The minutes of a 2015 meeting of the Holy Synod on whether a priest who had served a prison sentence for the sexual assault of a girl he had fostered should be defrocked were leaked because of power games within the church over who the next archbishop will be, said one of the bishops at the centre of the row.
Elena Frantzi, 34, was found dead in her home last month after her foster father – Father Stylianos, a priest in Ergates village in the Nicosia district – had been reinstated as a priest after serving 18 months for sexually harassing her.
Bishop Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tylliria, Nikiforos said that the way the leaked minutes had been reported by the media made him look like he was defending Sylianos when that was not the case.
At the meeting of the Holy Synod on Wednesday where the decision to defrock Stylianos was taken in the wake of the uproar surrounding Frantzi’s death, Nikiforos gave the rest of the bishops a letter complaining about the leakage and calling for a probe into who was behind it.
Nikiforos was reported as saying during the 2015 meeting that the offence for which the priest had been sentenced was not adultery, or prostitution but physical contact without intercourse and that they ought to look into what the church rules provided for that.
In his letter this week Nikiforos said his position had been distorted to make it appear that he wanted to cover up for Stylianos. He added that the reports did not mention that he had also suggested that Stylianos’ offence should be punishable by defrocking, citing regulations of ecumenical councils.
“Adding to my sorrow was my feeling that instead of being responsible clergy preparing the people of God for Holy Week and Easter we appeared to be deliberately covering up the immoral acts of a priest,” Nikiforos said in the letter.
Speaking to Sigmalive, Nikiforos said he believed the leakage was linked to Bishop Isaias of Tamassos’ bid for the role of archbishop.
Stylianos was serving under Isaias.
“They know I am the spiritual father of Bishop Isaias of Tamassos, who is an educated man with depth and fruitful ecclesiastical, cultural, social and national action. By harming Nikoforos, they take away from Isaias a strong backing,” Nikoforos said.
He said that he is not interested in the archbishop’s throne himself and that he believes the other bishops know this.
“With my health issues I might die earlier than his Holiness,” he said, adding that taking into account his bad experience with previous elections, “even if I were younger and healthier I would still not be interested”.
He added that what interests him, ‘is my name, my honour, not to be tarnished’.
Nikoforos ran against Archbishop Chrysostomos II – then the Bishop of Paphos – and Bishop Athanasios of Limassol in the archepiscopal elections of 2006. Following an eventful race Chrysostomos was initially elected as locum tenens, and later became the new archbishop.