Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Mystery of the Orthodox Commemoration of a False Saint

Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Pepelenitsa of Aigealea

By John Sanidopoulos

In many of the more detailed Orthodox ecclesiastical calendars, there is a "Saint" listed which should not be listed who is commemorated on November 14th. He is often listed as "Saint Panteleimon the New Martyr at Crete", and the only biographical information about him given is that he was born in Spetses and died as a martyr by the Turks in Crete at a young age in the year 1848. In my desire to know more about him, I decided to do some research.

The only other reference to this "Saint Panteleimon" I could find was in an encyclical issued by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece dated August 30, 1865 (Protocol Number 4126). There it says that a question was posed to the Holy Synod, as to whether or not it was allowed for the churches to commemorate a certain "Neomartyr Panteleimon", and celebrate the divine services composed in his honor and previously published in a booklet. This booklet was published in Athens by the publisher "Agathe Tyche", which consists of hymns to the unknown "Neomartyr Panteleimon" who was martyred in Crete on November 12, 1848.

Now this is where the story gets more interesting. It appears that the mother of this "Neomartyr Panteleimon" was a woman named Anna, and her sons name was Panteli P. Dousa. This woman eventually became a nun and was named Eupraxia. In 1842 she along with her husband and her son left their native Spetses and went to Crete, where she and her husband were divorced. There she met an Ottoman man and remarried. At some point in 1848 her son from her first husband died when he was eighteen years old. His mother then, in her sick imagination, perhaps due to love for monetary gain, exhumed her sons bones in 1849, proclaiming them to be sanctified and wonderworking. She placed his bones in a box and went to Syros, Spetses and Athens, causing a sensation and gathering crowds to venerate his relics. However, those who were more aware of what was going on were scandalized by such behavior from the mother. Therefore, the bones of her son were taken away from her, and she was ordered to become a nun at the Monastery of Pepelenitsa in Aigealia in order for the scandal to cease. Even though she supposedly renounced that her son was indeed a Saint, the booklet that was being distributed in 1865 seemed to indicate that she remained in her delusion.

For this reason, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece pronounced that the services to this false saint ought to cease in the churches, because it was the cause of scandal to those in the Orthodox Church both mentally and physically. This encyclical was signed by Theophilos of Athens, Gerasimos of Argolidos, Prokopios of Messenia, Dionysios of Monemvasia and Sparta, and Parthenios of Naxos in Athens on August 30, 1865. This condemnation was repeated by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece on December 3, 1899 through the pen of the secretary, indicating that this was still an issue, and forbids any hymns to be chanted to this false saint, that no new hymns be composed in his honor, and that no icons be painted of him for veneration. Those who disobeyed were to be punished with austerity.

I am not able to find any information as to why so many Orthodox calendars still list this "Neomartyr Panteleimon" as a saint of the Church. Perhaps it is due to ignorance. I would encourage all members of the clergy to have his name removed from all calendars, based on the information above. And the above case is not a special case in the history of the Church. It was not long ago when a Greek mother in Athens was pushing for the veneration of her "wonderworking" and "myrrhgushing" son, who died at a young age and was said to be a pious and holy doctor, who is widely known as Saint Demetrios Lekkas. His life and miracles were even published in English and especially popularized in America by a schismatic Greek priest in Pennsylvania. And even more recently is Evgeny Rodionov, the New Martyr of Chechnya, who is very much venerated throughout the Orthodox world, especially in Russia, but has not been officially proclaimed a saint yet because the majority of the testimony of his confession and martyrdom comes from his mother and it cannot be confirmed by other sources. Rightly all these should be questioned and properly investigated by Church authorities, in order to prevent scandal in the Church.


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