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25 June, 2024
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Cyprus rocked by abbey scandal

Explosive revelations from the Avvakoum Abbey demand action as the nation's leaders and church officials scramble to uncover the truth

Pavlos Neophytos

Cyprus is grappling with the fallout from a series of unsettling revelations involving the Abbey of Avvakoum, a scandal that has implicated the state, the Church of Cyprus, and the nation’s political sphere, raising serious questions about oversight, responsibility, and the need for swift action.

The controversy, which has sent shockwaves through Cypriot society, revolves around allegations that have yet to be fully disclosed, creating a cloud of mystery and demanding transparency and accountability from various sectors.

The public remains captivated and confused by the continuous disclosures, unsure of what to believe amid conflicting narratives.

In response to the escalating crisis, the Cypriot Ministry of Justice, alongside the Church and Parliament, is under pressure to implement concrete measures. The situation has underscored the urgency of shedding light on the matter and addressing the growing number of questions from the public and media alike.

The scandal has not only exposed potential lapses in the supervisory roles of these institutions but also called into question their ability to manage and rectify the situation effectively.

Criticism of the police and MOKAS

The Police are currently conducting interrogations for potential criminal offenses to bring suspects to justice. However, they face significant criticism for their management of the case, with Justice Minister Mario Hartsiotis bearing the brunt. Demetris Demetriou, chairman of the Parliament's Institutions Committee and a member of DISY, highlighted issues in a statement to Alpha, questioning the police's actions, including the handling of the Abbey's safe and the involvement of hooded men and unlicensed vehicles. "Such actions are unacceptable in a European state," he emphasized, also pointing out the Anti-Cover-up Offenses Unit's (ACU) failure to act against "dirty" money.

The Justice Minister has assured that all aspects of the case will be thoroughly investigated, with two teams focusing on different sets of allegations. However, Demetriou suggests that a third team, MOKAS, is necessary to trace the money's origins.

Appointment of criminal investigators

In response to public outcry, the Legal Service, prompted by the Minister of Justice, took decisive action on Thursday, appointing criminal investigators to delve into allegations of police and others' involvement in the case. Following discussions between the Minister, the Attorney General, and the Assistant Attorney General of the Republic, the move aims to ensure the unhindered continuation of criminal investigations and the impartial evaluation of conflicting allegations. Nino Kekko and George Papaioannou, both seasoned lawyers, have been appointed by the General Prosecutor's Office to collaborate with police investigators in probing any potential criminal offenses.

The parties and the presence of the President of ELAM

It's worth noting that political concerns stemming from the appearance of ELAM President, Christos Christos, at the Tamassos Metropolis on the night of March 5 - the night the scandal broke - were raised by DIKO and DISY, urging authorities to investigate. "Why was the ELAM President present? If he was there as a delegate, why was he singled out while others weren't? If not as a delegate, why was he there? What were masked individuals doing at a potential crime scene? Who invited them? What's their link to ELAM and its president? How does the Police plan to investigate his involvement, given his parliamentary immunity?" queried DIKO President, Nicolas Papadopoulos. DISY echoed similar sentiments: "The disturbing events surrounding the Holy Abbey of Saint avvakoum demand an immediate and thorough investigation, including the ELAM President's involvement. This is essential for fairness and equality." Following the appointment of criminal investigators by the Legal Service, EDEK, in a statement, expressed satisfaction "for investigating the extremely serious situation involving the ELAM president and the former police chief."

Parliament probes police conduct

In a heated parliamentary session, AKEL spearheaded efforts to examine the handling of the avvakoum Abbey case. Discussions in the Legal Affairs Committee focused on the Police's actions, while the Interior Committee addressed economic exploitation concerns. Following AKEL's push, the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee unanimously registered an inquiry into Police conduct. However, tensions rose when DISY, DIKO, and EDEK parties rejected AKEL's proposal to discuss religious exploitation in the Internal Affairs Committee. AKEL accused them of neglecting state responsibility, prompting swift retaliation from DISY, alleging AKEL's exploitation for political gain. DISY emphasized an existing bill aimed at regulating fundraisers, urging immediate debate. The clash underscores the political fervor surrounding the scandal.

Public reaction to ongoing revelations

The public remains captivated and confused by the continuous disclosures, unsure of what to believe amid conflicting narratives. Recent shocking footage from the Abbey, showing a monk assaulting a woman, has led to a police investigation, highlighting the severity of the allegations involved.

The Archbishop's challenge

Archbishop George of Cyprus is facing a significant test, with expectations high for his leadership in addressing the crisis. This marks the Archbishop's first major crisis to navigate ecclesiastically, prompting questions about his resolve. Some voices are calling for him to surprise positively, as he did with his public statements on issues like sexual education and the handling of relics. On the Archbishopric's side, it was reported on Thursday that the investigative committee of the Holy Synod, which has been formed, is conducting new inquiries. New evidence and testimonies have emerged, aiming to compile irrefutable material to be presented in the ecclesiastical trial. The Archbishopric refers to a trial that will adhere to the Constitution of the Church of Cyprus while granting both the accused and the accusers the right to precisely present their positions. 

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

Cyprus  |  Church  |  scandal  |  Avvakoum  |  Abbey  |  monastery

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