Unholy battle: Greek fury as Tassie priest moves church

Hobart, Australia - TASMANIA'S Greek community is locked in a bitter, unholy row with the state's only Greek Orthodox priest.

The long-running feud has resulted in the priest moving his parish out of Hobart's Greek Orthodox church, owned by the Greek community, and into a nearby Anglican church.

In a letter to Greek community members, Fr Timothy Evangelinidis says the move comes with the blessing and support of the Greek Orthodox Church's archdiocese.

He attributes his actions to the escalation of a dispute with the Greek community's leadership body or executive committee.

The committee has tried to force him out by reducing his salary, paid by the 3000-strong Greek community, and threatening to stop his pay altogether, Fr Evangelinidis says.

"With great sadness I have to inform you that ... I have been forced to move the Church of Saint George, Hobart to another place," Fr Evangelinidis writes.

"From the moment I first stepped into Hobart as the parish priest, it would appear that the executive committee put plans in place to so harass me that I would be forced to leave."

He accused past and present committees of "disrespect" and "maltreatment".

Greek Orthodox Community of Tasmania president Christos Diamantis yesterday described Fr Evangelinidis's actions as "disgraceful" and said he had harassed the committee.

Fr Evangelinidis had used scare tactics to frighten and upset the Greek community in the lead-up to Greek Orthodox Easter, which was on May 1, he said.

Mr Diamantis said it was true the executive committee wanted Fr Evangelinidis removed and replaced.

"The people just don't want him any more," Mr Diamantis said.

"The people are absolutely sick and tired with what they have had to put up with for the last 12 years."

Mr Diamantis said Fr Evangelinidis did not properly serve or support the Greek community, hence the cut to his stipend.

"I think the community expects the priest to perform certain duties," he said.

"Because we are paying him, the community felt as he wasn't supporting the community and performing duties he was supposed to be performing, we found we really couldn't support him financially."

Mr Diamantis cited attending lunches for the elderly as a duty the priest had not performed.

"We have a fortnightly lunch for the elderly and we expect him to come over and bless the meal. He never comes," Mr Diamantis said.

Fr Evangelinidis is now holding Greek Orthodox services at All Saints Anglican Church, South Hobart.

Meanwhile, Mr Diamantis has vowed to continue holding services without a priest at the Greek community's church, just a few blocks away in Antill St.

But Fr Evangelinidis has warned community members any ceremonies held in that building will not be recognised.

"Wake up! There is a danger that this committee might in their despair bring an anti-canonical (phoney) priest," he writes.

"These (so-called) priests and the sacraments that they supposedly perform are not recognised by the archdiocese or by the Consulate of Greece.

"In other words, you will baptise and marry your children and grandchildren, and they will remain unbaptised and unmarried!"

When asked how many Greek community members were likely to attend Fr Evangelinidis's services at All Saints, Mr Diamantis replied: "Not many, I hope."

He said the only way the situation could be resolved was by the archdiocese removing Fr Evangelinidis and sending another priest to Tasmania in his place.

Fr Evangelinidis said he could not comment on the situation and referred The Mercury to his Melbourne-based superior Bishop Ezekiel.

The bishop did not return The Mercury's call.