Sydney, June 19, 2020
A scandal has erupted within the Greek Orthodox community of Australia after it became known that the Archdiocese purchased a 3-bedoroom $6.5 million apartment in Sydney, reportedly to serve as the Archbishop Makarios’ new residence.
However, the Archdiocese has responded that Abp. Makarios continues to live in much more modest accommodations at the Archdiocesan headquarters, though he may live in the Sydney apartment temporarily when the offices in Redfern undergo renovations.
On June 16, news.com.au reported that “a luxury Sydney apartment, with stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, a concierge and a heated indoor pool, is the new residence of the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia,” which is “an unlikely home for a man of God who has taken a vow of poverty, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia.”
The report was cause for great concern among the Greek Orthodox faithful in Australia, who emphasize that the former hierarch, Archbishop Stylianos, lived much more frugally, and that the new purchase was supposedly done in secret. There have been threats to stop donating to the Church.
Property records confirm that the apartment was purchased by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consolidated Trust just before Christmas, according to news.com.ua. The stamp duty alone cost nearly $400,000, while the strata fees are an extra $20,000+ a year.
The Honorary Secretary & Trustee of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consolidated Trust, Nicholas G Pappas AM, told news.com.au that the apartment was purchased by the Trust as an official residence for Abp. Makarios, emphasizing that the property belongs to the Trust, not the Archbishop.
The scandal over the apartment comes at the same time as revelations that Senator Andrew Bragg, the former Liberal Party director and gay marriage campaigner, was proclaimed a Grand Commander and a member of the Order of the Christ-Loving by Abp. Makarios on January 20 after he helped the Archbishop receive permanent residency in Australia.
Abp. Makarios praised him for “finding solutions” during the awards ceremony.
Two days after the news.com.ua report, the Archdiocese published a “MEDIA RELEASE in relation to the purchase of a property by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.”
The Archdiocese contends that an apartment was sought to house the Archbishop and the Archdiocesan offices during the upcoming renovations to the offices in Redfern. However, due to high rental costs in Sydney, the Trust decided to purchase an apartment.
The $6.5 million apartment “was identified, both for its suitability for the specific purpose, and as an excellent investment opportunity for the Archdiocese.” Renovations to the new apartment were completely funded by a private benefactor, the Archdiocese reports.
The acquisition of the property was completely legal and the Archdiocese has no outstanding debt on the property, the report continues.
Further, “The Archdiocese unequivocally refutes any suggestion that the Archbishop currently resides in this particular apartment, or that he has stated that he will reside there and places on record that, up to this point, no such decision has been taken by him.”
And regarding the media furor over the issue, the Archdiocese states: “Regrettably, certain persons, lacking both competency and any legal responsibility, are stirring up the issue relating to the purchase of the property in question, by publishing letters and promoting media articles, with a view to harming the good reputation of the Archdiocese and Archbishop Makarios.”
News.com.au then characterized the Archdiocese’s statement as a “bizarre backflip with the new Archbishop Makarios now claiming he no longer wants to live in it permanently.”
“Sources close to Archbishop Makarios” told the Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos that the Archbishop’s popularity and his efforts to unite the community stand in the way of certain factions that have their own interests and are thus using the purchase of the apartment as part of a coordinated attack.
Meanwhile, yesterday, June 18, marked the first anniversary of Abp. Makarios’ arrival in Australia to serve as Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese.