May 19, 2021

Synaxarion of the Holy New Hieromartyr John Karastamatis of Santa Cruz

By Abbess Isidora Agierotheitissa


On the 19th of this month [May], we commemorate the Holy New Hieromartyr John the Wonderworker, martyred in the city of Santa Cruz of the New World in the year 1985.


As an inspired sacrificer of the bloodless sacrifice,
Likewise you became a bloody sacrifice O John.
On the nineteenth John was harshly struck and cut up

Father John Karastamatis of Santa Cruz was born on the Greek island of Andros on August 8, 1937. Having come to America where he was assigned to Greek Orthodox parishes in Alaska and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, due to health related issues he was transferred to California for the warmer climate and became the first parish priest and one of the founders of the Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Cruz, California. A married priest with two children, he was a fervent preacher of the Orthodox faith and tirelessly ministered not only to his flock but also the unemployed, homeless and drug addicts of the city. On May 19, 1985 he was found brutally murdered in his church. He has been credited with numerous miracles of healing since his death.*

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let us honor John, the splendor of the New World and offspring of Andros, glory of the Hieromartyrs, having been slain for Christ in the temple, Santa Cruz shines as is fitting, gathering Orthodox from everywhere who cry out: glory to Christ Who glorified you, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who showed you to be a wondrous protector of the nations.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You performed the sacred sacrifice in imitation of Christ, O John who has been seen as an ornament of Andros, an apostle who discoursed about God in Alaska, but as you sacrificed your soul on behalf of your flock, now you grant the gift of miracles to those who cry out: Rejoice all-happy Martyr.

Rejoice illumination of the New World, offspring of Andros, anointed of the Theotokos; rejoice delightful consolation of Orthodox, protector of Santa Cruz, universal Father.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos


* This short life was not written by Abbess Isidora, but by the translator. Though Father John Karastamatis has not officially been recognized by the Church as a Saint, he is recognized as one by many Orthodox Christians in America and in Greece, at least. In Greece, his story was widely circulated soon after his death, having become well-known through his association with the island of Andros, Fr. Dorotheos from Andros, and the miracles attributed to him. There an emphasis was placed on his martyrdom by satanists in America and the especially gruesome murder, which fascinated many and increased his popularity and veneration. Being the late 1980's and early 1990's, when satanism was widely talked about not only in American media but also in Greek media, as the satanic panic was widely flourishing at the time, the accusation seemed very real. What came to be known, however, is that some of these details in the story were not exactly true, or at least doubtful. Nonetheless, he is still somewhat widely venerated in Greece, his memory is celebrated by many on May 19th, and entire services have been composed by at least two known hymnographers, which includes the one above. Though details in his life need to be clarified, there should be no doubt of his saintliness which leads to his veneration, as evidenced by the holy life and suffering of Father John, as well as by his miracles.