Primate of the Church of Greece says an Archbishop will not be resigning, he is being exterminated by his enemies
Athens – During his wide-ranging interview to a private TV channel, the Archbishop claimed that catharsis is the only way to deal with the crisis in Church. He further revealed that he has considered the possibility of resigning, but has rejected the idea, as he believes that its does not from part of the problem. With regard to the resignation of the Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaliotida, Theoklitos, he said that he was aware of the fact since this morning. Furthermore, he repeated that he was in no way involved in sending Vavilis, Triantafyllakis and Nikodimos to Jerusalem. Actually, he also declared that he had met Vavilis in Jerusalem in 2001, when he posing as a security guard, but he does not recall ever having met him again, while he did not completely exclude the possibility. Moreover, he did not clarify whether he will be removing Press representative Epiphanios Economou from his post. Regarding Giosakis, he stressed that he was literally “surprised” when he saw him, but could not ask him to leave.
“The Archbishop will not be resigning, he is being exterminated by his enemies,” declared Mr Christodoulos earlier, upon exiting the Archbishopric.
In the interview he gave to private TV channel Alpha, he spoke about the crisis that has erupted in the Church of Greece over the last few weeks, following the revelations concerning scandals and corruption.
“You can imagine everything that has gone through my head, and a lot more that you cannot even begin to imagine,” he stated, while he also pointed out that he has rejected the possibility of resigning, as he does not consider himself part of the problem. However, he stressed that he has to be in charge of the Church’s self-catharsis, with the support of the Hierarchy.
Regarding the resignation of the Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaliotida, Theoklitos, he declared that the decision was reached after much thought, while the Bishop briefed him of his resignation on Friday noon.
With regard to the Archbishopric’s Press representative, Father Epiphanios Economou, the Archbishop did not say whether he will be removing him from his post. He added, though, that he is awaiting the findings of the investigation into the case. Father Epiphanios, who is on temporary suspension, was deceived by an unknown, who tried to sell him a tape that contained scandals by a member of the clergy.
The Archbishop, though, did admit that he was informed of the event from Epiphanios himself, who told him that he had been deceived.
Asked whether he believed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was behind the latest revelations, he declared that he cannot even begin to assume something like that.
Referring to the statement by Patriarch Eirinaios’ representative, ie that the Archbishop had sent Vavilis to Jerusalem, he claimed that he had not sent any of them (Vavilis, Triantafyllakis, Archimandrite Nikodimos), however, he did not deny knowing Apostolos Vavilis personally. He admitted meeting him after his sentencing concerning a drugs case and his subsequent imprisonment.
Actually, regarding the letter of recommendation that he wrote for Vavilis, he underlined that he had given it to him prior to his arrest. He further mentioned that he had drawn up the letter following the request by Vavilis’ parents and it was to be used for a University overseas. Moreover, still referring to Vavilis, he pointed out that when he knew him, Vavilis had not demonstrated any of the traits he later revealed.
He also said that when he was the Metropolitan Bishop of Dimitriada, he had met Vavilis at Volos prison, where he had gone to console the prisoners. He also added that Vavilis had visited him after his release.
As he said, the last time he saw Vavilis in full knowledge was in September 2001 during Jerusalem Patriarch Eirinaios’ enthronement. At the time, Vavilis was posing as a security guard and the Archbishop had assumed that he had been hired by the Patriarchate. He also declared that from then onwards he did not recall ever meeting him again, while he did not deny having seen him dressed in cassocks.
The Archbishop then referred to Iakovos Giosakis’ visit to the Archbishopric, along with other judicial officers. He stated that he was not aware of whether any of the officers who visited him back then are now accused of corruption. He further added that he was literally “surprised” to see Giosakis waiting in line, but could not tell him to leave. Furthermore, he denied ever having any dealings with Justice, or ever having any interest in clearing judicial cases involving the Church.
Finally, he denied owning any kind of assets or property, inviting anyone interested to perform audits under the name Archbishop Christodoulos Papakevaidis.
On Friday, in a very heavy atmosphere and in front of his congregation, the Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaliotida, Theoklitos, announced he will be handing in his resignation on Tuesday. He actually said that he reached this decision, not because he is guilty, but in order to save the Church’s prestige, in view of the latest torrent of defamations and untruths regarding himself and other members of the clergy.
In justifying his resignation, the Metropolitan Bishop stressed, “I do not want anyone to say that my spiritual father favoured me, while at the same time he drove other Metropolitan Bishops away from their cathedrals. I reached this decision with much pain. I am not being sacrificed, because I am not worthy of being sacrificed.”
He also added that he wished his successor to come from the same region.
His announcement shocked his congregation, who started shouting “Worthy” inside the church. In addition, dozens of believers stayed outside his house until late at night, asking him to reconsider his decision.
Next Tuesday, Mr Theoklitos will hand in his resignation to the Hierarchy.
Mr Theoklitos had been appointed Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaliotida and Fanariofarsala on 14 October 1999.
In the meantime, the alternate government spokesperson, Evangelos Antonaros, repeated that the Government is awaiting bold decision for clean up within the Church.
“The Educations and Justice Ministries will assist with the possible revision of regulations, wherever this is deemed necessary,” he stressed. He also clarified that any regulations are done with the consensus of the Church and that there is no issue of an ultimatum towards the clergy.
Referring to the statement by Education Minister Marietta Giannakou, who said that the Archbishop has not been asked to resign, Mr Antonaros repeated a previous statement, underlining, “The Archbishop is elected by the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece.”
Finally, in answering whether the Government is shifting the political blame for Vavilis’ actions to PASOK, being the former government, he noted that the investigation is continuing and thus the question is inopportune.
On the other hand, PASOK’s President, George Papandreou, speaking at his party’s National Restructuring Council, claimed that ND attempted to personally gain from the Church and use it to its political games, while he also mentioned the pre-election leaflets against him. However, the Opposition leader did not criticize Archbishop Christodoulos personally, but, wondered “Who spoke of the Lord’s Right?” and “Who kept saying, luckily times are changing?”
Furthermore, with a letter to the Speaker of the Parliament, ten PASOK MPs asked that the new President of the Hellenic Republic be sworn in before the Speaker of the Parliament and not before the Archbishop.