"Police in a Church - Two Priests; One Flock" article - Chicago Daily Tribune, September 12, 1897

Published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, September 12, 1897

Squad Today Will Settle the
Quarrel of the Greeks.
Father Phiambolis Wants to
Keep His Place as Pastor.
Board of Trustees Will Be Asked to
Pick the Leader.
Lieutenant T. H. Seery of the East Chicago Avenue Police Station with ten policemen will attend services this morning at the Greek Catholic Church, 1?1 Kinzie street.  Force of arms will be employed if necessary to keep the warrying factions apart , for Lieutenant Seery received instructions from Assistant Chief of Police Lyman Lewis and Inspector Schaack to settle any trouble that may develop.  If any attempt is made to secure possession of the church in opposition to the majority of the Board of Trustees of the Greek community there may be bloodshed.

The trouble dates back to the sending of recruits to participate in the recent Turkish-Grecian war.  The factions are represented in the church and community by rival priests, one the present incumbent, the Rev. Father Peter Phiambolis, duly accredited from the Metropolitan of Athens as the priest in charge, and the other a rival for his religious honors, the Rev. Father Theodore Papaconstantine, who arrived in Chicago two weeks ago direct from Athens with credentials also signed by the Metropolitan of Athens.

War Causes the Trouble.

The trouble goes back to early April, when Father Phiambolis, instrumental in the Greek relief movement, and the organizer of recruits sent from Chicago, was asked to devote $700 of the church funds to pay for the equipment and transportation of the Greeks returning home.  This Father Phiambolis declined to do, and recruits upon their arrival in the mother country went before the Metropolitan and charged him with being unpatriotic.  This, notwithstanding that the Greek priest labored hard and long in their service, personally solicited subscriptions to aid the, and blessed each soldier in the name of the church as he left Chicago.

Because of these charges, it is said, the new priest was sent to replace Father Phiambolis.

Arbitration Is Rejected.

Father Papaconstantine upon his arrival in Chicago two weeks ago was refused admittance to the church.  Friends of both factions got together and attempted to reduce the problem through arbitration.  They proposed that Father Phiambolis continue in charge of the Greek church and that the new priest be made his assistant.  Father Phiambolis refused to arbitrate on the ground that he had not been recalled and that his credentials ante-dated those of the newcomer by several years.

Then Consul General C. L. Hutchinson, representing the Greek government in Chicago, was asked to settle the matter.  He refused, saying it would be necessary for him to communicate with the Metropolitan before he could take any steps in the matter.

Both Seek the Police.

On Friday Father Phiambolis, with a dozen of the leading members of his church, called upon Assistant Superintendent of Police Lewis and asked to be furnished protection.  He said the majority of the Greek community wanted him to remain, and that he was entitled to continue on account of priority of appointment.  He had hardly disappeared through the City Hall entrance when Father Papaconstantine was ushered in accompanied by George Manati, a leading Greek Citizen, who acted as interpreter.  Father Papaconstantine showed his heavy parchments, bearing the flowing signature of the Metropolitan, and asked to be given possession of the church, to take charge of which he had come 5,000 miles.  In the dilemma Assistant Chief Lewis turned to Lieuteneant Seery and asked him to settle the differences of the two factions.

Trustees to Decide It.

Lieutenant Seery said last night he had not made up his mind as to his plan for today.

"I think I will take possession of the church in the morning," said he.  "Then I will convene the Board of Trustees and ask them to take a vote on the matter.  If they decide for the old priest, Father Phiambolis, I will admit him and his followers, and I will then protect them in the possession of the church, and Father Papaconstantine will be obliged to look elsewhere for a parish.  If the board decides for Father Papaconstantine he will be given possession.  It is a hard matter to settle, and I expect we will have trouble with one faction or the other."