Limassol Bishop Athanasios’ defence lawyer on Wednesday described the parents of a monk who are suing him and others as a group of maniacs looking for scapegoats to satisfy their pain.
The man’s family are seeking general damages of up to €2m from Maheras monastery, abbot Epifanios, Bishop Athanasios, and the archbishop, in his capacity as the head of the church.
Marios Hardjiotis was cross examining the head of an association of relatives and friends of monks who suggested that Athanasios and Mount Athos abbot Efrem led a brotherhood that manipulated and forced young men into monasticism.
The association’s head, Andreas Nearhou, said they have written letters to the authorities asking them to investigate complaints against the “ring of recruitment of youngsters into monasticism”.
Nearhou said the association was created in 2003 and numbered 24 members related to 15 monks.
Asked by the defence whether there was another association, Nearhou said there was but he could not tell how many members it had.
“There are two associations that are related … you haven’t tried to find out how many members the other association has?” Hardjiotis said.
He added that the other association comprised 470 members and it represented 170 monks in 146 monasteries in Cyprus and abroad.
That association had voiced support of monastic life in November 2016.
“Do you agree that you are a meagre minority compared to them?”
Nearhou agreed, adding however, that his organisation represented people who had been manipulated and forced into monasteries.
Hardjiotis pointed out that the overwhelming majority of parents accepted the fact that their children were monks, charging that the members of Nearhou’s association “are a group of maniacs bent on punishing scapegoats to assuage their pain”.
The family of the monk, Giorgos Theodolou, claim that Athanasios proselytised their son beginning in 2001. As a result of the indoctrination, Giorgos, now aged 44, was completely changed as a person.
The plaintiffs are also suing the attorney-general (of the Republic) for failing to institute laws protecting family life.