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Church of Lesvos angers locals as it spends €100K earthquake donations in repair of churches

150,000 Australian dollars in donations were sent to Lesvos as aid for the victims of 6.4R earthquake last June. The local Metropolis decided, however, to spend the money in bricks for churches repair and not for humans in need. The outrage of  the local community is big.

Diaspora Greeks in Australia generously open their wallets and responded to the donations call by the Metropolis of Australia for the victims of  6.4R earthquake in Lesvos last June. Many of the diaspora Greeks were originally from the island of Lesvos. The pictures of the devastated village of Vrisa touched them deep in their heart.

A couple of weeks later, the donations totaling 150,000 Australian Dollars, approximately  100,000 euros, were transferred to the Metropolis of Mytilini.  However, the local Metropolis decided to not allocate the aid to the earthquake victims who lost their homes but to spend the donations for the repair of churches.

Rumors started to circulate on the island, local newspapers reported about the 150,000 AUD, the local Metropolis remained silent. Anger rose. Again and again the local media reported about the issue, some even posted the Metropolis of Australia call for donations for the earthquake victims.

The local church remained silent and so did the archbishops of Athens.

“Instead of allocating the aid to earthquake victims, the church is using the funds to reconstruct 23 damaged churches and chapels on the island,” athensnewsagency reported adding that on Friday, the Ephorate of Antiquities on Lesvos announced it had signed a contract with a construction company to support the Agios Nikolaos church in Plomari, which “was near collapse”.

Local media lesvosnews published a letter by the local Metropolis to the Metropolis of Australia thanking for the donations that will be used to repair the 23 earthquake-hit churches and 4 churches of the Metropolis of Mytiline. The letter is dated 13. October.

In its donation call, the Metropolis of Australia had urged the Greek-Orthodox to make a donation for the earth-quake “victims including the refugees.”

Lesvosnews notes that apart from the two churches in Vrisa, no other church the Metropolis of Mytilene lists has suffered any damage. “And furthermore, the church repairs can be conducted with relevant funds from the Infrastructure Ministry.”

State broadcaster ERT published a letter by the cultural association of Vrisa residents of Athens to Metropolitan Iacovos of Mytilini. The Vrisa Association was asking for funds from the Australian gift to provide home heating for earthquake victims. The need is for “165 dehumidifiers and 70 portable heaters, totalling around 24,000 euros, as the Vrisa residents who lost their homes live in buildings only meant for the summer and have no heating,” the association said.

“Please, inform us if you intend to subsidise the purchase of these heating appliances using the funds sent by Greeks of Australia, as the purchase must be completed the soonest possible, with winter coming on,” the association’s letter concluded, attaching a list of the beneficiaries,” the Association letter adds.

So far neither the local Metropolis nor the Archbishop of Athens have responded to the letter.

The Greek-Australian donors are not happy about the relocation of the the donations for a holy purpose other than originally planned. “The call was clearly to collect donations for the earthquake victims, the people, who still suffer not being able to live in appropriate housing” a member of the Greek-Australian association  told SBC Radio.

According to another local Lesvos media, Empros, the 150,000 AUD were sent on July 25th.

In July, the Pope donated 30,000 euros aiming to be spent to rebuild the school of Vrisa and another 20,000 euros for the repair of churches.

PS Apparently, the problem lies in the Greek semantics, where “earhquake-hit” (σεισμοπαθείς) is a noun used only in plural. The Metropolis of Australia wrote “earthquake-hit” in the sense of “humans”, the Church of Mytilene understood “earthquake-hit” in the sense of “bricks.”

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6 comments

  1. The Greek-Australians should know better. Never donate money directly to the state, as they will swallow all of it and the money will ‘disappear’!

    If you donate money, do it directly or physically go there and give people in need the things they need!

  2. Well, Syrizee, I understand your comment and there may be something in it, but often people often use that argument as an excuse for sending nothing.

    t can be impractical ,for example in the current case, for persons to stop working and travel to Lesvos. Finding local aid organisations from a distance can be difficult. Maybe, sometimes, evein taking your remarks into account, it is better to send to the state than to send nothing.

  3. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    @Syrizee: the Church of Greece is not the state, and I suppose Greek Australians made the error of thinking that a Church would be honourable enough to spend money on the purposes for which it was donated — as opposed to themselves.

  4. “the Church of Greece is not the state”…? Well, thats debatable.

  5. Of cours the Church is the state, their salaries are paid from Government funds! They are civil servants!

  6. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    @Syrizee. The definition of “being the State” is not that your salary is paid by the State. By your criterion, the cleaning staff of a ministry are “the State” just as much as the General Secretary. Clearly, this is nonsense.

    There is a massive difference between being a peripheral state institution (like the Greek Church) which has little or no influence on government policy and being part of the central state power structure. Of course, the Greek Church is always trying to promote itself into the higher echelons of power; but it has never been weaker than it is now.