National controversy is unfolding in Australian mainstream media about the purchase of a $6.5 million luxury apartment with views of Sydney’s famed harbor and Opera House— for the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
“It’s an unlikely home for a man of God who has taken a vow of poverty,” said Australian network news.com.au, sharing details of the transaction, as well as all of the luxury amenities and costs that come with the purchase.
Archbishop Makarios of Australia is the new resident at a luxury Sydney apartment, “with stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, a concierge and a heated indoor pool,” reported numerous Australian national news outlets.
For months, the purchase remained shrouded in mystery, despite whispers in the Greek Orthodox community and various newspaper stories in Australian diaspora newspaper Neos Kosmos, which were often met with angry responses from church-goers and defenders of the Archbishop.
But now that the transaction has been made public, an unholy row has broken out within the tight-knit Greek Orthodox community.
According to various Australian media reports, recently made-public property records confirmed that the 3-bedroom apartment was purchased for $6.5 million by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consolidated Trust, an independent fund of the Church, in late December.
The taxes alone cost nearly $400,000 and the condo fees for the apartment are $5600 a quarter, or over $20,000-a-year.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Australia purchased the apartment for the new Archbishop on December 20, 2019, after his predecessor, Archbishop Stylianos, spent years living an simple life in a small room at the Church’s headquarters in a working class suburb in the heart of Sydney’s Greek community.
A Trustee of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consolidated Trust, Nicholas G. Pappas, confirmed to news.com.au that the apartment was purchased by the Trust as an official residence for the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia.
Pappas said to the news portal that the Trust had not received any formal complaints regarding its acquisition and said “The Trust, not the Archbishop, retains ownership of the property, as it does with other real estate assets of the Church. The Archbishop does not own any real estate or other assets,’’ he said to news.com.au.
But the house purchase isn’t all that’s being discussed in Australian media. An alleged quid-pro-quo arrangement— which is unrelated to the apartment purchase— between the Archbishop and a member of the Australian parliament named Andrew Bragg is at the core of the scandal.
Archbishop Makarios was enthroned head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, after the death of his predecessor, Archbishop Stylianos, who ruled the Greek Orthodox Church for forty years.
Makarios arrived in Australia last year on a tourist visa, according to news.com.au, and after a chance meeting with Senator Andrew Bragg his residency matter was fast-forwarded through official channels.
Bragg, one of the biggest proponents of a pro-gay marriage campaign in Australia, was an unlikely friend and ally to the head of a conservative Christian Church which only a few years earlier had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince its faithful to vote against the measure during a national vote.
According to news reports, at Archbishop Makarios’ request, Senator Bragg wrote to a senior cabinet minister in the federal government seeking assistance to resolve his visa situation.
The connections proved successful with the Greek Orthodox leader securing permanent Australian residency— something that would take an average person years to obtain.
For his troubles, Senator Andrew Bragg was surprised to discover he would become the first non-Greek and non-Orthodox person to ever receive the highest honor that the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia can bestow.
Senator Bragg was proclaimed a “Grand Commander” by Archbishop Makarios and a member of the Order of Christ-loving. His award included a 24-carat gold medal at a special service at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Sydney.
During the award ceremony, Archbishop Makarios praised Senator Bragg for finding “solutions.”
“From the first moment that I met you, I felt that you are a person who very easily wins the hearts of people,’’ the archbishop said. “You have the ability or, rather I should say, the gift to create a new inner world for people. You not only listen to people’s problems, but you also give light, you try to give them joy, you aim to find solutions, you attempt to do whatever is best for the person.”
But the award to a politician who championed the cause and became the country’s loudest proponent for same sex marriage enraged many Greek Orthodox faithful.
“The hypocrisy of a man of God basking in the luxury of a $6.5 million apartment with the majority of his flock struggling to make ends meet is blasphemous,” said Laura Nicolelis, a reader of The Pappas Post from Melbourne, in an email.
Nicolelis added the “average Greek Orthodox faithful in Australia are disenchanted and feel disconnected to this man and his decisions continue to turn off so many rank and file Orthodox Christian faithful.”
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