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Church needs to fix broken image

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The Church of Cyprus is suffering from a major public image problem, with its leadership not realising that its reputation is dwindling, and fast, suggesting that brotherly love has long gone out the window.

The revelations last month of a money laundering scheme at a recently established monastery, supposedly without the knowledge of the senior bishop in charge, has cast serious doubt among the faithful, who are rapidly losing faith in an establishment that was supposed to provide spiritual guidance and support in times of need.

At a time when ordinary folk are struggling to make ends meet, stories of lavish and gold-covered objects, marble-clad buildings and flashy cars, are simply turning people away from the church in disgust.

And with a report of another monastery being built, this time in the Cavo Greco area, but having defied every regulation required for the development, revelations of the intrigue with which the Church operates acted as the final blow within public option that the men of the cloth are lawbreaking, corrupt money launderers.

The contractors found loopholes in the system to evade penalties regarding building in a Natura animal and nature preserve, hoping that they can, once again, get away with it and still get their monastery built, where they will rake in millions in tax-free donations, maybe even from sanctioned entrepreneurs.

The 300,000 fine that such gross violation of the law carries, has been ignored, with the hope that the church will be slapped with a minor penalty and go about its business.

With the Ministry of Interior saying it has no authority to stop construction of the monastery, the blame is now on the mayor of Ayia Napa for failing to do anything, knowing full well that the project is illegal.

Yet, on the other side of the island, the mayor of Paphos has often taken the wheel of bulldozers to tear down illegal constructions in his town. This means that if any mayor wants to, then the law can be implemented and effectively, with immediate remedies.

It’s just that so many conflicting interests at stake, the relationship between the church and all levels of the state has become so murky, that it is difficult to disengage the two any more.

If the Archbishops truly cares about the reputation of the Church, and regaining the trust and support of his flock, then perhaps he should set the example by ordering the illegal monastery to be demolished and, if necessary, to be built in another area.

The same applies in the case of the cloak and daggery at the monastery of Saint Avvakum, where the matter should not have been downgraded to an investigative committee. Instead, one person should have taken charge and cleaned the mess, before it backfires big time on the rest of the Church. And what little reputation that has remained, is lost forever.