By Dustin Brown
A former Greek Orthodox priest who now runs his own church in Woodside was defrocked more than three decades ago after pleading guilty to sodomy charges in Pennsylvania, church officials said.
Pangratios Vrionis was accused of sodomizing two 14-year-old boys when he served as a priest with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America in Harrisburg, Pa. in the 1960s, according to court records posted on an Internet website that documents church abuse.
Vrionis pleaded guilty in 1970 to two counts of sodomy and two counts of corrupting the morals of a minor and was sentenced to probation, the records show.
The website’s account was confirmed Tuesday by Bishop Savas of Troas, the Manhattan-based chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, who said the church defrocked Vrionis shortly after his guilt was known.
“It happened some 32 years ago. For us it’s a closed book,” Bishop Savas said. “Something occurred, the church reacted.”
But since then Vrionis has founded his own Orthodox jurisdiction in Woodside, the Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis, which is not recognized by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Savas said.
The story, first reported in Tuesday’s New York Post, comes in the midst of a sex scandal in which the Roman Catholic Church has been accused of repeatedly failing to respond to allegations of child sex abuse against priests, who have been allowed to continue serving parishes without reproach.
But the bishop said the policy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is to immediately inform police of any allegations involving the sex abuse of a minor.
One representative of the Orthodox Church who asked not to be named said Vrionis now acts as a “self-ordained bishop” who is merely “impersonating a clergyman.”
An archivist with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese said Vrionis was officially defrocked by the Church on Dec. 8, 1970.
The Post reported that Vrionis’ unauthorized congregation is based out of Sts. Fanourios and Gerasimos Cathedral on 48th Avenue in Woodside.
Roger Stavis, the attorney representing Vrionis, said Tuesday he could not offer his comments until 2 p.m. Wednesday after the TimesLedger had gone to press.
Edward Marsico, the district attorney in Dauphin County, Pa., did not return repeated phone calls requesting information about the case.
Although the Roman Catholic Church’s policy of requiring priests to remain celibate has drawn criticism for potentially attracting sexual deviants to the cloth, the Greek Orthodox Church allows men planning to enter the priesthood to marry prior to their ordination. But those who choose to remain celibate cannot marry after being ordained.
Greek Orthodox bishops are chosen from the ranks of celibate priests.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.