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25 June, 2024
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Archbishop Georgios in ''K'': The scandal rocking the Church of Cyprus

Andreas Karamitas interviews the Archbishop of Cyprus on the fraud investigation, exploitation, and the miraculous deceptions in the Monastery of Saint Avvakoum

By Andreas Kimitris

In an interview with "K," Archbishop George assures that efforts are being made to fully clarify the case of the Monastery of Saint Avvakoum, which is causing turmoil within the Church. He emphasizes that the responsibility lies with those who committed the offenses and perhaps with those who were responsible for overseeing them. He does not exclude the Holy Synod, stating that it could have acted earlier. He stresses that there can be no trafficking in either holy relics or miracles, and points out that stricter measures must be taken by the Holy Synod. He reiterates the call for the leaks to stop wherever they come from and urges everyone to await the outcome of the investigation.

You as archbishop and the Holy Synod as a whole have no responsibility? They have been exploiting human suffering and marketing the faith for a long time and advertising it.

Q: Who is responsible for the case of the Monastery of Saint Avvakoum?

A: Those who committed the offenses and perhaps also those who were responsible for overseeing them. Perhaps all of us who have not shown more rigor. Let the world rest assured that we will try to fully clarify the case and hold them accountable.

Q: What should the Metropolitan of Tamasou have done?

A: We should not set up courts before investigations. We will not blame the Metropolitan of Tamasos for something that he himself brought to the public. Speaking with hindsight, perhaps he should have set stricter criteria and frameworks within which to operate in this particular monastery, he should have shown more attention to these young people he put there to establish a monastery. He said himself that he was tricked. The fact that young people come to embrace monasticism needs further examination and some period in which to be put to the test. It is something that was missing there. This could be done in any other monastery and in any other diocese, or the Archdiocese.

Q: When did Isaiah know what was going on?

A: I don't know when he knew. He must have had some suspicions, that's why he started the investigation. When things came to a head, he told us that there were some suspicions about that monastery and he was acting in a way to uncover what was going on.

Q: They accused him of taking money. Is there anything wrong with that since the monastery is under his diocese?

A: If he was taking money for the Metropolis against receipts, there is nothing wrong. It's a convent that's under his jurisdiction. And if there were increased needs in the Metropolis and increased income to the monastery, there is no harm.  If there is something wrong, it is if he was taking money without issuing receipts and without the money going to Metropolis.

Q: If it turns out that he was taking money without receipts, what are the consequences?

A: There are State laws and provisions in our Statute's Code of Judicial Administration of Justice.

Q: You think he's gonna let this pass?

A: I'm not going to go to trial.

Q: Will he remain in his position while an investigation is being conducted?

A: There is nothing at this time to prohibit him from being in his position.

Q: Was Isaiah in consultation with you?

A: On the two days that the events occurred, yes. He called me the day before and said he would conduct an investigation at the monastery the next day. I didn't know the details of what he was going to do.

Q: You as archbishop and the Holy Synod as a whole have no responsibility? They have been exploiting human suffering and marketing the faith for a long time and advertising it. Did you not see that a business was being set up in the monastery?

A: I do not consider that there is no responsibility in the Holy Synod. We could, perhaps, have acted earlier. It has always been my principle that there can be no marketing or selling of either holy relics or miracles, and I have often exposed this publicly and to the Holy Synod. What I specifically told the Metropolitan of Tamasos was about their great expansion into activities that did not befit the monastery. For example, they set up a confectionery and advertised everything and we had a protest from the confectioners' association. And I said to him, the others pay taxes, VAT, licenses, etc. He told me that they do the same thing, that they have the confectionery registered, they have all the licenses and they pay everything. So when the Metropolitan assured me that everything was in order, I couldn't insist.

The case of Nektarios

Q: Didn't you hear that they were advertising miracles and cures? Not even anyone from the Holy Synod heard about this?

A: To the best of my knowledge, I haven't heard about it today, nor did I imagine it. However, what I did hear is that Abbot Nektarios claimed to have seen a piece of meat in the Holy Chalice, which he said had been stuck in his teeth for days. This claim turned out to be fraudulent. He purportedly saw the Body of Christ. The Eucharist, known as the 'Body and Blood of Christ,' is believed to be present under the elements of bread and wine. I discussed this with St. Tamasus, and since then, he has informed me that he has some suspicions and is investigating the matter.

Q: He said that there are agendas in the Congregation and that some people have found an opportunity to hurt Isaiah, and that is why they are taking the matter to the extreme.

A: I do not think that is the case. Duration has to do with how long it takes to examine the allegations. After all, this scandal could have come from any ecclesiastical province.

Q: The Holy Synod was criticized that when it met, it could have made a decision, but it did not do so.

A: We would simply be closing a chapter, but in fact the matter would not be closed, because new revelations would begin. It is better to investigate the matter in its entirety. We would be accused of having swept the matter under the rug.

Q: What are the new elements that led the Summit to send the case to the Commission of Inquiry?

A: First, they brought in the two who confessed and signed a guilty plea. Later it turned out that others were involved from within the abbey. Either they were following orders or they were accomplices. They too must give answers. There are three more, five in all.

The apology and the subversion

Q: Did you talk to them?

A: Two of them. The night they signed their confessions, I got them on the phone with Metropolitan Isaiah and they apologized. I told them that these sins are human but they are forbidden by the priesthood and therefore they will be defrocked. Then they denied everything and we could not proceed. Plus, the interrogation will show.

Q: So the new evidence has nothing to do with the charges against Isaiah?

A: No.

Q: Did you talk to him about the charges against him?

A: No, because that would be interfering with the process. Besides, we can't take what's being said irresponsibly and just accept it without question.

Q: Is there a timetable for completing the investigation?

A: We could not set a timetable. We told them as soon as possible.

Q: If it goes forward, is there a possibility of further video leaks?

A: I don't think the videos affect anyone. It's the facts that will convince us, not the facts that tickle people. I again call for the leaks to stop, wherever they come from.

Q: Do you have a clear picture of what happened on March 5 at the monastery? We hear about hooded men, cars without plates, etc. Have you asked to see the camera footage for that day?

A: What you hear, I hear. As long as they're being investigated by the police, let's wait. We were not shown

[This article was translated from its Greek original and edited for clarity]

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