Church faces new land inquiry
One of the Church of Greece’s most prominent figures, Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, yesterday intervened in the growing dispute over a piece of forestland in the northern city that has been given to the Church for the construction of a home for the elderly. Anthimos responded to the news that Thessaloniki chief prosecutor Dimitris Papageorgiou has ordered a preliminary investigation into how just over 3.2 hectares of public land ended up in the hands of the Church. The case bears similarities to the recent scandal involving the exchange of land between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, which is also being investigated amid allegations that taxpayers were shortchanged. However, Anthimos yesterday insisted that everything in the exchange of the plot in the Panorama district of Thessaloniki was above board. «No law has been broken,» he told Skai Radio. «We have a huge file with all the paperwork.» Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis also insists that nothing illegal took place. However, pressure for the transfer of the land to be investigated is growing. The Thessaloniki Bar Association expressed its «surprise and deep concern about the terms and conditions under which the construction will take place.» Three MPs, from PASOK and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), have also submitted questions in Parliament about the issue. Papageorgiou wants to find out why the land was given to the Church so that it could build a hospital, whereas the construction plans now indicate that a home for the poor and elderly with 150 rooms will instead be built. The land was part of a 100-hectare estate that had been donated to the Health Ministry several decades ago.