Greek Community of Toronto is Taking Metropolis to the Courts (CBC Video Report)

FILE - Greek dancing at the Danforth Festival in Toronto. Photo: Courtesy of Greektown on Danforth BIA

TORONTO — Stealing donations from a sick baby, the appointment of known sex offenders, and “skimming money” set aside for the poor are some of the shocking allegations that have left the Greek community up in arms in a “Greek church civil war now raging in Toronto,” as the Toronto Sun reported.

More than $100,000 was needed in 2012 to airlift baby Alexander Karanikas from Greece for heart surgery at SickKids, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and the Greek Canadian community raised thousands of dollars in a fundraiser announced by the Metropolitan of Toronto in Canada, but “according to the suit filed by the Greek Community of Toronto (GCT), the Metropolis handed over a paltry $1,450 of the estimated $50,000 they raised and never issued the promised charitable tax receipts.

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 Church’s reputation in Canada, in general, and GCT’s reputation in particular,” as reported in the Sun.

The lawsuit filed against the Metropolis of Toronto, its archbishop- Metropolitan Sotirios Athanassoulas, four priests, members of the church’s women’s auxiliary, and the wife and children of Fr. Philip Philippou includes many other allegations including misappropriating funds intended for the needy.

The GCT owns and operates four Greek Orthodox churches — St. Demetrios, St. John the Baptist, St. Irene Chrisovalantou, and the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Cathedral. The lawsuit “names the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, part of the Church of Constantinople, that oversees 66 churches across Canada and has the exclusive monopoly over the ordination and appointment of all Greek Orthodox priests, including those who serve in the four GCT churches,” and adds that sex offenders were appointed in GCT churches including, “Ioan Popp… at St. John’s Church in 2015 despite knowing he was a sex offender on bail; the late Demetre Tsevlikos… [at] St. Irene Chrisovalantou when they knew or ought to have known he was a sexual predator and pedophile; and former Bishop Georgije Djokic was invited by the Metropolitan to conduct mass in 2016 yet was defrocked for ‘allegations of indecent sexual behavior,’” as the Sun reported.

The Metropolis and its priests are also allegedly “unlawfully dipping into hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by GCT congregation members — from collection plate donations 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 Sun reported.

Shares of donations collected have not been disclosed to the GCT or to the Canada Revenue agency, the lawsuit alleges, adding that priests receive a “modest” portion of the donations as an annual fee which should be declared as income on personal tax returns, but St. John the Baptist’s Fr. Philippou has allegedly been using the donations “for his personal benefit and that of his wife, son and daughter,” as the Sun reported.

Fr. Spyridon Vitouladitis would “regularly verbally abuse and physically assault the members of the Women’s Auxiliary operating at St. Irene Chrisovalantou Greek Orthodox Church,” the suit claims, as reported by the Sun.

A Metropolis spokesman told the Toronto Sun by phone, “We’re not allowed to talk about the lawsuit because the case is in the court.”

In 2015, the GCT took measures to ensure church funds would not be misappropriated “by requiring paperwork for all donations” and “in retaliation, the lawsuit claims the Metropolis excommunicated those on the women’s auxiliary who cooperated and imposed a unilateral ‘franchise’ fee of $40,000 a year per GCT church as well mandatory sacrament fees of $600 for every funeral and wedding as a ‘profit making punishment,’” the Sun reported.

Due to the fees and “diverted” funds, “the lawsuit contends St. John’s Church can’t afford the $600,000 needed to repair and renovate its roof, steeple, parking lot and broken disabled elevator lifts” adding, as the Sun reported, that the “Metropolitan, the Metropolis, the priests, and the Women’s Auxiliary were at all times aided and abetted in the fraud by each other, their respective family members, the other Defendants and persons unknown.”

Read the PDF of the lawsuit as follows:

Statement of Claim.issued October 18, 2017

7 Comments

  1. This is outrageous. The Greek Orthodox church in North America is an abysmal failure run by despots and racketeers. They worse than La Cosa Nostra as they admit they are a criminal entity I am done with The Greek Orthodox church. I am going to find solace with another potential religion. I am withdrawing my support financially and spiritually.

    1. I left the Greek Orthodox Church more than 40 years ago for another faith. I did so because even as a young adult the stench of corruption in the leadership was more than I could tolerate. I have never looked back…………I feel completely validated by the revelations made about these corrupt prelates and priests. My thanks are extended to The National Herald for exposing them.

  2. Instead of withdrawing how about running for a parish council position and fight the good fight. Surrender is always easy.

    1. Yes that is exactly what I thought before walking out the door. I served on the parish council as a last ditch effort to talk about concerns and address them. The majority of the council preferred to admonish anyone who pushed for accountability and change. They feared the intimidation of the Metropolitan and just wanted to turn a blind eye so they could keep running their festivals and pretend nothing is wrong with the picture. This is the attitude of most of the parish councils in the Metropolis. The few of us that stood up against the injustices were shown the door. I walked out and know it was the best decision I could have ever made. The house of cards is falling and those who saw the injustices and chose to ignore them have a hand in the downfall. We reap what we sow.

    2. It’s the sinking Titanic that could have been saved if more people were willing to sacrifice. Too many laity on the Councils, Philoptochos, Archons, Leadership 100, Ahepa, those “pious” occupying the front pews, etc love their seat at the table so much, that they cannot risk the possibility of losing their seat and sacrifice for the greater good of Christ’s Church. Those that have, lose their seat and are shown the door. They are not welcome, so they take the next life raft out, and watch the ship sink from afar. I practice the faith in a healthier environment where my family flourishes. My children do not receive the mixed message from the compromised clergy who tell us to sacrifice for the good of the Lord, as the people around us sit on their hands and say nothing in the face of corruption. They see that it is not ok to hear the message on Sunday and continue to overlook grace injustice happening inside their church environment.

  3. Why was the money given to the Metropolis and not to the hospital after the surgery’s performed. maybe I don’t quite understand. I only know that monies that were sent to Greece a few years ago , never got to where it was supposed to go. My Philoptochos actually sent two members to Greece and they handed our donations collected straight to an orphanage that had many needs and was legitimate. Never trust a large organization!

  4. Most of the players in the Orthodox world are “ego” motivated, arguing about their historical position and place, using mid-evil interpretations of archaic and anachronistic rules and “canons” to support their insanity. What is even more insane – is that we the “faithful” are responsible for the current climate in the Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada. Why? Because we allowed this enormous divide between clergy and laity. We are all equals – but we the laity are not being treated as such. We are treated as fools. We the laity serve countless hours and our priests and bishops bask in the glory. God is the only one who should be glorified – the rest of us are just servants.

    We stand upright in the presence our priests and bishops with an unfathomable and unmeasurable obedience and respect. We kiss their hands and do prostrations at their feet. We pay them large sums of money to visit and grace our parishes with the pageantry of their vestments and crowns when most of our parishes are strapped for cash, in need of repair, and members of our communities go hungry. Does any of this sound normal to anyone? Is any of this behavior in the image of Christ? No! In my humble opinion Jesus would have never allowed anyone to prostrate themselves in front of Him and kiss His hand. He has to much love for mankind.

    Feeding the multitudes; The gospel of John notes that the people who witnessed the miracle suggested Jesus was the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15, and they wished to proclaim him king. When Jesus heard the crowds shouting “Messiah”, he immediately left the scene in disgust and disappeared into the hills. Jesus’ mission was about service not glory. Diakonia not Doxa.

    Our clergy and hierarchs are just men – brothers in Christ. Why are we raising them up to be something they are not.

    Orthodoxy is about faithfulness to Christ, not love for the material world and possessions – personal gain.
    Orthodoxy is about transparency – about honesty and integrity. Orthodoxy does not lie and misappropriate funds. Orthodoxy builds strong ministries and communities. Orthodoxy never goes bankrupt.

    With love in Christ

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