The following is an opinion piece by Gregory C. Pappas.
The news spread like wildfire throughout Australia and the world as property sale transactions were made public about a $6.5 million apartment purchase by a Trust belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia.
Naturally, the response was overwhelmingly negative by thousands of commentators on various social media posts— including on The Pappas Post’s own Facebook page where commentary ranged from disdainful to disgusted.
After all Greek Orthodox hierarchs are actually monastics who are called to live a modest and humble life, so the idea of a man of the Church to be living in— let alone to approve such an expenditure— is startling, if not shocking.
When I lived in Chicago, I attended many functions at the stately mansion on East Burton Place in the Gold Coast, hosted by the then Metropolitan. I’ve also attended functions and gatherings at the swanky Upper East Side headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
But the difference here is that these structures not only served as the place of business of the the Church— they were also multifunctional. The hierarchs lived and worked there, they deliberated with their staff and conducted the business of the Church. And more importantly, they served as the face of the Church to the outside world and hosted numerous gatherings of Church leaders, heads of state and other dignitaries.
These buildings were bought and built by our forefathers to serve as smart investments— multi-use facilities and simultaneous residences for the various bishops that came to the cities to tend to their respective flocks.
I remember a beautiful welcome made by then Metropolitan Iakovos at the annual Christmas Open House when I lived in Chicago. To paraphrase him, he welcomed the hundreds of people present at the event by reminding them that the Metropolis home— built during Chicago’s gilded era— wasn’t only his home, but their home and a multi-functional building used by various Metropolis ministries and projects. It was the official face of the Metropolis of Chicago.
Certainly, the Greek Orthodox Church deserves its nice buildings— and yes, the hierarchs should be allowed to live in respectable homes and apartments.
But the decision by Church leaders in Australia to spend $6.5 million on an apartment that drips of excess and luxury to serve as the residence of a man who— every Sunday extends his arm to the faithful to ask them to contribute to the various humanitarian needs of the Church— is hypocrisy at its finest.
Even the Ecumenical of Constantinople lives in a more modest home.
It was a poor judgement call by the committee of the philanthropic Trust that purchased the apartment. Furthermore, if it was decided upon— or even approved— by the Archbishop himself, he needs a course correction immediately.
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