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Petition grows opposing removal of Greek Orthodox priest from Arlington church

Parishioners angered by the decision to remove a popular priest from a Greek Orthodox church in Arlington are preparing to show their support for the Rev. Nicholas M. Kastanas at his final service on Sunday.

Kastanas is due to be relieved of his duties at St. Athanasius the Great Church after celebrating the Divine Liturgy at 9:15 a.m. Organizers of an effort to reverse the decision — who are circulating a petition online — hope as many as 400 people attend the service.

“Father Nick is one of those people that truly embodies what it means to be a priest,” said Irina Kapetanakis. “He takes no days off, he considers his job to be who he is.”

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The decision to remove Kastanas, who served St. Athanasius for nearly 28 years, was announced in a letter sent to the parish last Thursday by the head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston.

In the letter, Metropolitan Methodios cited longstanding unrest at the parish as the major factor in the decision.

“The spiritual environment in the Community has been severely damaged by behavior that is wholly contrary to Christian values, which has resulted in, among other things, the distribution of hurtful and destructive communications throughout the Community,” the letter said.

Multiple attempts to reach the Metropolis were unsuccessful Friday and Saturday.

Father Aaron C. Walker, the assistant priest, declined to comment when reached by phone Saturday.

Kastanas declined to comment on his removal when reached by phone Friday.

Nicholas Kriketos, secretary of the parish council, declined to comment on Kastanas’s removal when reached by phone Saturday, referring to the letter posted on the parish website.

Asked whether Walker would replace Kastanas as parish priest, he said, “I have no idea. I don’t think so.”

Attempts to reach other members of the parish council Friday evening and Saturday were unsuccessful. The decision shocked parishioners at St. Athanasius, which serves about 800 families.

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As word of Kastanas’s removal spread, parishioners launched an online petition, titled “Bring Back Father Nick!!!” which had nearly 1,500 signatures as of Saturday evening. On Facebook, petition organizers are urging parishioners to attend Sunday’s service.

After the liturgy ends, parishioners plan to leave the church holding candles lit during the service. Remarks by parishioners will follow, Kapetanakis said.


Jacob Carozza can be reached at jacob.carozza@globe.com.