Global Voices

Greek Metropolitan Bishop convicted for inciting anti-LGBTQ+ violence

The Holy Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Kalavrita, Greece. Photo by Matěj Baťha (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Wikimedia Commons

On January 28, in a groundbreaking court decision in Greece, Metropolitan bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta and Egion was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment by a three-judge lower court on charges of hate speech, incitement to violence, and abuse of religious office for a homophobic article published online. The sentence was suspended for three years and a 10,000 euros fine as the bishop had no criminal record prior to this charge.

In March 2018, a first instance court had initially acquitted him of the charges filed on January 16, 2016, by nine LGBT activists under the country's Anti-Racist Law.

The case referred to a blog post published by the bishop on December 4, 2015, where, as Parliament debated the legal status of same-sex unions, he exhorted the faithful to “spit upon” homosexuals

“Do not go near them! Do not listen to them! Do not trust them! They are the damned members of society!” Amvrosios ranted in the blog post, describing homosexuals as “monstrosities of nature.”

In his court testimony, Amvrosios disputed the authority of the court. “The court does not have the competency to judge me as a bishop, and I cannot understand why today I am being charged for my love of Christ,” he declared. His lawyers say they will appeal to Supreme Court to have the sentence declared null and void.

The Metropolis of Kalavryta and Aigialeia published a lengthy statement on the matter, where among other things, they warn that:

Πλέον οι ομάδες των ομοφυλοφίλων ανεξέλεγκτα, ασύστολα και ανεμπόδιστα θα μπορούν να επιβάλουν προκλητικά τον τρόπο της ζωής τους, που δεν συνάδει με την οντολογία της ανθρώπινης φύσεως και το νόμο του Θεού.

Groups of homosexuals will now be uncontrollably and brazenly able to provocatively impose their way of life, which is incompatible with the ontology of human nature and the law of God.

A landmark ruling

Cleo Papapantoleon, one of the plaintiffs’ three lawyers, highlighted the importance of this trial:

Δεν έχει σημασία η αναστολή, ούτε ενδιαφέρει αν καταδικάστηκε σε 7 μήνες, 7 ημέρες ή 7 χρόνια. Το θέμα ήταν να καταδικαστεί. Αυτή η απόφαση παράγει αποτελέσματα πολιτικά και παιδαγωγικά και γι’ αυτό έχει ιδιαίτερη σημασία.

It does not matter whether his sentence was suspended or if he was sentenced to seven months, seven days or seven years. The important thing was for him to be condemned. This decision produces political and pedagogical results, and that is why it is of particular importance.

Greek jurist Nikos Alivizatos also notes in a radio interview:

Είναι η πρώτη φορά στην ιστορία του ελληνικού κράτους που καταδικάζεται από πολιτικό δικαστήριο Μητροπολίτης. Είναι μια μεγάλη τομή. Καταδικάστηκε όχι μόνο για ρατσιστικό λόγο αλλά και για κατάχρηση εκκλησιαστικού αξιώματος. Αυτό δημιουργεί ένα σημαντικό δικαστικό προηγούμενο.

For the first time in Greek State's history, a Metropolitan bishop is condemned by a civil tribunal. It's groundbreaking. He was sentenced not only for racist speech but also for abuse of church office. This creates an essential judicial precedent.

The first court's acquittal had caused massive public outrage, especially when Amvrosios dared to say in front of the court that “if I had a gun and the law would allow me, I would use it against them.” Ultranationalist far-right Golden Dawn, on the other hand, published an enthusiastic piece, praising the court that “justified Amvrosios’ ethnic speech, in which he defends Greece, Orthodoxy, Family and traditional values.”

On social media, the public has expressed mostly approval of the latest court decision, which is seen by many as a step towards Church-State separation.

Twitter user Marka shares a comic strip by John Antono that critiques of the first court's acquittal of Amvrosios’ “spit upon them” incitement.

Divine justice!
Kalavryta Metropolitan's sentence is God spitting upon the hatred he cultivates inside people's hearts.
It's not just spit; it's a godly gob. #Amvrosios

A controversial personality

Previously, Amvrosios has sparked reactions many times with his extreme racist, fascist and homophobic views. He hasn't hesitated to hide his support for the 1967 Colonels’ Junta, and he spoke out publicly in favour of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn in the days after the murder of anti-fascist musician Pavlos Fyssas by neo-nazis:

Εγράψαμε παλαιότερα, ότι εάν η Χρυσή Αυγή διορθώσει μερικές ιδεολογικές τοποθετήσεις της και εάν επίσης διορθώσει μερικές περιπτώσεις ακραίας συμπεριφοράς ωρισμένων τουλάχιστον Μελών της, θα μπορούσε να αναδειχθεί η “γλυκειά ελπίδα” στους δυσχειμέρους τούτους καιρούς, τους οποίους διερχόμεθα! ΔΕΝ ΜΑΣ ΑΚΟΥΣΑΝ! Και να το αποτέλεσμα! Εισπράττουν πλέον την γενική κατακραυγή!

We had previously expressed that if the Golden Dawn corrected some of their ideological positions and a few cases of extreme behaviour by their members, they could become a “sweet hope” in these troubled times! THEY DID NOT LISTEN! See the result! They are now the target of the public outcry!

In July 2018, during the devastating wildfires in Eastern Attica, he loudly declared that “Atheist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras draws the wrath of God,” again sparking outrage on social media:

ΠΟΣΟ ΜΑ ΠΟΣΟ ΝΑ ΚΡΑΤΗΣΩ ΤΟ ΣΤΟΜΑ ΜΟΥ ΝΤΡΟΠΗ ΣΟΥ ΕΛΕΕΙΝΟ ΥΠΟΚΕΙΜΕΝΟ .ΕΣΥ ΕΙΣΑΙ Ο ΑΘΕΟΣ ΚΑΙ Ο ΥΠΗΡΕΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΟΝΗΡΟΥ ΠΟΥ ΤΟΛΜΑΣ ΝΑ ΠΑΡΟΥΣΙΑΖΕΙΣ ΤΟΝ ΘΕΟ ΣΑΝ ΝΕΡΩΝΑ ΚΑΙ ΝΑ ΠΑΙΖΕΙΣ ΜΕ ΤΙΣ ΨΥΧΕΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΟΝ ΠΟΝΟ ΜΑΣ ΝΤΡΟΠΗ ΚΑΙ ΣΕ ΟΛΟΥΣ ΠΟΥ ΤΟΝ ΑΝΕΧΟΝΤΑΙ . ΤΙ ΝΑ ΠΩ ΑΝ ΣΥΝΕΧΗΣΩ ΘΑ ΠΩ ΧΕΙΡΟΤΕΡΑ ΚΑΙ ΣΗΜΕΡΑ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΜΕΡΑ ΠΕΝΘΟΥΣ

HOW MUCH LONGER TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT SHAME ON YOU WRETCHED MAN. YOU ARE THE ATHEIST AND SERVANT OF EVIL, WHO DARES TO SAY GOD IS A “NERO” AND LAUGH AT OUR SOULS AND PAIN. SHAME TO ALL THAT TOLERATE HIM. IF I GO ON, I WILL SAY WORSE; AND TODAY IT'S MOURNING DAY.

Even a few members of the Church condemned his statements publicly:

ΣΚΑΣΕ ΕΠΙΤΕΛΟΥΣ. Είμαστε παπάδες και τα λόγια μας πρέπει να είναι ΑΜΒΡΟΣΙΑ και ΝΕΚΤΑΡ στις ψυχές των ανθρώπων

AT LAST, SHUT UP. We are priests; our words should be like AMBROSIA and nectar to the people's soul.

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