ABC backs ‘Background Briefing’ though Archdiocese welcomes apology

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia welcomed the news that the ABC issued an apology to Archbishop Makarios regarding an article published in April. A statement by the public broadcaster to Neos Kosmos states the corporation “stands by the important public interest journalism undertaken by the Background Briefing team in the article ‘Greek Orthodox Church took tens of millions in rent from aged care home at the centre of deadliest COVID outbreak’”.

The ABC’s statement also clarifies the following:

“The Background Briefing article has not been retracted and remains available in full online. An editor’s note has been added to the article and the ABC has also published a longer statement.

“The Background Briefing investigation raised important questions about the management and operations of taxpayer-funded aged care homes owned by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, including one home that was the site of Australia’s deadliest COVID-19 attack.”

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This week the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia issued a statement concerning the ABC’s article which claimed that a group of taxpayer-funded aged care homes – including St Basil’s in Faulkner – funnelled $31 million back into the coffers of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in order to maintain the archbishop’s lavish lifestyle. The investigation suggested the archbishop’s lifestyle seemed “excessive” for a man who had taken the vow of poverty.

The Archdiocese said it welcomed the ABC’s belated apology “for all the distorting and ultimately slanderous lies it had published in April of this year at the expense of His Eminence, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Greek faithful of Australia”, however in its apology, currently available online the ABC clarified that the “story was not intended to suggest that Archbishop Makarios of Australia had personally funnelled money from St Basils to the Greek Orthodox Church, or that he had personally spent money intended for aged care on his own lifestyle”.

The statement issued by the ABC makes it clear that the article has not been retracted, however the Archdiocese states that the apology “rendered void” the article “in its substance and entirety, since a structural element of its content – from its title even to its final claims – was the unmistakeable correlation of matters unrelated between the events and circumstances, with the reproduction and invocation of rumours and anonymous information”.

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Sources from the Archdiocese have told Neos Kosmos in the past that there is a “well-known group of opponents of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia, of its institutions, and of Archbishop Makarios personally”, and the Archdiocese’s statement this week referred to this group as being behind the “rumours” and engaging in a “slander campaign against the local Church and its Archbishop, in a systematic and organised way, because its members have either lost acquisitions or are now deprived of illicit privileges which they had in the past”.

Lawyers Sue Chrysanthou, Senior Counsel and Goerge Anton took on the Archdiocese’s case and settled the dispute out of court with legal costs incurred by the broadcaster, according to the Archdiocese, however the cost of these fees have yet to be disclosed to Neos Kosmos by either the ABC nor the Archdiocese.