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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 15:05 GMT
Greek archbishop sorry for crisis
By Richard Galpin
BBC, Athens

Archbishop Christodoulos (left) and a bishop
Archbishop Christodoulos (left) hopes the church will emerge wiser
The head of the Orthodox Church in Greece has apologised for a series of scandals which caused one of the worse crises in the church's recent history.

Archbishop Christodoulos was speaking at an emergency meeting of the church's governing body, the Holy Synod, attended by bishops from across Greece.

He has also announced plans to improve financial transparency and deal with clergymen who break the code of ethics. Recently, claims against clergy have ranged from bribery to embezzlement.

In his opening speech, the archbishop said he humbly apologised for failing to take tough action against corrupt clergymen and for the fact that the church had tried to ignore the problem.

But he said he hoped that the church, one of the most important pillars of Greek society, would emerge from the crisis wiser and more mature.

Audits

In recent weeks, there has been a flood of allegations against priests and bishops who have been accused of everything from bribing judges to helping drug dealers, embezzlement, and what the church views as depraved sexual behaviour.

Already, one priest has been removed and a senior bishop suspended for six months pending the results of an investigation.

The bishop is accused of trying to influence the outcome of a trial, acts of sodomy and of having almost 3m euros (2.06m) in a bank account belonging to a close relative.

The bishop denies the allegations. Three other bishops are being investigated along with eight judges.

So to stave off mounting calls from politicians for a formal separation of church and state, the Archbishop has now proposed a series of measures, including more regular financial audits and a ban on clergymen receiving bonuses from the public for their work.

A lay-person will also take part in any further church investigations into wayward clergymen. The question though is whether this will be enough to satisfy the politicians.

The prime minister himself, Costas Karamanlis, has called on the church to clean up its act.


SEE ALSO:
Greek church rocked by scandals
04 Feb 05 |  Europe


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