A war of conflicting interests lie beneath the unfolding controversy over the purchase of a $6.5 million luxury apartment with iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House for Archbishop Makarios, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia.
The story first broke out in an exclusive by Neos Kosmos in March, and has taken epic proportions in the last 24 hours following a barrage of media reports in Greece and Australia surrounding the purchase.
The sale itself, while controversial, is being used as part of a coordinated attack against Archbishop Makarios by other circles in Greece and Australia who view the primate as standing in the way of their own interests. On his part, Archbishop Makarios is due to make an official announcement addressing the issue very soon.
Sources close to Archbishop Makarios told Neos Kosmos that the wide 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.
Media reports concerning the purchase resurfaced at a time when Archbishop Makarios s in Melbourne to meet with representatives of the breakaway community of St Albans with the goal of allowing the church of Saint Paraskevi to re-enter the fold of the Archdiocese, which at this point seems promising.
Neos Kosmos can reveal that:
- The new apartment in Sydney was bought by the Archdiocese as an investment.
- The luxury apartment is not the permanent residence of Archbishop Makarios, according to information revealed to Neos Kosmos, however it is expected “he will live there temporarily until his living quarters in Redfern are renovated”.
- The purchase of a property was discussed in March 2019, before the death of Archbishop Stylianos, the current hierarch’s predecessor, however the specific apartment had not been chosen at the time.
Neos Kosmos sources from within the Archdiocese said, “The Consolidated Trust of the Archdiocese of Australia is a legal body established by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Consoldiated Trust Act 1994 no 64.”
It was revealed to Neos Kosmos that the Consolidated Trust members held a discussion in March 2019 for the purchase of a residence following the election of a new Archbishop of Australia, a meeting held in the absence of Archbishop Stylianos, who was nearing the end of his life. The act allows for members to meet in the absence of the hierarch.
Sources say that it was “unanimously decided” to purchase an investment property for the Archdiocese on Kent Street worth $6.5 million in December 2019. The goal was to capitalise on Sydney’s lucrative real estate market, one of the most expensive in the world with potential for further growth and the property would later be rented out. Capital from the property would be used to fund other services for the elderly, homeless, children, etc.
“The process for the purchase was legal and there was no official reaction to this,” sources said.
Neos Kosmos had initially approached Archbishop Makarios for a comment regarding the use of the property in March, however the Archdiocese had declined to comment. The story recently resurfaced with a plethora of articles in Greece published by the media group belonging to businessman/publisher Evangelos Marinakis. The relevant article had been published by a female journalist who held close ties with the late Archbishop Stylianos.
Australia’s mainstream media has also focused on the sale and the mystery surrounding it, with news.com.au referring to lawyer Nikolaos Kalliouras’ comments in Neos Kosmos as the nephew of Archbishop Stylianos.
“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,” Mr Kalliouras said. “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.”
Neos Kosmos published two letters sent by Mr Kalliouras, but declined to publish a third for legal reasons.
It should be noted that the sun-drenched 3-bedroom apartment, designed by renowned architect Ercole Palazzetti, was purchased for $6.5 million and an additional $400,000 was payed for stamp duties. The strata fees are $20,000 per annum ($5,600 per quarter). The luxury apartment captures a “dual aspect” with “breathtaking and iconic views of Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and the City Skyline”.
The apartment is just one of the controversies surrounding Archbishop Makarios. In another unrelated incident, the hierarch – who arrived in Australia on a tourist visa – is accused to have had his residency matter fast-tracked through official channels following a chance meeting with Senator Andrew Bragg, a member of the Australian parliament.
Senator Bragg, a proponent of pro-gay marriage, became an unlikely friend and ally of the same church which had spent a large number of funds to convince Greek Australians to vote against gay marriage in the 2017 referendum.
Controversy surrounded Archbishop Makarios’ decision to proclaim Senator Bragg the first non-Greek and non-Orthodox “Grand Commander”, the highest honour that the Greek Orthodox Church can bestow. Mr Bragg received a 24-carat gold medal at a special service at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Redfern on 20 January.