March 20, 2005

Greece in revolt as scandals sweep the Orthodox church

The Observer

Helena Smith in Athens
Sunday March 20, 2005
The Observer

Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, is facing trying times. Last week, Greece's newly inaugurated President, Karolos Papoulias, spurned tradition by refusing to kiss him.

Days earlier, his closest confidant, Theoklitos, the Bishop of Thessaliotis, resigned amid accusations of homosexuality and drug dealing. And yesterday, after weeks of calls for his own withdrawal, the whiff of scandal came closer still - ensnaring his mentor, Metropolitan Bishop Kallinikos, with yet more claims of sexual impropriety. Growing numbers of the faithful have begun to wonder whether their fiery leader will survive 'Holygate'.

'There is no doubt that this crisis has blackened the face of the church,' said the conservative daily Kathimerini. 'Those who thought that the corruption scandals and shady intrigue bedevilling it were just a passing phase have been forced to reconsider.'

The revelations are mind-boggling. Almost daily, men once revered as paragons of virtue have been exposed as lascivious money-grabbers. Recorded conversations of eminent clerics engaging in 'love talk' have been broadcast on television, secret bank accounts revealed, and malfeasance unearthed, with priests emerging as central players in activities as disparate as trial-fixing, antiquities smuggling and election rigging. Highlighting a raft of lurid sexual claims, one newspaper splashed what was purported to be a 91-year-old priest in bed with a woman across its front page.

Posted by kshaw at March 20, 2005 06:28 AM