Aftimios Ofiesh

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Most Reverend Archbishop

Aftimios Ofiesh
Archbishop of Brooklyn
Епископ Евфимий (Офейш) в 1922 году.jpg
Church Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church (Orthodox Church in America), American Orthodox Catholic Church
by Evdokim (Meschersky)
Personal details
Birth nameAbdullah Ofiesh
Born(1880-10-22)22 October 1880
Bikfaya, Matn District, Lebanon
Died (1966-07-24) 24 July 1966 (age 54)
Kingston, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Aftimios Ofiesh, born Abdullah Ofiesh (22 October 1880 – 24 July 1966), [1] [2] [3] [4] was an early 20th-century Eastern Orthodox bishop in the United States, serving as the immediate successor to St. Raphael of Brooklyn under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church. [5] He held the title Bishop of Brooklyn from 1917 to April 1933. He founded and led the American Orthodox Catholic Church for six years and is perhaps best known as being the source of various lines of succession of episcopi vagantes.


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 North America under the Russian Orthodox Church's canonical authority. [6] He was consecrated by Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) as an auxiliary bishop in 1917 with the title of Bishop of Brooklyn. [6] In 1923, in recognition for his work in the United States, he was elevated by Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky) of New York to the rank of archbishop.

In 1924, in the canonical disputes 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 Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and another which wished to stay faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church. The former group was organized by Bishop Victor (Abu Assaly) of New York, thus beginning the official presence of the Antiochian Orthodox Church on American soil (today the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America).

In 1927, Aftimios was commissioned by the Russian diocese in America to form an English-speaking jurisdiction (the American Orthodox Catholic Church). [7] The purpose of the diocese was to establish a new tradition in North America that was separate from any other particular ethnic or cultural traditions. [7] The diocese in its original form only lasted for six years. During this time, Aftimios consecrated four bishops for his new jurisdiction. [8] Additionally, in 1931 the Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil, a Western Rite Orthodox group, was established under the auspices of this diocese and subsequently led by Bishop Nichols. [9]

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 1932, the parish was without a pastor, and so Archbishop Aftimios served in that capacity until February 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 1933. [10] [11]

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 in 1966. With the subsequent 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." [12] A newspaper article states he received a private revelation to abolish clerical celibacy. [13]

One of the groups which traces itself to Aftimios characterizes the situation differently: "We are not under and do not have a patriarch as head of this Church since the ethnic patriarchal orthodox bodies all 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." [14]

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.

Relations between the small jurisdiction created by Aftimios and the mainstream Eastern Orthodox Church were not regularized following his marriage and de facto deposition from the episcopacy. Since that time, numerous and still multiplying lines of succession of episcopi vagantes continue to persist which all trace their roots to Aftimios (mainly through Ignatius Nichols), [15] many of whom regard him as a saint. [16] [17] Some of those bishops are married men, as well, which is a continual stumbling block to their unity with the mainstream Orthodox Church, which has for centuries maintained a celibate episcopacy.

Following his death in 1966, Aftimios was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery across from St. Mary's Orthodox Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre. [3] His widow Mariam subsequently wrote his biography, published in 1999.


The book by Aftimios's widow, while including a great deal of historical information, is not mainly a scholarly work but is rather a biography aimed toward the exoneration of her late husband. One of its primary themes throughout is that Aftimios's marriage to Mariam was justified and that the canonical tradition of celibacy for Orthodox bishops is "man-made" and should be abolished. [18]


  • A Basis for Orthodox Consideration of Unity [19]

Claimed successors

Various independent Orthodox churches and jurisdictions have claimed apostolic succession through Aftimios Ofiesh. Most of the groups have merged or disbanded. Notable continuations include the American Orthodox Catholic Church (American Patriarchate), Byleorussian Orthodox Catholic Church (today the American World Patriarchs), the American Orthodox Church established in 1972 by Bishop Joseph Thaddeus (Alan Sanford), the THEOCACNA-Vladimir Synod, and American Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church (previously the Russian Orthodox Church in America).

See also


  1. ^ names sometimes spelled variously as "Oftimios", "Ofeish", or "Ofiesch"
  2. ^ Pruter, Karl (2009-12-01). Bishops Extraordinary. Wildside Press LLC. ISBN  978-0-912134-04-8.
  3. ^ a b Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick (2012-07-25). "The Death of Aftimios Ofiesh". Orthodox History. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  4. ^ "Archbishop Aftimios (Ofiesh, d. July 1966) of Brooklyn". ROCOR Studies. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
  5. ^ "Who was St. Raphael under - Antioch or Russia?". Orthodox History. 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  6. ^ a b "Archbishop Aftimios (Ofiesh, d. July 1966) of Brooklyn". ROCOR Studies. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  7. ^ a b "Orthodox Christians in North America - Chapter 5". Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  8. ^ Garvey, Father John (2014). "Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church by D. Oliver Herbel". American Catholic Studies. 125 (3): 78–80. doi: 10.1353/acs.2014.0047. ISSN  2161-8534.
  9. ^ "American Orthodox Patriarchate". Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
  10. ^ "History of St. Mary Orthodox Church". Archived from the original on November 11, 2007. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  11. ^ Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick (2012-04-27). "Photo of the week: a newlywed archbishop". Orthodox History. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  12. ^ "Orthodox Christians in North America". OCA. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  13. ^ "Aftimios Ofiesh marriage. Hazelton, PA May 5, 1933". Standard-Speaker. 1933-05-05. p. 8. Archived from the original on October 5, 2020. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
  14. ^ "Index". Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  15. ^ "From Aftimios Ofiesh to The Satan Seller". Orthodox History. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  16. ^ "The Chapel of Saint Aftimios of America". Archived from the original on 2002-02-06. Retrieved 2002-02-06.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown ( link)
  17. ^ "The Holy Byzantine Catholic Orthodox Church (Saint Oftimios)". Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  18. ^ Ofiesh, Mariam Namey (1999). Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh (1880-1966): A Biography Revealing His Contribution to Orthodoxy and Christendom. Sun City West, AZ: Abihider Co. ISBN  0966090810.
  19. ^ "A Basis for Orthodox Consideration of Unity" (PDF). Orthodox Catholic Review. 1927. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-08. Also includes header and footer information from one of the below groups, as well as numerous bracketed insertions.CS1 maint: postscript ( link)


External links