The Greek Community of Toronto (GCT) vs. Metropolitan Sotirios et. al. (Lauren Pelley, 2017)

NOTE: The following article is taken from CBC News. A pdf of the lawsuit can be found here. 

Sotirios Athanassoulas has been Metropolitan, or archbishop, of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto since 1996.

Sotirios Athanassoulas has been Metropolitan, or archbishop, of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto since 1996. (Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto website)

A civil lawsuit filed against some of the most powerful members of Canada’s Greek Orthodox community includes allegations of verbal and physical abuse by priests, money for a sick baby stolen from a church fundraiser, and sex offenders placed in Toronto churches — a controversy some say is part of an ongoing Greek “turf war.”

The board of directors for the Greek Community of Toronto (GCT), a non-profit charity representing more than 150,000 Greek Canadians, filed the lawsuit against the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, its metropolitan — the Greek Orthodox equivalent of an archbishop — as well as four priests, several members of one priest’s family, and other individuals connected with the church community.

It’s the latest chapter in a complicated, years-long dispute between the GCT and the four Toronto churches it owns, which are staffed by priests appointed by the metropolis.

The GCT, which has roughly 6,000 paid members, has strived to ensure financial accountability and transparency surrounding donations made at those churches “with very little success” over three years of mediation efforts, said spokesperson Gina Tassopoulos.

“That’s led us to believe the funds are being misappropriated.”

In the statement of claim, the GCT alleges the Greek Orthodox Metropolis and Metropolitan Sotirios Athanassoulas have personally benefited from a share of church donations, without declaring the money “as a taxable benefit or income to the Canada Revenue Agency.”

Gina TassopoulosThe Greek Community of Toronto, which has roughly 6,000 paid members, believes church funds ‘are being misappropriated,’ says spokesperson Gina Tassopoulos. (Jon Castell/CBC News)

Allegations ‘wholly without merit,’ says lawyer

Also in the statement, filed on Oct. 18, the GCT alleges that thousands of dollars in money raised through a 2012 fundraiser for a baby with a serious heart condition may not have reached the child’s family. Donations totalled well over $50,000, the GCT alleges.

Fundraising efforts for Baby Alexander made headlines that year; the eight-month-old needed urgent transportation from Greece to Toronto for heart surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children.

The GCT alleges the metropolis announced that $10,000 was being sent to the charity Global Angel on behalf of the child’s family, without disclosing the “actual total amount of the collected donations.”

“In fact, Global Angel only received the paltry sum of $1,450,” continues the statement of claim, which alleges the metropolis “unlawfully and fraudulently” used the remaining portion of the donations for their personal benefit or the benefit of other charities.

But Gail Courneyea, founder of Global Angel, told CBC Toronto the charity’s records show it did indeed receive $10,000 from the Metropolis.

“I really don’t know where the numbers are coming from … We were surprised that was mentioned, that we didn’t get it,” she said.

church

The civil lawsuit’s statement of claim alleges a priest at St. Irene Chrisovalantou Greek Orthodox Church, just north of Danforth Avenue in the heart of Toronto’s Greek community, would regularly ‘verbally abuse and physically assault’ members of a women’s group at the church. (Jon Castell/CBC News)

 

The statement of claim also alleges a priest at St. Irene Chrisovalantou Greek Orthodox Church, just north of Danforth Avenue in the heart of the city’s Greek community, would regularly “verbally abuse and physically assault” members of a women’s group at the church. The GCT would not elaborate on the nature of the alleged abuse.

Along with St. Irene, the GCT owns the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Cathedral Church in Parkdale, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Thorncliffe, and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox church in Scarborough.

Within some of the churches, the GCT alleges there is a “history of inappropriate conduct by priests negligently appointed by the Metropolitan or the Metropolis.”

In 2015, for instance, a priest at St. John helped place a Romanian Orthodox Priest, Ioan Pop, at the church, the statement of claim alleges. Athanassoulas knew that Pop “was a sex offender on bail, at that time,” it alleges.

George Karayannides, lawyer representing Athanassoulas and the metropolis, told CBC Toronto that both are aware of the lawsuit but have yet to file a statement of defence.

The allegations in the statement of claim are “wholly without merit and the claim will be zealously defended,” Karayannides said.

Terry Maropoulos, a staff member with the metropolis, told CBC Toronto that the organization won’t comment.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

Baby Alexander

In the statement of claim, the GCT alleges that thousands of dollars collected in a 2012 fundraiser for an infant with a serious heart condition may not have reached the family of Baby Alexander. (Global Angel website)

GCT, Metropolis tension goes back 40 years

“The GCT is simply seeking to uphold the recognized principles of transparency, accountability, responsibility and governance and to ensure compliance with the Charities Act, Canada Revenue Agency regulations and other laws and regulations of Canada,” reads a statement from the organization.

“This is a fair and reasonable expectation.”

George Gekas — a former president of the GCT who says he left the post within weeks — feels the situation is less clear cut.

He believes the lawsuit is part of an ongoing “turf war” between the community organization and the church, two interconnected groups both woven into the fabric of Greek Orthodox life.

“The relations between the [archbishop] and the Greek community of Toronto has been, at best, problematical at times,” he said, adding the religious organization often encroaches on the community organization, and vice versa.

Tassopoulos said issues between the GCT and the metropolis go back decades, and she hopes the lawsuit leads to a settlement and “some sort of peace.”

“It would put a lot of things to rest that have happened over the last 40 years, hopefully,” she said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/greek-church-lawsuit-1.4448893

 

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Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto Slandering the Athonite Monasteries, Elders and Confessors

The following is transcribed from a youtube video of Metropolitan Sotirios’ speech during an undated Christmas Lent. There are usually a couple buses organized to take Greek Torontonians down for confession at St. Nektarios in NY and Holy Trinity in MI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7EMKMvdQzc

Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto,  agreed Ephraim's monasteries & methods of collecting young and vulnerable adults is cultic.
Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto has  stated that Fr. Ephraim’s monasteries & methods of collecting young and vulnerable adults is cultic.

We are now in the period of Christmas Lent. You very well know that sometimes our Metropolis brings over father-confessors. This year, in this particular period, we are not going to bring in any father-confessors. But, all of us must confess. All of us must prepare ourselves to receive the Prince of peace, Christ, Who is God and is coming to be born as a human being. And i want all of the faithful Christians to go in repentance and confess to our priests.

Geronda Ephraim and Bishop Sotirios (Ελληνικός Τύπος)
Geronda Ephraim, Bishop Sotirios and Gerondissa Alexia, Abbess of St. Kosmas Monastery  (Ελληνικός Τύπος)

There are certain things we must know when we are confessing: 1) If we confess for the first time, we should repent and confess all our sins from the very beginning until the moment of our confession. When I do that in true repentance, and the priest or bishop forgives us in the name of Christ—or Christ forgives us through the priest or bishop—then we must know that those sins we have repented for and confessed through the priest or bishop have been erased by God and they will not exist anymore. 2) When you go to confession a second or another time, you must know that you should never repeat the sins, you should never confess the sins again that you confessed in previous confessions that you had. For if you do, you commit a greater sin. If you do that it means that you are not believing in the healing and forgiving power and the mercy of God. I want all of you to prepare yourselves for Christmas and for receiving Christ. Christ Who is the Messiah. The only Redeemer and Savior of the world.

Geronda Ephraim, Bishop Sotirios and Gerondissa Alexia, Abbess of St. Kosmas Monastery  (Ελληνικός Τύπος)
Geronda Ephraim, Bishop Sotirios and Gerondissa Alexia, Abbess of St. Kosmas Monastery (Ελληνικός Τύπος)

Some of our people make the mistake that they don’t trust their priest. And of course, the Church tries to understand it, and by economy and showing love to the people, we sometimes bring over father-confessors from other regions. And we will do that during the period of Great Lent for Easter.

Geronda Joseph Mammis, abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, MI (originally from Montreal, QC)
Geronda Joseph Mammis, abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, MI (originally from Montreal, QC)

But some other people make the big mistake to go to some monasteries in the United States. Believe me, I am for the monasteries, but sometimes some of the father-confessors who are so inexperienced—there is one of them I have in mind but I am not going to say any names and who has been a priest for only two years—then damage is done to the souls of the people.

Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Toronto, ordained in November 2009).
Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Toronto, ordained in November 2009).

I don’t want to recount the story of a young man who went to one of those monasteries. But I want you to know there are some father-confessors who, instead of being an example of love and forgiveness, what they do many times they pass judgment on our priests who serve our communities. Many times they say that these priests are not worth your going to confess to them because some of them do not have beards, or some of them do not have the experience. But in reality, they don’t have the experience. I do not allow our priests to receive people for confession if I know that they don’t have the necessary experience.

Geronda Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Thessaloniki)
Geronda Joseph Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery, NY (originally from Thessaloniki)

And one of these abbots, I’m not going to say any names, he goes as far as to think he’s above the Church. And though the rule says of the people have not been married in the Church they cannot receive Holy Communion until they are married in the Church, he allows them to receive Holy Communion. And he is the one who passed judgment on our priests. I want all of you to be very careful. I want you to repent. I want you to purify your souls. And I want you to be prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. He is the only Redeemer and Savior of the world. He is the Messiah. Let us prepare ourselves for His coming.

NOTE: In the spring of 1997, Geronda Joseph, with the help of Fr. George Passias, took his brotherhood from St. John the Theologian Monastery in Picton, ON and immigrated to the United States via St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. They sought refuge there from Bishop Sotirios’ persecutions until December 1998, when they relocated and founded the St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. This was followed by a series of accusations by Bishops Sotirios of stolen money, etc., which were countered by Geronda Joseph’s rebuttals in the Toronto Greek newspapers.

For those unfamiliar with the St. John the Theologian brotherhood, it consisted of:

*Fr. Germanos, who came with Geronda Joseph from Philotheou Monastery.

*Novice Anastasios, now Fr. Theophanes at Panagia Pammakaristos Monastery (NC). Bishop Sotirios once investigated the cells of the monks. Fr. Theophanes relates the bishop was scandalized because he had lots of pictures of Geronda Ephraim on his wall, and only one icon of Christ. Fr. Theophanes mother also became a nun at Holy Protection Monastery (at the original property in Weatherly, PA).

*Novice Athanasios, now Fr. Kassianos at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)

*Novice Nikos, he was sent home from Arizona in 1998. Apparently he hid his thoughts from his Geronda, and couldn’t detach himself from his sister whom he frequently called. Thus, the devil isolated him from the brotherhood through his disobediences and he didn’t progress. It is said that shortly before he left the monastery, he started punching and breaking things and was losing control of his temper and composure.

Geronda Nektarios, Abbot of Panagia Pammakaristos Monastery in North Carolina.
Geronda Nektarios, Abbot of Panagia Pammakaristos Monastery in North Carolina.

*Novice Demetrios, now Geronda Nektarios, abbot of Panagia Pammakaristos (NC).

*Novice Iraklis, now Fr. Epifanios at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY).

Also, George (Mammis), now Geronda Joseph at Holy Trinity Monastery (MI) stayed as a sub-novice in Picton for a week or two and then afterwards was sent down to St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ).