemic and the need to demonstrate competence on the part of the clergy. It is noted that Fr Eleftherios, through his actions and words, opposed the laws of the State, as well as the encyclicals of the Holy Archdiocese, regarding the measures to limit the pandemic, and without having the right he did not implement the instructions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of our local Church. In his sermons, he completely disparaged science, rejected doctors, gave advice and conveyed information that had nothing to do with scientific and theological reality. Indicative is the arbitrary claim, which he has repeatedly made during sermons in Church, that “cancers have tripled because of vaccines”. Similarly, that there are vaccines that contain “water” and are used “to compel you to be injected and for the poor world to die”, implying that these were the types of vaccines made publicly available by Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison, the current and former Prime Ministers of Australia respectively.
"Unfortunately, Fr Eleftherios used the pandemic to appear again as a hero and a saint, as the only one who worries about the health of his fellow human beings and as the only one who handled the issue spiritually and in an Orthodox manner.
"Below, some of his expressions, delivered during sermons, which are entirely indicative of his stance against the Church and the clergy, are the following:
- He identified the Bishops with the Scribes and Pharisees of the time of Christ, saying verbatim: “Our High Priests are the Archbishops, right? The High Priests and the Scribes”, while in the same unacceptable sermon he directly and falsely accused the Church of Greece of being inactive and taking bribes in relation to civil marriages: “I am telling you clearly. Bells should have been ringing in Greece, night and day… they have no idea and do not care. (The Church in question) it is being paid” making a characteristic gesture with the tips of his fingers, that the Church is receiving money and that is why it does not react to civil marriages.
- In the same spirit, in another of his talks, he said: “I had confidence in certain people there in Greece, also in Metropolitans, and now I have completely cut them off. “We are civil servants, they say, we have to take the injection”… even if we make the Holy Offering. Even if you make the Holy Offering. And you are a Metropolitan and an Archbishop or a Patriarch. But you don’t believe.”
- Addressing young people, he would accuse the Bishops and clergy, saying: “And you come here to find rest, to shout, to gain strength, to recharge your batteries… close to God. What are our priests and Hierarchs doing… Forget them.”
- He testified the same, and even worse, on another occasion, stressing: “Priests and Hierarch, politicians have fallen into promiscuity”.
- While in another sermon he said: “There aren’t any good politicians. There aren’t any good Hierarchs and priests”.
- Referring to His Grace Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis, he said: “And what did I tell him… I say, you must become—and the other Bishop, the two Bishops—the bridge united with the leader. You must not gossip. You must not say contrary things”, giving the impression to people that he is the honest and virtuous one, while the Bishops gossip, and that he tries to bring them onto the path of God.
- In the same spirit, in another sermon, he said about His Grace Bishop Kyriakos: “Bishops are called Bishops, not spies”.
- Inside the church, he described—and, indeed, in a bragging manner—a terrifying event, that a supporter-follower of his had threatened a previous Archbishop. Specifically, addressing a member of the church, he said: “When the Archbishop went to expel me then, do you know what he said? If you expel him, we’ll burn you inside. That’s what your grandfather said. We will burn you as you are inside”.
- In his sermon during the August Dormition Fast, he considered it appropriate to share with the congregation what Archbishop Stylianos used to say to him: “You have a lot of people behind you, that’s why I fear you”. In fact, by making the characteristic axe-striking motion with his hand, Fr Eleftherios wanted to inform the congregation, to further strengthen this privilege that he thinks he has. Specifically, he explained to them that “when you see, therefore, that there are people behind you, the axe is unable to cut you off…”; he ended his sermon saying: “We are many, the sheaf, we say, cannot be cut. Sheaf. Together”.
"Finally, in a sermon of his, he put forward the obscene claim that Archbishop Makarios is interested in when Fr Eleftherios will pass away, something which he arbitrarily deduced from a conversation that they had had during their first meeting when the Archbishop asked him how old he is. Specifically, referring to His Eminence in a derogatory manner and characteristically using the phrase “the young cub, a fox… this cannot happen”, he interpreted and imagined the questions that the Archbishop had asked him about the Parish, in the following way: “Are they paid off? I mean, what will he do when I die? … and everyone wanted me to die”.
According to the announcement, the 'anticanonical and illegal behaviour of Fr Eleftherios was not limited to the aforementioned. During the month of June, he decided to abandon his duties for a vacation, without following the formal and canonical procedure that we are all obliged to follow, which is to ask permission for leave from our superior authority. This is an anticanonical and illegal act, not only in terms of external procedure, but also in terms of its inherent essence, since it shows a desire for separation and autonomy from the body of the Church. The Holy Archdiocese of Australia could certainly have convened a spiritual tribunal immediately; however, the Archbishop’s advice was for the local Bishop to call Fr Eleftherios and speak to him again with love and affection. '