Row over $6.5m apartment bought by Greek Orthodox Church prompts backflip

An unholy row over the purchase of a $6.5 million Sydney apartment by the Greek Orthodox Church has prompted a bizarre backflip with the new Archbishop Makarios now claiming he no longer wants to live in it permanently.

Angry parishioners have reacted with fury on social media after news.com.au revealed on Monday that the luxury Millers Point apartment is the designated new home for His Eminence with some threatening to stop donating to the Church.

Stung by accusations the lavish apartment is at odds with his vow of poverty, Archbishop Makarios is now privately insisting he may only live there “temporarily” while a more modest accommodation for him is renovated at the Church’s Redfern headquarters.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is expected to release a formal statement clarifying his position later today.

Bizarrely, Church sources are also claiming the $6.5 million property could be used to fund other services for the elderly, homeless, children, despite the fact the strata title fees alone for the property will drain the Church of $20,000 a year.

But “sources close to Archbishop Makarios” have told Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos that the Primate believed he was so popular and powerful he had put people’s noses out of joint.

“The acceptance and popularity enjoyed by the new church leader, as well as his efforts to unite the community, stand in the way of the interests of other factions opposed to the hierarch,’’ the newspaper claimed.

“The sale itself, while controversial, is being used as part of a co-ordinated attack against Archbishop Makarios by other circles in Greece and Australia who view the Primate as standing in the way of their own interests.”

In a written statement, 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 explicitly purchased by the Trust as an official residence for the Archbishop Makarios.

“The apartment you refer to was purchased by the Trust (in its name) as an official residence for the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia,’’ he 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.”

The Trust is a charity, ensuring that the Greek Orthodox Church secures GST concessions, fringe benefit tax rebates and income tax exemptions.

The purchase of the property was “unanimously decided” at a meeting of the Archdiocese Trust, in December.

Finding a new home for the Archbishop was first discussed in March 2019, before the death of Archbishop Stylianos, who was gravely ill at the time but such a luxurious property was never suggested.

For months, the purchase remained shrouded in mystery, despite whispers in the Greek Orthodox community, with the vendors originally declining to reveal the sale price.

Claims that the late Archbishop approved of the property purchase have been hotly denied by the nephew of Archbishop Stylianos, lawyer Nikolaos Kalliouras.

“It goes without saying that Archbishop Stylianos, judging from his personal path in life, would never use an apartment that was similar to the one purchased by the Consolidated Trust of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia nine months after his death, as his personal residence, the luxury of which he could not even imagine,’’ he told news.com.au

“The decision for the purchase of the disputed luxurious apartment is said to have been taken in March 2019, namely at a time when … Archbishop Stylianos was counting the last days of his life; however it concerned another, cheaper, smaller and non-luxurious apartment.”

Property records confirm the three-bedroom apartment was purchased for $6.5 million by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consolidated Trust shortly before Christmas.

The stamp duty alone cost nearly $400,000, the cost of an actual apartment in some states of Australia.

The strata fees for the apartment, which features a concierge, are an eye-watering $5600 a quarter, or over $20,000-a-year.

Designed by renowned architect Ercole Palazzetti, the Archbishop’s apartment takes out the entire floor “bathed in natural sunlight” according to the real estate agent who sold the property and capturing a “dual aspect, breathtaking and iconic views of Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and the City Skyline”.

Featuring a gourmet kitchen with granite benchtops and Gaggenau appliances, a lavish master suite, extensive built-in wardrobes and luxurious bathroom, it also includes two further double bedrooms, separate marble bathroom, laundry room, a heated indoor pool and fully equipped gymnasium and parking for two cars.

Archbishop Makarios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, arrived in the country last year, following the death of the late Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis, on a tourist visa.

It was a chance meeting with Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg that saw him strike up a friendship with the former Liberal Party director and same sex marriage campaigner.

At Archbishop Makarios’ request, Senator Bragg then wrote to a senior cabinet minister in the Morrison Government seeking assistance to resolve his visa dramas and contacted Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office.

He was swiftly awarded permanent residency.

For his troubles, Senator Andrew Bragg was surprised to discover he was proclaimed a Grand Commander by Archbishop Makarios and a member of the Order of Christ-loving receiving 24 carat gold medals, at a special service at the Cathedral of Annunciation at Redfern in Sydney on 20 January.

But the award for the same-sex marriage supporter enraged some devout Greek orthodox priests, with Father Peter Heers complaining, “How can an Orthodox Bishop award one of the most prominent leaders of the movement to recognise same-sex ‘marriages’ with the ‘Order of the Christ-loving’?

Do you know more about this story? Contact samantha.maiden@news.com.au



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