Greek Church Suspends Bishop Amid Scandals

Author: Derek Gatopoulos
Date Published: 02/04/2005

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s Orthodox Church suspended a senior bishop Friday as it struggled to deal with growing corruption scandals that have brought deep embarrassment to the institution.

Metropolitan bishop Panteleimon of Attica was suspended for six months pending a church probe into alleged embezzlement of parish funds and “ethical” misconduct.

The church’s governing Holy Synod, which made Friday’s announcement, also on Thursday suspended a priest Thursday who has been charged with antiquity smuggling and is under investigation in a major trial-fixing scandal.

The priest, archmandrite Ioakovos Giosakis, was arrested early Friday after a prosecutor listed him as a flight risk.

Thirteen judges and judicial officials have been summoned to testify at a Supreme Court investigation into the trial-fixing charges, and face dismissal.

The allegations surrounding judges and the clergy have been fueled by the nightly broadcast on private television stations of alleged wiretaps of telephone conversations containing lurid financial and even sexual details.

Panteleimon said tapes purportedly of his conversations were fake.

“The church is facing a crisis on an unprecedented scale with daily revelations of involvement of the clergy in all kinds of scandals,” the Athens daily Ta Nea commented.

“This requires radical changes within the church, including the way its finances are managed … Half measures are not enough.”

The government said it supports a proposal by the church to amend decades-old legislation and simplify procedures required to prosecute members of the clergy.

“We are waiting for the details of this proposal … The government supports cleanup efforts under way within the ranks of the church,” government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said.”

The Orthodox church wields strong influence in Greece, and about 97 percent of the country’s nearly 11 million native-born residents are baptized into the state religion.