A civil war amongst factions of Toronto’s Greek community has entered Canadian courts according to lawsuits made public.
The Greek Community of Toronto (GCT) has filed a shocking lawsuit against the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, its Metropolitan and others affiliated with the Church, claiming they have engaged in various actions, including stealing donations that were raised for a sick baby, the appointment of known sex abusers to positions as clergy in parishes and the skimming of money that was raised for the poor.
The GCT owns four Greek Orthodox Churches in Toronto which technically fall under the Greek Orthodox Metropolis but are operated by the community.
The four churches — St. Demetrios, St. John the Baptist, Virgin Mary and St. Irene Chrisovalantou, are all served by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto and receive their clergy from its head, Metropolitan Sotirios, who oversees some seventy parishes throughout Canada.
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The lawsuit contends that the Metropolis installed known sex abusers, pedophiles and sex offenders in the four GCT churches and invited a defrocked bishop to conduct a religious celebration in 2016.
The suit also alleges the Metropolis and the priests that have been appointed by the Metropolitan are “unlawfully” dipping into hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by congregation members of the GCT parishes — from collection trays to payments for “priestly offerings” — and “misdirecting, dissipating and misappropriating” money earmarked for outreach programs for the disabled, widowed and orphaned, Sunday schools, food banks and physical upkeep of the churches.
The church councils of the four GCT parishes, comprised of lay people from each community, have no say in selecting their priests.
According to the lawsuit, the Metropolis has been demanding and collecting a share of the donations without disclosing the money to the GCT or the Canada Revenue Agency.
The suit also makes claims that priests appointed by the Metropolitan to GCT parishes were pocketing money for personal use and would “regularly verbally abuse and physically assault” members of the community.
The GCT also claims that the Metropolitan has targeted the four GCT parishes with a $40,000 annual “franchise fee” and $600 for every sacrament performed, including baptisms, funerals and weddings.
The allegations question whether the Metropolitan imposes these same fees on other parishes in the Metropolis.
It is important to note that none of the allegations have been proven in court and no statement of defense has yet been filed by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto.
A secretary to the Metropolitan told The Pappas Post that she had nothing to say and said the Metropolitan, nor anyone else associated with the Metropolis would speak to the press since the matter was being handled by the courts.
But an attorney representing the Metropolitan stated in a CBC interview that the allegations were untrue. According to George Karayannides the allegations in the lawsuit are “wholly without merit and the claim will be zealously defended.”
The lawsuit also claims that in 2012, the family of a baby named Alexander Karanikas needed more than $100,000 to airlift him home to Canada from Greece for lifesaving heart surgery at Sick Kids Hospital.
The Greek Canadian community rallied and raised thousands of dollars after the fundraiser was announced by the Metropolitan. But most of the money never reached the child’s family, the lawsuit claims.
Instead, the Metropolis handed over less than $1,500 of the estimated $50,000 they raised. Furthermore, the Church never issued the charitable tax receipts required by Canadian law, according to the GCT’s claims.
“In misrepresenting the intended purpose of the subject fundraiser and the amount of the collected donations, from which they then personally benefitted, (they have) harmed and damaged the Greek Orthodox Churches’ reputation in Canada, in general, and GCT’s reputation in particular.”
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