NEWS

Church scandal snowballs

Archbishop Christodoulos was drawn closer yesterday into the trial-fixing aspect of the scandals besetting the Church of Greece after a senior judge linked the Church leader with a disgraced cleric at the heart of the affair. Court sources said yesterday that the judge, whose name was not made public, informed Supreme Court officials that Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis – a suspected eminence grise in the alleged trial-fixing ring who is in prison pending trial for theft of valuable religious icons – had twice interceded for him to meet Christodoulos. The judge is also understood to have claimed that Yiossakis was present at the meetings which took place six months ago at the archbishop’s seat in Plaka, central Athens. The purpose of the meetings was unclear. Christodoulos has repeatedly denied any links with Yiossakis, whose role in the trial-fixing ring allegations prompted a wide-ranging judicial investigation. So far, eight judges face disciplinary action – and are threatened with dismissal – while one has been charged with bribe taking and money laundering. The scandal then snowballed to include corruption and gay sex allegations regarding senior churchmen. Church officials close to Christodoulos commented yesterday that «the archbishop has met with many judges.» The Church leader came under further attack yesterday from dissident bishops, with Anthimos of Kalavryta criticizing Christodoulos for failing to provide convincing explanations regarding his relations with a fugitive drug dealer, Apostolos Vavilis. «The policy of ‘I do not know him, I never met him’ was not a good thing,» Anthimos told state NET TV. «It exposed [the archbishop] and proved that they had met somewhere.» Police yesterday continued their search for Vavilis, as rumors grew that the drug dealer on Interpol’s wanted list – whom Christodoulos allegedly sent to Jerusalem to monitor the controversial 2001 election for a new patriarch – was seeking to turn himself in. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant was issued yesterday against monk Kyrillos Stavropoulos, an associate of Yiossakis who has also been charged with stealing icons.