New York, June 23, 2020
On June 3, Archbishop Elpidophoros, the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, joined thousands in a Black Lives Matter protest march in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
His participation garnered much praise, as well as much criticism because of the pro-abortion and pro-LGBT politics of Black Lives Matter and because the event was held in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic during which the Archbishop himself had closed his churches.
The day before he marched, police officer Shay Mikalonis, a member of the St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Las Vegas, was shot in the head during a Black Lives Matter protest and is currently on life support. Abp. Elpidophoros has also come under heavy criticism for making no public statement about Mikalonis and for joining with BLM after this incident.
Abp. Elpidophoros addressed some of these concerns and explained his participation in the march in a recent interview with the Greek outlet Vima Orthodoxias.
“As a person and as an Archbishop, I must tell you that my decision to take part in the peaceful protest march for equality was not just a choice, but my duty as a Christian and as a Greek,” he explained.
“Each of us has our own voice to speak, but when we unite with our fellow citizens, with our fellow human beings, we can create a harmonious whole that will speak to fundamental human values,” he added.
Not everyone who participated in the march was homogeneous, the Archbishop said, but all were united in the goal of ending racism.
He also stated that his participation was not intended to present a pre-meditated message about politics, but was a last-minute decision, based on the personal example of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
“It simply came to our notice and I decided at the last minute. I thought, ‘What would our Patriarch do in this case?’ I learned from him and I will always have him as my guide and mentor and role model in my life,” Abp. Elpidophoros said.
“And I was sure he would do the same without hesitation. I thought that as the head of a religious community, such as the Archdiocese of America, I have an obligation to work with all governments, regardless of party affiliation, as our Patriarchate does. And I do,” the GOARCH head explained.
“But I will never compromise or negotiate my consistency and devotion to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he added.
Religion can never be neutral to human rights abuses, he also highlighted. “It is certain that there will not always be agreement, but that is exactly where the beauty of our faith lies, that is, that there is always enough space for everyone, as long as everyone relies on love for God and love for man.”
In a statement last week, Abp. Elpidophoros said that George Floyd’s death is not in vain if it brings America closer to justice for all.