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Church hit by claims of sleaze

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    February 04, 2005 Church hit by claims of sleaze From John C THE Greek Orthodox Church, facing a scandal over alleged bribing of judges, drug dealing and theft
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2005
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      February 04, 2005

      Church hit by claims of sleaze
      From John C

      THE Greek Orthodox Church, facing a scandal over alleged bribing of
      judges, drug dealing and theft of antiquities, called an emergency
      meeting of its Holy Synod yesterday as Archbishop Christodoulos, the
      head of the Church, promised to stamp out corruption.

      One bishop, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Attica, is to appear before
      the synod today to explain claims, aired on Greek radio and television,
      that he had boasted of having control over judges who might be called
      upon to rule in a dispute over his appointment.

      A second bishop, Metropolitan Theoklitos of Thessaly, has been asked
      to answer allegations that he was arrested in civilian clothes in a
      central Greek nightclub last year during a drugs bust.

      At the same time, an arrest warrant has been issued for Archimandrite
      Iakovos Yiosakis, a former monk accused of stealing ancient relics from
      archaeological sites on the island of Kythera while serving in a
      monastery there.

      He was not at home in Piraeus yesterday when police went to arrest
      him. He has been charged with antiquities smuggling and embezzlement,
      some of it in connection with a stint as a priest in Chicago.

      All three claim to have been close aides to Archbishop Christodoulos,
      who said yesterday:

      I have only one task at the moment to eradicate corruption from
      within the Church.

      After yesterdays four-hour meeting, the synod asked the Greek
      Government to amend its ecclesiastical laws to allow the Church to take
      tougher legal action against its wayward clergymen. So far the
      Government has guarded its constitutional right to enforce the laws in
      church issues.

      The most serious charges are those against Metropolitan Panteleimon.
      His accusers say that the alleged taped telephone conversation is
      evidence that he wielded strong influence over at least one judge who
      has been suspended by Greeces highest court for taking large bribes to
      free convicted drug dealers from jail.

      Three other judges face similar penalties, while nine more are under
      investigation. The bishop did not deny allegations that he was the
      manager of a mutual fund worth at least 1 million (£690,000), most of
      hundreds of parishioners who rioted in churches in northern Athens and
      took unsuccessful legal action to overturn it.

      Archbishop Christodoulos himself is under fire from some bishops who
      claim that he knew of the scandals for a long time but did not take
      action until the media forced him to. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of
      Zakynthos, a noted liberal, predicted: A tsunami is coming and it will
      reach the Archbishop himself.

      Any senior clergyman found to have committed a crime or severe breach
      of ethics faces a six-month suspension and one-third cut in pay, a
      synod spokesman said yesterday.

      Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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