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Cyprus

Bishop lambasted by state officials, Church distances itself

Bishop of Morphou Neophytos

Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou on Tuesday said that the controversial statements on homosexuals by the Bishop of Morphou ought to be retracted in a way to restore respect to the rights of all persons.

His comments followed a call by the Ombudswoman for the state to condemn statements that promote hatred and the Archbishop distancing himself from what the bishop had said.

Archbishop Chrysostomos said the controversial statements on homosexuality made by Morphou Bishop Neophytos do not represent him. The head of the church of Cyprus told daily Politis the bishop’s opinions “are clearly his personal opinions.”

In a written statement, Prodromou said that even though the government does not interfere in church matters, it could not refrain from commenting on public statements that are contrary to the principles of equal rights and respect for the dignity of all persons.

Morphou Bishop Neophytos has been under fire since last Thursday when it emerged he said during a speech in June that homosexuality is usually a problem transferred to a foetus when a pregnant woman has anal sex and enjoys it. The desire to do the same transfers to the foetus, he said.

He also said that gay men have a ‘nasty smell ’ and a specific ‘stink’.

In the same speech, the bishop also said: “In a country that carries out so many abortions and murders its children, is it impossible that a murderer could be among us?”

The comments were made in light of the murders by serial killer Nicos Metaxas. The bishop said it was hypocritical to be saddened by the death of two children killed by Metaxas when Cyprus carries out so many abortions.

He said that the “murders” were finished and that Metaxas asked for forgiveness form a priest, and confessed to the priest. Metaxas was earlier this summer sentenced to seven life sentences for killing five foreign women and two children.

Prodromou expressed sorrow and concern over the bishop’s statements on homosexuality while “the attempt to ‘interpret’ it based on the habits and practices of the parents’ private lives was an unpleasant surprise.

“In a modern European country, which, beyond its social morals also has legislation in place protecting every citizen’s rights, such positions are contrary to the law and the basic principles of equal rights,” he said.

Prodromou said “we believe it will have to be retracted in such a way to restore respect to the rights and the dignity of all citizens.”

The government reaction comes after Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides called on the state to condemn statements that promote hatred, discrimination and racism, as did those of the Bishop of Morphou.

Lottides said that bishop’s statements insulted women, motherhood and diversity.

According to the Ombudswoman, freedom of expression and spreading ideas is an element of humans’ personality and is protected as a fundamental human right.

The question that arises however in relation to this fundamental right is whether it can be put under restrictions, she said, adding that the answer has been given simultaneously with the recognition of the right itself which allows its restriction in a number of cases, including for reasons relating to protection of reputation or rights of third parties.

“Statements by a particular bishop seem to undoubtedly offend women, motherhood and diversity as to the choice of sexual orientation. They undoubtedly offended certain individuals, while at the same time once again victimising the female gender, as the statements in question transfer to the woman the burden of men’s free choice of their sexual orientation,” she said.

Of particular importance, she said, was also the reference that “stench” emerges from these persons which can be noticed by third parties.

“This particular discourse may not incite hatred or violence against particular persons so that it can be characterised as hate speech, however, it cannot be overlooked that the particular views and reasons this was heard brought the element of depreciation and rejection which could lead to feelings of hostility and hatred,” she said.

Bearing in mind that racism is regarded as the set of perceptions that consider a particular group of people to be inferior on the basis of some of its particular characteristics, she said, then this particular speech can only be regarded as racist.

“The state is called upon to maintain a consistent and coherent attitude by condemning statements that may promote hatred, hostility, discrimination and racism,” Lottides said.

Political parties also slammed the comments on Tuesday. Disy said the bishop’s statements violate human rights, and are incongruent with the Christian spirit and respect to all people.

Akel said: “We are disappointed to have heard the recent statements by the bishop of Morphou, which have gone global.”

The main opposition party condemned his statements calling them homophobic and misogynistic.

They called on the Holy Synod and the state to take a stand against him and his statements.

Despite his condemnation of the bishop’s statements, the Archbishop has also previously not shown support for gay people.

When the law on civil unions was passed, the primate said that homosexual couples should not be able to adopt as they may cause psychological problems to their children.

He also said that the church is not obliged to apologise to homosexual couples, in light of statements by Pope Francis who said that the church owes them an apology.

 

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