The parents of a Nicosia man are suing the Orthodox Church for €2million after accusing a bishop of turning their son against them and using cult-like methods in order to manipulate him into becoming a monk.
Recordings attributed to Limassol Bishop Athanasios have revealed him allegedly telling new monks to renounce their parents and obliterate every part of their old selves with ‘holy hate’ in order to become closer to God.
The DVD recordings were submitted to a court in Limassol by the parents of man who, they claim, was forced into becoming a monk.
Responding to the reports, Athanasios stood by his comments and said they had all been spoken in the spirit of the Holy Word.
“Everything I said, I said in front of a lot of people. It was not hidden,” he told Phileleftheros.
“What I told the monks is that from the time they become monks, they must follow the monastic way of life and not allow themselves to be distracted by other things that are not connected to being a monk”.
In an unprecedented case for Cyprus, Maria and Frixos Theodoulou, from Nicosia, filed a €2m suit against the church and state claiming that men of cloth turned their son, Giorgos, away from them 15 years ago.
They have since filed the suit against Athanasios as well as the Abbot of Machairas Monastery Epifanios, the monastery itself and Attorney General Costas Clerides, the latter for not taking action.
According to court testimony by the man’s mother, Giorgos had shown little interest in religious matters, had wide range of hobbies and had been in a serious relationship with a woman before Athanasios first came into his life in 2001.
In his comments to the paper, Athanasios also said the man whose parents have gone to court had entered the monastery when he was 37 years old and was now 43 adding: “If someone with a doctorate degree cannot decide what they want to do with their life then who can?”
In the recordings, the person attributed as being Athanasios, likened monks who tried to combine their holy calling with their old lives with vampires.
“They are like a dead person who may have been buried but is still reaching out from the grave trying to grab onto things. That is being a vampire”.
He also said that monks must leave their parents behind when entering the monastery saying: “We all had mothers. Your mother is not the only one”.
Athanasios was also recorded saying that it was more important for a monk to continue his duties at a monastery than to attend his father’s funeral and cautioned there were few greater sins than a monk turning his back on the monastic life.
“Never look back, for anything. Because then you become a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife. Do not turn back. You do not understand what a great sin this would be Look into your heart and clear out the junk inside. We do not care about anything on earth. Nothing. Not our mother. Not our village. Not our country. Nothing.”
He also said it was not enough for the monks to give up every element of their past lives, they must also give up every part of themselves: “This is called holy hate. To give up everything about yourself”.
He also referred to the large number of donations he had managed to get: “We have amassed so many donations over the past few years. Over €5m or €6m. Even if I was the best businessman around, I could not have made €6 million”.