Archbishop talks reform

Archbishop Christodoulos easily weathered an unprecedented, and unexpected, no-confidence vote during yesterday’s plenary meeting of the Church of Greece’s bishops, convened to discuss proposals for reform in the wake of a series of corruption and sex scandals. The head of the Church of Greece secured the backing of 67 bishops in the vote proposed by Germanos, Bishop of Ileia. Four abstained from the process, two voted blank and one cast his ballot against Christodoulos. The archbishop has come under increasing pressure after it emerged that he was close to a convicted drug dealer, Apostolos Vavilis, a shadowy figure who allegedly sold Israeli equipment to the police, attended an international Church conference dressed as a priest and was involved behind the scenes in the stormy election of the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem. The allegations surfaced after at least three bishops became embroiled in a widening ring of scandals that first emerged following claims of a trial-fixing gang involving judges, lawyers and at least one churchman – Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis. Yesterday, Christodoulos – who proposed a series of reforms intended to clean up the Church’s tarnished image – was criticized by several bishops, including those of Kalavryta and Zakynthos, for his alleged links with shady figures. The archbishop is understood to have defended himself by warning critics he had become party to allegations concerning their own integrity. Christodoulos also attacked journalists and politicians for pressuring the Church, over the past few weeks, to take action to purge itself of corrupt elements – which the archbishop himself eventually publicly pledged to do. «What is the big hurry?» he asked, pouring scorn on proposals for the separation of Church and State. «[This] will not make the men of the Church more moral, nor will it make public administration less corrupt.» The archbishop’s proposals included obliging bishops to table annual asset and funds-source (pothen esches) declarations, having state auditors monitor Church finances, and forcing all candidates for the cloth to do their military service first.

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