On Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 His Grace Metropolitan Jerome OSJV regrettably accepted the resignation of Archbishop George Papathanasiou as diocesan bishop of Haemus, the south eastern diocese of the Province of Europe. His Excellency has been suffering ill health for a number of months with frequent hospital visits of longer duration each stay enduring radio-therapy and cardiology treatments.
In a letter dated September 2nd, His Excellency wrote to the Metropolitan offering his resignation and expressing his great regret at not being able to attend the Provincial Ordinations on September 21st in London, UK due to his doctors warning against the potential danger of air-travel (cabin pressure) to his heart. The diocese of Haemus is sponsoring two ordinands for ordination, Demetrius Hadjistavrides for Athens, Greece and Fra Bonifacije Škulić OSB for the monastery of the Reformed Hermits of St Benedict in Trogirskog, Croatia of which Archbishop George was to be a spiritual father as well as episcopal visitor, himself having been a Camoldolese monk. His Excellency is expected to retire to the Camaldoli Hermitage in Casentino, Italy returning to a life of quietude and prayer, the Prior having recently visited His Excellency in Greece to prepare the transition.
The Metropolitan replied, “Of course it is a great shame that your health is so deteriorated and I regrettably feel obliged to accept your resignation as diocesan bishop of Haemus with respect to your request which speaks of humility and true charity in the offering of your resignation. You are indeed to be commended for recognising, like the Pope Emeritus, that to continue in office so disadvantaged regarding your health, will not ultimately serve the Church and though I am sure it was frustrating to have come to such a conclusion, you do so maintaining our respect and fraternal appreciation.”
Archbishop George is succeeded as bishop of Haemus by Monsignor Martin Charlesworth, formerly an auxiliary bishop for the Province of Europe who had literally just begun his appointment as co-adjutor bishop for Haemus on September 1st. A coadjutor bishop possessing the right of succession immediately becomes the successor of a diocesan when he retires, resigns or dies. Monsignor Charlesworth was appointed earlier this year by the Metropolitan specifically to assist Archbishop George in the care of the diocese of Haemus which serves most of the Balkan countries of south eastern Europe. The new bishop of Haemus will be based and is moving to Hungary later this month, as originally planned, following the Provincial Ordinations in London, but now as diocesan Ordinary.
Metropolitan Jerome OSJV asks all clergy and faithful of the Province of Europe to remember Archbishop George, giving thanks to God for his many years of service to the Church, particularly in his apostolates to the poor providing food, medical facilities and cancer screening facilities to the poor of rural Greece and Africa in partnership with the Orthodox Church. His Grace asks also for prayers for Bishop Martin as he begins his new appointment and moves to a new home in a new country.