Disgraced cleric won’t budge

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Former Larnaca Bishop Chrysostomos has challenged a Holy Synod decision to suspend him from his duties following his 12-month jail term after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a minor in a historic case.

The cleric also refuses to move out of the Larnaca Bishopric residence, which was also part of his penance decided by the Holy Synod a week ago.

Chrysostomos argues that the Holy Synod does not have the right to suspend him until the Supreme Court examines an appeal of his 12-month jail term suspended for three years.

In a letter sent to the Holy Synod, his lawyer, Yiannis Polychronis, argued the Synod should at least allow the 85-year-old cleric to remain on the grounds of the Larnaca Bishopric, as his health is frail.

He further expressed fears for his client’s life should he find himself in a public space, claiming that the bishop had been verbally attacked during his trial.

Last week, the Cyprus Church’s decision-making body decided to censure the 85-year-old senior cleric until his appeal to the Supreme Court is examined.

Until then, the cleric will have no right to participate in any church function, with the Synod retaining the right to alter its decision after the Supreme Court delivers its ruling.

The Synod also instructed the incumbent Larnaca Bishop Nectarios to evict the cleric from the premises of the Larnaca Bishopric, where he resides.

The Holy Synod instructed the Larnaca Bishopric to rent a place for the former bishop to reside.

Earlier this month, the former bishop was handed a 12-month suspended sentence, the first time a senior Cyprus Church cleric was convicted of a sex crime.

He was found guilty after a year-long trial, which ended with the Larnaca District Court finding the testimony of the now 58-year-old victim and witnesses credible.

The woman pressed charges in 2021, 40 years after the alleged incident when she had visited the bishop seeking financial help after losing her father in 1981.

In its decision, the court said the time that had passed until the complaint was made does not override its severity.

At least six more women have come forward with complaints of sexual misconduct against the cleric.

His appeal included 12 reasons, with the main one cited being “the right to a fair trial”, suggesting it was violated due to the long time that elapsed since the incident 42 years ago.

Defence lawyers argue their client did not get a fair trial as he could not call on witnesses who have passed away since the crime.