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