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RR Phantom

RR Phantom

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PostSubject: "Religious harmony!"   "Religious harmony!" Icon_minitimeThu Jan 10, 2008 6:03 pm

Priest charged with assault in poisonous church feud

AN ALLEGED assault by a Greek Orthodox priest on one of his parishioners was the culmination of a bitter power struggle between the priest and his church committee, involving accusations of electoral fraud and a plan to sell the church hall, the Herald has learnt.

The head of the St Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Burwood, Father John Grillis, was charged with assault in June after allegedly attacking a member of the church committee, John Mihalopoulos, 69.

According to police, the assault occurred when Father Grillis, 52, pushed Mr Mihalopoulos in the back during an altercation.

Father Grillis pleaded not guilty to the charge in Burwood court yesterday and told the Herald that the charges were part of a campaign by Mr Mihalopoulos and the committee to get rid of him.

"I am the victim in all this - they are doing this [to] get rid of me," Father Grillis said. "They achieved their positions by defrauding the electoral process and because I opposed that they are trying to get rid of me."

Mr Mihalopoulos strenuously denied Father Grillis's claims, saying that the priest had kicked him in the back while attempting to forcibly remove him from the church after the pair had an argument over a set of keys.

"I was simply there to give him the keys to the church and he screamed 'get out of my sight' and then he kicked me," Mr Mihalopoulos said. "I suffered a fractured tail bone."

The incident was the latest in a feud between Father Grillis and the 12-member committee.

Father Grillis said yesterday that the members of the church committee had achieved their positions by rigging the committee elections held last May - a claim that is subject to a civil action in the NSW Supreme Court.

He said they had forged the signatures of parishioners on proxy votes which were used to secure positions on the committee.

"How can I respect a committee that was elected fraudulently?" Father Grillis said.

The president of the committee, Christos Syrios, rejected the claim. "There was an independent auditor who oversaw the elections and he said there was nothing wrong," he said.

"We're not trying to get rid of Father Grillis - he's trying to get rid of us. We tried to sit down and talked to him but he say 'no way'."

Father Grillis and the committee have also argued over a plan to sell the church's two-storey hall.

With the church facing debts of over $1.3 million, Father Grillis has been in favour of the sale.

But Mr Syrios said Father Grillis was attempting to sell the property for half what it was worth.

"The hall is worth five to six million," Mr Syrios said.

"But anyone who stands up to him becomes his enemy - that is why he attacked John Mihalopoulos."

Day to day communication between the parties has ceased, with Father Grillis refusing to attend committee meetings and both sides claiming to have the support of the remaining parishioners.

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