(guardian) Greece’s Orthodox church, buffeted by sex and corruption scandals, met in emergency session yesterday amid lurid claims that have included one newspaper publishing photographs of a 91-year-old bishop naked in bed with a nubile young woman.
Scrambling to resolve the worst crisis in the church’s modern history, the embattled spiritual leader, Archbishop Christodoulos, convened the rare meeting as allegations of skulduggery, sexual improprieties, trial rigging, drug and antiquities smuggling engulfed the institution.
“I humbly ask for forgiveness from the people and the clerics who, for the most, honour… the cassock they wear,” he said addressing the 102-member Holy Synod, the church’s ruling council.
“There is a lot that must be done to put our house in order,” he conceded before proposing a series of reforms.
Greeks have watched dumbfounded as allegations of their priesthood’s dissolute lifestyle have unfolded on their television screens.
Snatched tape-recordings, aired nightly, have revealed rampant homosexuality among senior clerics who, unlike ordinary priests, are under oaths of chastity.
The alleged debauchery has not been limited to monastic cells. Last week, claims emerged that Metropolitan Theoklitos of Thessaly, a leading churchman, had been arrested on suspicion of drug dealing in a police raid on a notorious nightclub in Athens.
The priest was reportedly rounded up with Seraphim Koulousousas, the archbishop’s former private secretary, also implicated in another “unholy affair” involving gay sex with a bishop.
In a setback for Archbishop Christodoulos, Mr Koulousousas announced this week that he was leaving the church to embark on a career as a fashion designer in Paris.
The Greek Orthodox church sees homosexuality as an “abomination,” with the archbishop recently describing it as a “blatant, crying sin”.
The revelations follow the suspension of two high-ranking clerics for “ethical misconduct” earlier this month.
Metropolitan Panteleimon of Attica, who headed Greece’s richest diocese, was withdrawn from duties after allegations of “lewd exchanges with young men” and charges that he had embezzled around €4.4m (£3m) for “his old age.”
The bishop is one of several eminent priests whose names have been linked in a widening trial-fixing and corruption scandal involving at least 20 judges currently under investigation.
In the wake of suggestions by fellow members of the synod that he resign, Panteleimon’s reaction was less than charitable. “If I speak, there will be an earthquake. I’ll take many with me to my grave.”