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About Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh

First Primate of

The HOLY EASTERN ORTHODOX CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH in NORTH AMERICA®

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Comments about mis-information refer to pages on Orthodox Wiki under the names American Orthodox Catholic Church and Aftimios Ofiesh.

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Aftimios Ofiesh (1880-1966), Abdullah Aftimios Ofiesh, was an early 20th century Orthodox bishop in America, serving as the immediate successor to St. Raphael of Brooklyn under the auspices of the Church of Russia. He held the title Bishop of Brooklyn from 1917 until April of 1933, when he married, thus deposing himself from the episcopacy. It is claimed that many in the independent movement received their lines of succession of episcopi vagantes from +Aftimios and that he led the American Orthodox Catholic Church from 1927 until his death in 1966.

Following the untimely death of St. Raphael of Brooklyn in 1915, Archimandrite Aftimios (Ofiesh) was elected to serve as his replacement in caring for the Arab Orthodox faithful in America under the Church of Russia's canonical authority. He was consecrated by Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky)as an auxiliary bishop in 1917 with the title of Bishop of Brooklyn. In 1923, in recognition for his work in America, he was elevated by Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky) of New York to the rank of Archbishop.

In 1924, in the canonical chaos of American Orthodoxy following the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Arab Orthodox faithful split into two factions, one which wished to go under the canonical authority of the Church of Antioch and another which wished to stay faithful to the Church of Russia. The former group was organized by Bishop Victor (Abu Assaly) of New York, thus beginning the official presence of the Church of Antioch on American soil.

In 1927, Aftimios was Canonically commissioned by the Russian diocese in America to form an English speaking "American Orthodox Catholic Church,". +Aftimios consecrated three bishops for his new jurisdiction, Sophronius (Beshara) of Los Angeles, Joseph (Zuk) for the Ukrainians, and Ignatius (William Albert) Nichols in September of 1932 as his auxiliary bishop of Washington. Additionally the Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil was established under the auspices of this diocese.

In 1932, Archbishop Aftimios was invited to come to St. Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to arbitrate a dispute regarding the transfer of its priest, Fr. Constantine Abou-Adal. When Fr. Constantine left St. Mary's in November of 1932, the parish was without a pastor, and so Archbishop Aftimios served in that capacity until February of 1933, organizing a choir and Sunday School at the parish. During this time, he met and became involved with one of St. Mary's parishioners, Mariam Namey, then subsequently married her in a civil ceremony in April of 1933.

False reports vary at this point as to what happened regarding Aftimios' episcopacy. According to the parish records of St. Mary's, he "was retired" and lived in nearby Kingston until his death. With the withdrawal of support for the American Orthodox Catholic Church, it lost its canonical status. According to the book Orthodox Christians in North America (1794-1994), however, Aftimios "resigned his episcopacy and married." According to others it is claimed +Aftimios excommunicated himself by his marriage. All 3 claims are in fact false.

One of the groups which now traces itself to Aftimios characterizes the situation differently: "We are now a Patriarchate and under Patriarch Nikon of the American Orthodox Patriarchate. The Patriarch is the head of this Church today. The ethnic orthodox bodies all uncanonically turned their backs on this Church and use the marriage of Abp. Aftimios as the reason, although most had already refused to recognize this Church and its authority in the New World."

Whatever the case, relations between this small canonically established jurisdiction and the mainstream Orthodox Church were never regularized. Since that time, numerous and still multiplying lines of succession of episcopi vagantes continue to persist which claim to trace their roots to Aftimios (mainly through Ignatius Nichols), many of whom regard him as a saint. Some of those bishops are married men, as well, which is a continual stumbling block to their unity with the mainstream Church, which has for centuries maintained a celibate episcopacy.

Following his death in 1966 at age 85, Aftimios was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery across from St. Mary's Orthodox Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre. His widow Mariam subsequently wrote his biography, published in 1999.

The biography by Ofiesh's widow Mariam claims that Aftimios fully intended to function as a married bishop, having that intent even before he met Mariam.

Many of these independent groups use names which are similar to mainstream groups but they are usually not affiliated with any canonical body in any way. The American Orthodox Catholic Church, mentioned above as an eparchy ruled by Archbishop Aftimios has no connection with any of the independent jursdictions. The American Orthodox Catholic Church is the continuation of the One true American Orthodox Catholic Church headed by Abp Ofiesh from 1927 to 1966. The proof is in our documentation as posted on theocacna.us. The ethnic jurisdictions who ignred this Church and Abp. Ofiesh as well as those who continue to attack this Church with lies and false information as well as continue to attack +Aftimios over 40 years after his death are in Schism with the American Church and continue to offer invalid sacraments to their laity while attempting to hide their uncanonical schismatic activities.

Since no tribunal was ever called against Abp. Ofiesh there was never any canonical authority to act against him in any way. All claims made that Abp. Ofiesh was deposed, resigned, retired or was suspended are only speculation by, for the most part, scoba-ethnic clergy who attempt to discredit this Churh and clergy in an effort to mislead people into believing this Church no longer exists and that their Church is the true American Orthodox Church today - which of course is false.

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