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Names of W PA Candidates Disclosed

The names of two candidates for Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania have been revealed in an article published today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In speaking of the forthcoming All- American Council to be held in Pittsburgh next month, Post-Gazette journalist Ann Rodgers writes: "The two candidates for archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania are the Rev. David Mahaffey, a native of Mahaffey, Clearfield County, and a parish priest in Pottstown, Montgomery County; and Archimandrite Melchisedek, who was born Thomas Pleska in Dayton, Ohio, and is now at a monastery in Greece."

The Candidates

Fr. Mahaffey is a Lecturer in Comparative Theology at St.Tikhon's Seminary in addition to his parish duties. He is also an auditor of both the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania and the OCA. In an August 2006 article, entitled “Why Adopt a Seminarian?”, wrtten for the OCA Handbook, Fr. David spoke of his mid-life change in career that brought him, a family man with a wife and four children, to St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Fr. David's wife, Karen, passed away in August 2007. Mahaffery is now in his mid-fifties.

Archimandrite Melchizedek, better known in the OCA as Fr. Tom Pleska, was also ordained after a career in business, and was also an instructor at St. Tikhon's, lecturing in Dogmatic Theology. Pleska served for more than a decade as a parish priest in both the Eastern Pennsylvania and New England dioceses. Never married, Pleska entered the monastic life 10 years ago in Greece. Formerly chaplain to an international women's monastery in central Greece, he is now assisting in the rebuilding of a formerly abandoned 16th century men's monastery and serving as its confessor.

Both official candidates (as well as other potential candidates who were not nominated by the Diocesan Council, which served as the official nominating committee) have visited the diocese for interviews and speaking engagements with clergy and laity this past year. Each visited with clergy and laity in the deaneries, with the Diocesan Council, and answered lengthy questions about their vision for the Diocese. A special Diocesean Assembly is scheduled to meet on November  15th this year, immediately following the All-American Council, to officially nominate one, or both, of these men as the new Bishop. Other names could be nominated from the floor, as well. One name, or two, will then be sent to the OCA's Synod of Bishops for election, which will most likely take place at the end of the year, with an enthronement presided over by the new Metropolitan in the beginning of the new year.

Rodger's article follows:

Orthodox officials to meet here
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After a financial scandal forced the retirement of one of its leaders, the highest governing council of the Orthodox Church in America will meet in Pittsburgh to elect a new metropolitan and try to address deep personal and fiscal wounds.

Due to concerns about the scandal, a full complement of nearly 1,400 clergy and laity may come to the Hilton Pittsburgh, Downtown, to vote at the All-American Council Nov. 10-14, said the Rev. Patrick Carpenter, local communications director and pastor of St. Mary Orthodox Church, South Side.

That would be more than twice the number present when Metropolitan Herman, the former primate who was forced to resign, was elected in 2002.

The recent release of an investigative report detailing the scandal "restored some sense of balance, but it will take time to rebuild trust," Father Carpenter said.

The council meeting will be followed by the Nov. 15 election of a new archbishop (sic) for Western Pennsylvania, which has been vacant since the death of Archbishop Kyrill earlier this year.

The Orthodox Church in America, a multi-ethnic jurisdiction with Russian roots, claims 1 million members in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Last month's resignation of Metropolitan Herman came as an investigating committee reported that more than $4 million had disappeared into unaudited "discretionary accounts" that, among other things, financed a posh lifestyle for longtime chancellor and now-deposed priest Robert Kondratick.

Mr. Kondratick has since filed a $25 million defamation suit against the church.

The report concluded that Metropolitan Herman and his predecessor, Metropolitan Theodosius, along with the Synod of Bishops, several treasurers and a governing board of clergy and laity, had ignored years of warnings from auditors, a former treasurer and others. The metropolitans were accused of blocking audits and, in Metropolitan Herman's case, silencing priests who asked for an investigation.

The election of the new metropolitan is a bit like a papal election in that no candidates are declared beforehand.

"There is no favorite going into this," Father Carpenter said.

The rules call for electors to write a name down on the first ballot, and if no one receives two-thirds, to proceed to a second ballot. The two names with the most votes on that ballot are sent to the Synod of Bishops for canonical election, although the bishops can reject a name and require a third ballot of the clergy and laity.

"This could be the first time in history that that happens," Father Carpenter said.

"The report on the scandal named several bishops.

We don't know how people will view them or how the bishops are viewing each other. It's a very bizarre situation."

There also is a proposal -- slated for a vote prior to the election -- to change the system so that the metropolitan's name is chosen by lot from three produced by the earlier process. "That is the most traditional way of electing a hierarch. It would be a return to a centuries-old process," he said.

The later election of a local archbishop will be held at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in McCandless.

The two candidates for archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania are the Rev. David Mahaffey, a native of Mahaffey, Clearfield County, and a parish priest in Pottstown, Montgomery County; and Archimandrite Melchisedek, who was born Thomas Pleska in Dayton, Ohio, and is now at a monastery in Greece."

(Read the article as it appeared in the paper here)

The article is mistaken in its assertion that the number of participants in Pittsburgh will be double that of the Miami Council in 2002.  While the number of registrations appears to be larger, approximately 1300 delegates and observers attended that earlier Council.

-Mark Stokoe


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