Cyprus ex-bishop who indecently assaulted teen girl in 1981 gets suspended sentence

Cyprus ex-bishop who indecently assaulted teen girl in 1981 gets suspended sentence

A court in Cyprus on Thursday gave a former bishop in the Greek Orthodox Church to a 12-month suspended sentence after he was found guilty of indecently assaulting a 16-year-old girl 42 years ago.

In passing sentence, Larnaca District Court Judge Evie Efthymiou noted the severity of the offense but said she took into account former Kition Bishop Chrysostomos’ advanced age, deteriorating health and clean criminal record, as well as the significant span of time that had elapsed from when the assault took place.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the judge also weighed Chrysostomos’ charity work as an elected bishop for 46 years before his resignation in 2019.

But she said the fact that the 85-year-old bishop exploited his position of authority as a senior clergyman “not only runs counter to Christian values, it also lends great weight to his actions.”

The judge added Chrysostomos appeared to “cleverly” set his plan in motion by choosing the time and place of their meetings so the victim would be alone with him. The teenager had then reached out to the bishop for financial support after losing her father.

Chrysostomos’ conviction was a rare instance in which a senior member of Cyprus’ influential Orthodox Church – even if no longer in office – has faced the full weight of the law.

Outside the courthouse, activists heaped scorn on the bishop with the police having to push back some who tried to obstruct his car as he departed.

The victim, now in her late 50s, told state broadcaster CyBC that although she understood the judge’s reasoning for suspending the sentence, she expected at least a “symbolic” length of time behind bars for the bishop.

Chrysostomos’ fall from grace isn’t over as the Holy Synod – the autocephalous Church’s highest decision-making body – will convene later this month to decide on whether he will be defrocked or not.

In a statement issued after Chrysostomos’ conviction, Archbishop Georgios said the Synod would make the “appropriate decisions based on Holy Canon Law and the Cyprus’ Church’s constitution.”

“The Church unequivocally condemns such actions from wherever they are made, which go against the Christian faith and are contrary to the ethos of the clergy,” the Archbishop said.

He added that the Church would look at ways it can help combat “erroneous attitudes” such as male-centric and sexist behavior that promotes violence against women. [AP]

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