• U.S.

Religion: Scandal in Athens

2 minute read
TIME

In Greece, where 95% of the people belong to the Orthodox Church, the election of a new Archbishop of Athens (who is also primate of the church in the country) is a matter of high national interest. Thus, it was perfectly normal, when 57 metropolitans gathered three weeks ago in Athens Cathedral to choose a new primate, for all Greece to follow the election closely. But the scandal arising from the prelates’ choice was decidedly abnormal.

By 33 to 24, the prelates chose soft-voiced Metropolitan Iakovos,* 68, of Attica and Megaris. Then, right after the election, an Athenian priest and a retired Greek admiral accused Iakovos of “unspeakable acts.” Greece’s leading newspapers called for the new primate to resign, and a committee was appointed to investigate the charge. Iakovos stubbornly accepted formal enthronement. “It is a blasphemy for me even to mention the word resignation,” he said.

Last week, after Greece’s Minister for Religion and Education threatened to introduce a bill that would void the election of “unpopular” primates, Iakovos at last resigned. He then went home, suffered a slight heart attack, and was placed under a doctor’s care.

* Not to be confused with Archbishop Iakovos, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com