File No. 16840.

The Secretary of State to the Greek Minister.

No. 35.]

Sir: I have the honor to send to you for your information and such suggestion as you may be pleased to make thereon, a copy of an interesting report made to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization of the Department of Commerce and Labor, by Miltiades M. Constantinides, an interpreter employed in the Immigration Service at Boston, Mass., in relation to the practice of certain Greeks who enter the United States as alleged priests of the Greek Church, but who are in reality either imposters or unordained monks incompetent to perform validly the functions of the priesthood.

In view of the statement that these persons are performing sacerdotal acts which are legally invalid, as the celebration of marriages and the like, the abuse is one which no less affects your Government than our own. It is proposed to instruct the American minister at Athens to confer with the authorities of your Government with a view to adopting regulations and some form of certification which shall effectively prevent this abuse. Before doing so I would be pleased to have your views in the matter as to the extent to which the Greek Government can go in the direction of certifying to the sacerdotal character of this class of emigrants in the manner suggested by Mr. Constantinides and indorsed by the Secretary of Commerce and Labor. In so doing I comply with the request of Secretary Straus, who asks me to ascertain from you “exactly what tests may be applied to detect imposters among aliens applying for admission to this country or alleged to be unlawfully here, who claim to be engaged as missionaries or priests in the Greek Orthodox Church.”

Accept, etc.,

Elihu Root.

Miltiades M. Constantinides to Hon. Geo. B. Billings, Commissioner of Immigration at Boston, Mass.

Sir: Under the immigration act now in force priests of all denominations are landed in this country, coming under the exempt classes. As a Greek working amongst Greeks, it has come under my observation for the last two or three years that a good many of the Greek orthodox priests (alleged to be such) have landed in America without a strict examination of their qualifications.

[Page 401]

Lately I took the liberty, once by your permission, to investigate a few of these alleged Greek priests, and have found in every case that they were not Greek orthodox priests at all and that they have no authority to perform a marriage ceremony or any other holy ceremony according to the Greek Orthodox Church. Most of them are only Greek monks who ran away from their old-country monastery for one reason or another.

In most cases their papers show that they were inmates of a monastery in Greece or Turkey. On a pretense of going to visit their relatives at their home, or in rare cases under a leave of annual absence, they get out of the monastery and escape to America. Here they go from community to community, offering their services as fully qualified and properly ordained priests of the Greek Orthodox Church amongst their countrymen at half the salary the real priests of that church demand. By their actions and behavior they only bring trouble and discord and scandal into any peaceful Greek church and its congregation.

You will readily understand that, without being exactly priests, having been only ordained as monks, they are not recognized as priests, as they have never been ordained as such and have not been ordered to come here by their higher church authorities. They, therefore, in each and every case have entered this country in violation of law, entering in the garb of a priest when they had no right to do so.

The most important fact connected with the arrival of these alleged priests and their doubtful practices, however, is that any marriage ceremony they have performed or may perform in the future between a Greek (naturalized citizen of the United States or alien) and an American woman, and this Greek should move in later years back to Greece or Turkey, as they quite frequently do, as I know from the many years observation, their American marriage performed by the bogus priest is null and void, and the Greek who returned to his own country is at liberty to marry again without being subject to punishment for bigamy. Furthermore, an American widow and her children from a bogus marriage performed by an alleged priest as above described is not entitled, according to Greek laws, to inherit any property left by her Greek husband in his old country, and there are many cases on record which bear out my statements; and the American consul general at Athens, Mr. Horton, will also testify to these conditions. The Greek courts and the holy orthodox synod in Greece base their decisions in such cases on the fact that these couples were not legally married by the properly ordained priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in the respective American community. For instance, a priest appointed for the diocese of Boston can not, according to the laws of the Greek Orthodox Church and according to the regulations of the Greek Government, perform a lawful ceremony of marriage in the State of New York, or, as a matter of fact, in any other State outside of Massachusetts, unless he has a special permit or special authority to do so.

I respectfully ask you to submit these statements to the Department of Justice in Washington for a thorough investigation.

I wish to state further that there are rumors current in the Greek colonies in this country that a few of these alleged priests are not even monks, but plain outlaws who have come here disguised as priests so as to enter this country without too severe an examination. It goes without saying that in every case where it can be proven that these questionable characters entered in violation of law they should be deported, as they are certainly undesirable aliens.

In conclusion, and after much thought, I beg to submit to you the following suggestion, which I believe will have the approval of the Greek synod as well as the Greek minister at Washington, and last, but not least, the support of the consul general of the United States at Athens, Greece. It is, that every Greek orthodox priest coming to seek entry in the United States must have a properly made out passport signed by the Greek orthodox synod, countersigned by the secretary for ecclesiastical affairs of Greece, and viséed by the United States consul general at Athens, Greece. Such procedure would mean no hardship at all to the regularly ordained and properly qualified priests of the Greek Orthodox Church; in fact, it would be greatly appreciated by the authorities in Greece who are at a perfect loss how to handle these alleged priests, who operate in this country, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Greek Government or church authorities.

[Page 402]

As most of these malefactors have been in the country less than three years, they would come within the limit of our immigration act, having entered in violation of the law under false pretenses, and upon warrant issued by the Secretary of Commerce and Labor could be promptly deported.

Respectfully submitted.

Miltiades M. Constantinides.