We publish below a statement by the Cyprus feminist collective Μαχητικές και Ελεύθερες / Özgür ve Asi
After a two-year legal battle, the 58-year-old woman (who was 16 at the time) has finally been vindicated. The case, which had become a trending story in the mass media, reached its climax.
In 1981, when the woman was 16 years old, she visited the office of the Metropolitan of Kiti on five occasions to collect an orphan’s allowance following the death of her father. On the fifth visit, the priest locked her in his office and sexually abused her.
The verdict of the District Court of Larnaca is a historic moment for Cyprus, as it marks the first time that a high-ranking member of the Church of Cyprus has been found guilty.
According to the criminal code for this specific offense, a prison sentence of up to 5 years can be imposed. The sentence will be announced on May 26.
The statement from the Holy Synod is also of historical significance, as it “unequivocally condemns such acts, regardless of their source, which go against the principles of the Christian faith and reflect the moral conduct expected of church officials”. The Holy Synod also pledges to explore ways in which the Church can contribute to the fight against harmful attitudes such as androcentrism and sexism, which foster abusive behavior against women.
Two more women, motivated by the ruling of the Larnaca District Court, have decided to take legal action against the former Metropolitan. With his conviction, we hope that more women will find the courage to come forward and expose priests and individuals who exploit their positions of power to commit sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, this is not the first instance where a priest has been convicted of abuse, indecent assault, or rape. While there are numerous such cases, only a few actually make it to court due to the prevailing belief that the Church is untouchable. We hope that today’s decision will bring about a change in this perception.
One of the most shocking cases that rocked Cyprus was the rape and abuse of Elena Frantzis. In that case, the priest who perpetrated the crimes against her for seven years received a prison sentence of only 18 months. Tragically, Elena took her own life after his release. The priest was not defrocked until after Elena’s suicide. When he was initially convicted, the Holy Synod claimed that “there was insufficient evidence” and that “the criteria of justice differ from spiritual considerations.” They even orchestrated their own court proceedings, brought in psychiatrists to discredit Elena, and ultimately acquitted the priest.
Our hope lies in the strength of the movement
While the court may occasionally rule in favor of the vulnerable, it is not the norm. Typically, their decisions serve the interests of power, the state, the church, the wealthy and, in general, patriarchy and capitalism. Cases of sexual abuse and rape only find justice when the women’s movement mobilizes and compels the legal system to hear their voices.
That is why, as Μαχητικές κι Ελεύθερες / Özgür ve Asi, we will be participating in the protest outside the Larnaca District Court on Friday, May 26, at 11:00 am. Our demand is for the maximum penalty to be imposed on the former Metropolitan.