The Holy Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia hereby responds to every key issue and false accusation in the Gothenburg Post (GP) articles, disclosing the real facts, and after reading the responses and the supporting proof and evidence, we trust that it will be demonstrated that all accusations in the articles are either untrue or totally distorted.
This statement refuting the false allegations and setting forth the truth supported by hard evidence, is published with the main purpose of restoring the integrity of the Metropolis and the dignity of the 40,000 members of the Greek Orthodox Church in Sweden and the Greek community at large.
All personal information/data has been deleted from the attached documents.
- Restoration of the Cathedral – What kind of work did the Metropolis undertake?
The Metropolis has complied with all relevant rules and regulations concerning work performed at the Saint George Cathedral of Stockholm. To be clear, no renovation was conducted, only maintenance and restoration. Such work does not require a permit, as the work did not alter the Cathedral, but was only designed to restore it to its original beauty.
Doc 1 – Photo of the Cathedral from 1890
- Restoration of the Cathedral – Had the Metropolis the necessary permits to do the work conducted on the Cathedral?
GP states the following in its article, entitled “Ärkebiskopen köpte lyxhus – samtidigt som pengar försvann”:
”GP:s granskning visar nu att metropoliten varken ansökte om bygglov hos kommunen eller anmälde renoveringen till Länsstyrelsen – som rent ut kallar renoveringen ett svartbygge.”
“GP’s review now shows that the Metropolitan neither applied for construction permit from the municipality nor reported the renovation to Länsstyrelsen – which bluntly calls the renovation an illegal construction.”
“Både Stockholms stad och länsstyrelsen kallar renoveringen av Sankt Georgios kyrka för ett svartbygge – som man inte sökte tillstånd för.”
“Both Stockholms Stad and Länsstyrelsen call the renovation of Saint George’s church an illegal construction – for which they did not seek a permit.”
GP has hence clearly stated in its articles, that Länsstyrelsen considers the work performed on the Cathedral as “svartbygge” (i.e. construction work done without the relevant permits). Neither Länsstyrelsen, nor Stockholms Stad, considered the work to be “svartbygge”. These authorities have recently confirmed their position on this matter to the Metropolis in writing, which is shown in the emails attached. Länsstyrelsen has confirmed by email that they never considered the work performed as “svartbygge”. Stockholms Stad has also confirmed that they have received a report from a citizen in 2019, but they have not assigned a case officer for the matter.
Doc 2 – Länsstyrelsen’s E-mail
Doc 3 – Stockholms Stad’s Email
- Restoration of the Cathedral – Did the Metropolis engage contractors, paying them “black money”?
The false accusation that the Metropolis has engaged contractors that were paid with the so called “black money” (i.e. without invoices) is totally untrue, as every piece of the maintenance was performed under written contracts and all amounts paid were done according to invoices. We attach samples of invoices & payment proofs. Also, the contractors installed ID06 registration terminals, in order to make sure that all workers at the construction site of the Cathedral had the required working permits.
The Metropolis does not handle cash, except for some amounts paid for Holy Sacraments and donations. All these amounts are deposited in the Metropolis bank account without exception, and are accounted for in the books and the annual report of the Metropolis. Neither the Metropolis nor the Metropolitan are involved in any “money laundering” as suggested in the articles and any such accusations are totally false.
Doc 4 – Invoices & Payments for the Cathedral Restoration
- Is it true what is stated in the GP articles, that the Metropolis is not transparent with church finances?
The Metropolis exercises full transparency, in compliance with all relevant regulations, when it comes to the Metropolis finances. The Metropolis’ books are vetted by an independent external accountant, as well as an independent external auditor. Moreover, all financial reports are presented to the authorities, including an annual report that is audited and approved by the Metropolis Executive Board. The Metropolis also reports its financials to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The reports to SST, setting out in precise detail how state money is used, are public and can be accessed by anyone requesting such reports from the SST.
- For which purposes has the Metropolis used state grants? In the articles, it is mentioned that the Metropolis has received state grants intended for the local parishes, and that this money has not been allocated accordingly. Is it true?
190,000 SEK was earmarked for the three newly established parishes in Jönköping, Borås, and Kalmar; however, these parishes did not have separate bank accounts registered under their own name. Therefore, these sums could not legally be transferred to the parishes. It was suggested, that the Metropolis should transfer the money to private accounts of certain parish members, but the Metropolis refused, on the grounds that such a transfer would be illegal. The bank confirmed this position, upholding that it would have been illegal to transfer state money to parishioners’ private bank accounts, comingling state funds with a private individuals’ personal savings. The Metropolis clearly communicated this to the parishes and the SST was also notified of the situation.
Instead, the Metropolis deposited the aforementioned amounts in reserved accounts for the parishes, until these parishes could open bank accounts of their own. The SST set a deadline for the opening of these bank accounts under the name of the parishes. If the aforementioned accounts would not have been opened by the deadline, the money had to be returned to the SST.
Ultimately, the bank accounts for the parishes were unable to be opened ahead of the deadline set by SST, due to the delay in the administrative reorganization of the parishes, which was a prerequisite set by state authorities for the issuance of a tax registration number to each parish, enabling the opening of a bank account. Therefore, the Metropolis returned the money to the SST, on April 15, 2021, as previously agreed, per attached payment proof of grant return. At present, this process has been completed, providing for uniform administrative status for all the Metropolis parishes throughout Sweden.
Doc 5 – Payment proof of grant return to SST
- How has the Metropolis used the state organizational grant from SST?
The Metropolis received a grant from the SST in 2020, out of which most of the grant was utilized for the parishes and a small percentage was used for central administration such as accounting, auditing and office supplies, as it was dully reported in writing to the SST. Notwithstanding this, the Metropolis in fact spent a much larger sum for the parishes from its own funds, to meet its annual expenses for 2020. Thus, not only did it account for all funds received from the SST, but it spent additional money of its own funds on projects, ministries, and other operational costs of the parishes.
The statements about funds not reaching the parishes or being used for the wrong purposes have been made by individuals that have no current official positions in the church or insight in the Church financial matters.
- Can you comment on the mandatory fees mentioned in the articles for holy sacraments, where it is alleged that the Metropolitan personally imposed such fees, and that he personally takes the money?
No fees have been introduced by the Metropolitan himself but by the Metropolis Executive Board. No such fees are paid to the Metropolitan or any Clergy personally; all fees for holy sacraments are collected to and deposited in the Metropolis bank account, per the attached excerpt of the Metropolis bank account monthly statement. The fees mentioned were established to help finance the assignment of new clergymen and perform maintenance and restoration on existing church buildings, including the restoration of the St. George Cathedral and the St. Nicholas Hermitage in Rättvik.
Doc 6 – Extract of the Metropolis bank account showing samples of deposits
- The house in Vaxholm – Is it true that the Metropolitan personally bought the house, as stated by GP, for his personal use?
The residence purchased by the Metropolis was done so to serve the longstanding need for the provision of housing to the Metropolis clergy, including the Metropolitan, visiting clergy, visiting missionaries, visiting dignitaries, as well as the organization of community activities.
Without housing, the Metropolis cannot attract new clergy and missionaries etc. to expand the Metropolis’ activities. The housing situation in Stockholm is very difficult, as everybody knows, and the house was bought with the specific purpose to provide housing to the Metropolis priests, etc.
Hence, this property was bought to function as a multiple dwelling and to serve the diverse needs of the Metropolis. Plans are under way to utilize it accordingly, once the pandemic is over. The goal of the Metropolis house is to integrate each person into the life of the Church by initiating, cultivating and coordinating an ongoing relationship with all our parishes, their youth and adult programs, through participation in youth and community events, family & community retreats, family nights, cultural & spiritual events, seminars, all designed to meet the needs of varying age groups. The Metropolis Residence will aid in cultivating relationships between the parishes’ youth organizations through annual communal activities, by designing and implementing a schedule of worship activities, witness, service, fellowship, education, missionary work, etc.
The Metropolis Youth Department will ensure that the events and activities are well attended through advanced planning and publicity, as well as locating and using resources, like youth workers magazines, etc. in addition to attending youth worker seminars, and assisting in ordering of needed materials, scheduling speakers, setup cultural and religious events, retreats, etc.
To clarify, this property was purchased and is owned by the Metropolis of Sweden – not the Metropolitan personally, per attached certification of registration and decision of the Metropolis Executive Board.
It was no secret that the Metropolis was looking to buy a house for its needs, as the Metropolis Executive Board took such decision way back already in March of 2015 and had bided for several properties since then. Also, the Metropolitan mentioned the purchase of the Metropolis residence in his interviews and press releases.
Thanks to extensive fundraising by the Metropolitan, substantial donations were received by the Metropolis in support of the purchase of the Metropolis residence. These donations served as the foundation for the financing of the property. Apart from donations, Metropolis funds were applied towards the purchase of the property. These funds had been set aside for many years – pre-dating the start of the Metropolitan Cleopas’ tenure – and were earmarked for the specific purpose of purchasing a Metropolis residence.
Since its purchase, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the suspension of a number of activities in the Metropolis, as well as travel restrictions, the residence has not yet been taken into use except to provide housing for missionaries from the United States of America, who are the only persons who have lived in that house since it was purchased by the Metropolis.
Since 2017, the Metropolitan has lived – and is currently living – in a room with an area of 34 m2 located on the premises of the Cathedral, which also serves as his office. This is a well-known fact among the faithful. The Metropolitan has never resided in the new property since its purchase.
Also, no Swedish state money whatsoever or grants from the SST were applied toward the purchase of this property.
An official dedication and open house of the Metropolis residence, is being planned for after the pandemic, in the honorary presence of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, inviting all its members and friends.
Doc 7 – Metropolis Executive Board decision to purchase a property
Doc 8 – Certificate of registration of the Metropolis residence
- The transfer of the Church in Gothenburg – What are the reasons behind the transfer of the church building ownership to the Metropolis?
When the term of the former parish council expired, the Metropolitan assigned a new board. One of the members of the former board became very upset that his term was not renewed. As a retaliation, he arbitrarily and unilaterally decided to close the Göteborg church to the public and prevent the clergy and faithful from having access to it, thereby obstructing them from exercising their constitutional religious freedom. Among other things, funeral services could not be conducted on the church premises. After this, the parish and the Metropolis asked the Kronofogden to intervene and return control of the church building to the parish. Immediately after retaking possession, the parish, in cooperation with the Metropolis, resumed church services and activities. Kronofogden decided to restore legal possession of the building to the parish and executed it.
As a preventive measure to safeguard the status of the building as a church, the Metropolis and the parish decided to transfer the church building to the Metropolis, where it would be safe.
This decision was approved by the parish council, which is reflected in the attached legal transfer documents. The original protocol and transfer documents were signed by the parish council in Göteborg and sent by post to the Metropolis. The accusation that the Metropolis forged the signatures on the transfer documents is totally false.
The person in the articles alleging that the transfer documents were suddenly presented to him at a meeting and that he did not know what documents he was signing and that the signatures were forged, is actually the person who collected the signatures from the Göteborg parish council, whereafter he mailed the transfer documents by post and e-mail to the Metropolis. This is evidenced in the e-mail correspondence attached.
Doc 9 – Former Göteborg parish council member’s announcement that church will be closed
Doc 10 – KFM decision, evicting the former Göteborg parish council member
Doc 11 – Parish Council protocol approving transfer of church building to the Metropolis
Doc 12 – Church building transfer agreement
Doc 13 – Closing document on the transfer of the Göteborg church building
Doc 14 – Email to PC member, to arrange for signing of transfer documents and post them back
Doc 15 – Email from PC member that he sends over PDF of signed transfer documents
Doc 16 – Photo taken during the Divine Liturgy held outside the Gothenburg church premises
- The transfer of the Church in Gothenburg – In the article, it is claimed that the signatures of the transfer letter were forged. Could you comment on this?
To the best of the Metropolis’ knowledge, there has been no forgery committed. As stated above, the signatures on the Göteborg parish council and the transfer documents were collected, and such documents in original were sent to the Metropolis by post and by email, by the same individual that now claims in the articles that the signatures were forged.
Notwithstanding the above, the Metropolis has already engaged the Swedish forensic service (part of the Swedish police), in order to validate the legality of the signatures.
- Did the Metropolitan remove the former parish priest in Gothenburg from his position?
The former priest of the Gothenburg parish was loaned on secondment to the Metropolis by the Church of Greece, and this secondment expired on March 7, 2021. Since he did not return to his parish in Greece, he was suspended from his priestly duties on June 17, 2021 by the Metropolis to which he belongs to in Greece, and his case was referred to the Holy Synod of the Church for the issuance of a final verdict regarding the abandonment of his post, per attached correspondence.
The Metropolis had no other choice but to relieve the former Gothenburg parish priest from his duties, as his Metropolitan in Greece had revoked his permission to work as a priest in Sweden, due to his secondment’s expiration. To be totally clear, the former pastor is employed by the Greek State and holds a permanent organizational post at a parish in Greece. He was only seconded to the Göteborg parish for a pre-determined period of time, which ended. Under the terms of his employment, after the expiration date of such secondment, he was under the spiritual and legal obligation to return to his parish post in Greece.
At the time, the Metropolis, when taking control of the Göteborg church finances, discovered that numerous parish bills were unpaid, which ended up at the Kronofogden. The Metropolis was obliged to settle these debts directly with the Kronofogden, literally saving the Göteborg parish from bankruptcy, per attached correspondence.
Currently, there is ongoing litigation between the former pastor of Gothenburg and the Metropolis of Sweden, where the former pastor has sued the Metropolis alleging that the Metropolis terminated his employment without ground.
Doc 17 – Gothenburg former pastor’s secondment agreement
Doc 18 – Letters from the Metropolis in Greece
Doc 19 – Suspension letters regarding the former pastor in Gothenburg
Doc 20 – Payment proofs for Kronofogden invoices paid by the Metropolis
- Did you exploit the late Metropolitan’s death in order to do so?
The expiration of the former Gothenburg parish priest secondment happened to coincide by chance with the repose of his late Metropolitan in Greece. Although the repose of a church hierarch is a matter of public knowledge and concern to the congregation, it has no relation whatsoever to the former pastor’s secondment. The expiration date of his secondment was set long before his Metropolitan’s death.
Doc 21 – Announcement of the late Metropolitan’s passing in Greece
- Have you sent people to remove the former priest with force? How do you explain what happened in Gothenburg (which resulted in two reports to the police)?
The Metropolis has no knowledge of any such police reports or of the use of force against the former pastor in Gothenburg. The Metropolis sent two priests to Gothenburg to supervise the handing over of the church building and its inventory to the Metropolis, in accordance with standard protocol whenever a priest is released from his duties, due to the expiration of his secondment. There was no force used by the priests representing the Metropolis.
- Article in the Greece Media – Do you know why the text was retracted? Did the Metropolitan influence the Media?
The text in the Greek article was retracted because it contained statements accusing the Metropolitan of being an iconoclast; i.e., a person who opposes the official Church doctrine on the veneration of icons, which in the Orthodox Christian faith is considered heretical and is a very serious allegation. This allegation is completely false, as the Metropolitan recently inaugurated 34 new frescoes depicting iconography in the St. George Cathedral of Stockholm (October 2021), which now adorn the interior entrance to the Cathedral, running across the length of the entire wall. The Metropolitan had previously proceeded with the installation of iconography at the St. Nicholas Hermitage Chapel in Rättvik in 2015-2017 and the Museum of Hellenic-Christian Heritage in the Cathedral premises, in 2018, per attached photo.
The Metropolitan communicated with the media outlet to state that the accusation was unfounded, and presented evidence to support this, whereby the media outlet retracted the article of their own accord and published a statement by the Metropolitan setting the record straight (dementi).
Doc 22 – Photo of the new frescos in the Cathedral, inaugurated in October 2021
- Could you comment on the internal disputes in the Church and the people criticizing the Metropolis and the Metropolitan in the articles?
The Metropolis and its parishes account for approximately 40,000 parishioners in Sweden alone. Among them, it is only natural to expect a small minority that might be dissatisfied; however, this figure is in no way representative of the mood of the plentitude of the Church.
Moreover, leadership change inevitably leads to some degree of change in the status quo and organizational culture. When the Metropolitan assumed his position, he introduced changes to revive and expand the ministries of the Church. One of his signature initiatives and priorities was to introduce the Swedish language into worship services. This change was designed to make the services more comprehensible and accessible to the broader public, including families with young children, the youth, native Swedish speakers, and people of all nationalities and backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity, race or color.
The fruits of this initiative have already manifested themselves through the establishment of 10 new parishes, the installation of 12 new priests, (note: at the time of Metropolitan Cleopas’ installation, there was only one priest serving in the entire Metropolis), the organization of two Patriarchal Visits in Iceland and Sweden, the publication of a translated version of the Divine Liturgy in a trilingual edition, featuring the original Greek, along with English and Swedish translations, the establishment of a Sunday School and Youth Department, as well as the organization of events throughout the Metropolis taking place for the first time in its history, such as concerts, seminars, the convening of the first Clergy-Laity Synaxis in 2019 with delegates from all four nations under the Metropolis’ jurisdiction attending, and the expansion of church ministries outside of worship services alone. As a result of this, the Metropolis has welcomed more than 150 converts into the Orthodox faith.
Some of the people making negative comments about the Metropolitan and the Church are individuals who oppose these changes and initiatives, and have also, in some cases, actively worked against their establishment. They probably feel threatened by the influx of new people or the growing role that is being afforded to children and the youth, both in the liturgical life and ministries of the Church. They also oppose the use of multiple languages during worship services.
Since his arrival, Metropolitan Cleopas has routinely reiterated the longstanding position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, that the Church knows no nationality, nor age, and is universal in its nature and ministries. The Metropolitan has been firm in making the Church open and accessible to people of all backgrounds and age demographics.
The extroversion and outreach of the local Church can be attested to by the large increase in church attendance in all the parishes of the Metropolis, mainly consisting of families with children, young people, and people of heterogeneous ethnic backgrounds.
- Has the Metropolitan acquired or acted with absolute power? Why was the decision made by the Metropolis Executive Board that the Church is to be represented only by Metropolitan Cleopas?
According to the attached existing by-laws of the Metropolis and all its parishes, which pre-date the installation of Metropolitan Cleopas in 2014, sole decision-making authority lies with the Metropolitan, while the executive board operates in an advisory capacity. These by-laws have been approved and registered by the relevant state authorities (Skatteverket and Kammarkollegiet). The protocol in reference is cited to confirm the signatory rights of the Metropolitan to represent the Metropolis before third parties such as banks, state authorities, etc. It provides a written protocol setting out such signatory rights for administrative reasons.
Doc 23 – Metropolis of Sweden By-laws
Doc 24 – Metropolis Executive Board resolution setting out signatory rights
- In the article the Metropolis is criticized for the levels of the Metropolitans salary. Could you comment on this?
All salaries are determined by the Metropolis Executive Board. Hence, the Metropolitan does not determine any salaries by himself. The Metropolitan cannot raise his own salary.
The Metropolis Executive Board has assessed that the Metropolitan’s salary is reasonable considering his position and the responsibility connected to it, experience, education, including several Masters and a PhD, work committed and successful results in developing the Metropolis.
- Comments on the events in the US – Has the Metropolitan used earmarked school funds to pay for personal purchases?
Absolutely not. School funds were never used to pay for personal purchases. All community accounts, including the school account, were administered by an elected council, and funds for each account were kept separate.
- Comments on the events in the US – Has the Metropolitan avoided paying taxes of 250,000 dollars?
The Metropolitan files personal taxes in the US annually and pays any tax obligations in full. During the Metropolitan’s tenure, the school received a notification of unpaid payroll taxes dating back to the 1980s (long before his appointment). Due to the fact that the budget was extremely tight, the council tried to negotiate with the tax authorities to reduce late penalties and minimize payments. The Metropolitan was engaged then in fundraising, to help ameliorate these costs. Ultimately, these debts were paid off years later, but responsibility for the payment had nothing to do with the Metropolitan. Proof of this lies in the fact that when negotiations faltered, tax authorities attempted to collect by placing a lien on the accounts of some of the elected and legally responsible fiduciaries and did not pursue any legal claims towards the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan does not own any money to the US Taxation Department, per attached letter.
Doc 25 – US Tax statement
- Comments on the events in the US – Has the Metropolitan forged signatures on checks to make unauthorized purchases?
No. All checks issued by the parish required a minimum of two signatures, as a safety precaution. Due to lengthy periods of absence, the parish council president would either pre-sign checks or direct that his name be added as a second signature to that of the other signatories (members of the parish council) in order to facilitate certain regular monthly transactions, such as the payment of utility bills or other standard operating expenses. Any disbursements issued were done with the full knowledge and discretion of the parish council. No unauthorized purchases were ever made, per attached checks copies.
No check was signed with Metropolitan Cleopas as a beneficiary. The signed checks were regular payments of parish debts, exclusively for parish affairs, for which contracts have been signed and were executed decisions of the meetings of the parish council, whose members have been notified through the monthly financial reports of the treasurer and have been recorded in the minutes.
In his letter of August 2, 2004 to the president and the members of the parish council of the Transfiguration Parish of New York, the then Chancellor of the Holy Archdiocese of America noted:
“On April 2, 2004, a Panel of Inquiry was convened at the Archdiocese. … At the end of the deliberations, the Panel unanimously concluded that what was presented as evidence of financial crimes were normal operations checks … In summary, the Panel concluded that there was no attempt at forgery or improper use of funds, but rather that the checks in question were signed to ensure the continued operation of the Parish and Parochial School. No evidence was presented that Parish funds were improperly used or diverted for the benefit of any individual not entitled to those funds.”
Doc 26 – Copies of parish checks in the USA
- Comments on the events in the US – Has the Metropolitan smuggled large sums of cash out of US, over $ 10,000, during trips to Greece?
The Metropolitan has never smuggled any amounts of cash out of the U.S. or any country. Anytime he has traveled and needed to carry a sum in excess of $10,000 from his personal finances, he legally and duly has declared it at the airport. Moreover, any trips the Metropolitan made to Greece during his tenure in the U.S. were paid for by him personally, using his own personal finances.
- Comments on the events in the US – Has the Metropolitan been involved in the disappearance of $ 300,000 in federal funds that would fund school children’s computers?
Absolutely not. The Metropolitan has personally no knowledge of the existence of any such federal grants, let alone their disappearance. Besides, the Metropolitan was not a fiduciary or a school administrator, and he was not involved in any such supposed transactions. Nonetheless, this sum seems very high for a school with a studentry of approximately 250 students. Any federal funding or grants would have been handled directly by school administrators and not by the parish priest.
- Comments on the events in the US – The school’s financial register is said to have been stolen and made inaccessible to prevent an examination of all money that has disappeared. Is that true?
The Metropolitan has no knowledge of this since he had already left this position at that time and assumed ministry in a new parish in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is one of the largest parishes in the Metropolis of Boston and the only one with an all-day parochial school.
- Why has the Metropolis refused to give GP an interview?
In general, Metropolitan Cleopas welcomes any media that wants to cover any issues regarding the local Church and its activities, as well as any issues related to the Metropolitan himself. There is nothing to hide. The Metropolitan often contributes to media publications as a guest columnist and gives interviews to various media outlets. However, the foundation of participation in such interviews is rooted in mutual respect and dialogue, and it is carried out in a professional way.
In the case of the GP, his questions were formulated as accusations against the Metropolitan, containing false allegations of criminal activity without a shred of proof.
The Metropolis asked GP to provide grounds for its allegations and to support them with evidence. GP never provided any evidence.
Realizing the weight of our mission and the obligation to restore the truth, we assure the members, friends, supporters and donors of the Holy Metropolis of Sweden, that we will continue with the same and even greater zeal, to serve the vision and the values of Orthodoxy in Scandinavia, while serving every human being and working for unity, stability, progress and spiritual advancement.
Next relevant post: https://greekorthodoxparishroskilde.com/2022/01/09/the-holy-metropolis-of-sweden-responds-to-the-gothenburg-post-article-of-december-30-2021/