The Holy Synod decided unanimously on Wednesday to defrock the priest who was convicted in 2015 for sexually assaulting Elena Frantzi, the 29-year-old woman whose recent death shocked the public and left church and state scramble for answers.
The decision was taken unanimously by the 18 members of the Holy Synod, after the case against the priest of Tamasos and Orinis was brought back by the bishop of that diocese.
The priest served 18 months in prison when he was convicted in 2015 on charges of sexual assault brought up against him by Elena Frantzi. To this day, he maintains his innocence even after serving his sentence.
Following Elena’s passing, the church came under fierce criticism for the way it handled the case and for the fact that there were different opinions within the clergy on the matter. The priest still received support from some circles in the church and even his community, in Ergates, some of whom did not believe justice was served with his conviction.
Death caused public outcry against church and state
Elena’s death caused both church and government to scramble in the aftermath, as the state had placed her in foster care at the age of 4 with the now-deposed priest’s family.
Elena was found dead in March at her home in Tseri, Nicosia, but the precise cause of death is still unknown. Her passing shocked public opinion in Cyprus when it emerged that she had reported abuse by her foster dad and his wife when she was young.
The priest was convicted of sexual abuse based on Elena’s testimony that he had been molesting her from a young age in their home. His wife was also facing allegations of physical abuse but charges were dropped after the priest was convicted and sent to prison.
The priest was convicted in 2015 of sexual abuse based on Elena’s testimony that he had been molesting her from a young age
A cousin of Elena told the media that the young victim was telling the truth and that her cousin had confided in some people that she was suffering abuse. The foster mum also admitted on live television that she remembered striking Elena on the hip using a wooden spoon because she got angry, after learning that her step daughter had stolen jewelry that belonged to a church.
The signs of a troubled childhood had been obvious according to experts who spoke in the media. However, the circumstances of the sexual abuse conviction of the foster dad in 2015 remain unclear.
The Legal Services department had -at the time- decided not to prosecute the step mother, but it was announced recently that she would eventually face physical abuse charges as well. When police examined the case more than two years ago, there were three suspects, the priest, his wife, and a third person reportedly an employee of the social welfare office.
Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba said the state had failed to protect Elena and called on officials to work harder in order to improve and modernise the Social Welfare Services.