The man - who is named Apostolos Vavylis and used the alias Apostolos Fokas - in a sworn affidavit submitted to Israeli authorities said that Christodoulos sent him as an envoy to help secure the election of Patriarch Eirinaios of Jerusalem in 2001.
Vavylis had been placed on an Interpol wanted list by Italian authorities in 1994 for drug trafficking. He
was convicted in Larissa in 1991 for transporting over one kilo of heroin, for which he received a 13-year sentence. Two years later, the sentence was suspended for 15 years, reportedly after he offered information leading to the arrest of other dealers.
In Jerusalem, Vavylis said he was accompanied by
retired Greek policeman Yannis Triantafyllakis and
priest Nikodimos from the Chrysopigi monastic
brotherhood of which Christodoulos was a member.
The Athens lower court prosecutor's office ordered an emergency investigation on February 10 to probe how Vavylis was able to cross borders and sell armoured cars and bullet-proof vests in 1996 to the public order ministry and the state Postal Savings Bank while he was on the Interpol list.
Christodoulos' 'spiritual child'
In a statement issued on February 8, the archdiocese categorically denied that Christodoulos had sent anyone to help elect Eirinaios. Spokesmen for the archbishop defended his recommendation for Vavylis, in which Christodoulos praised his "Christian ethos" and "Greekness", indicating that it was written in 1987, one year before the trial and conviction and suggesting that Christodoulos had broken ties with Vavylis.
But Abbott George Kapsanis of Mount Athos' Grigoriou Monastery told ERA state radio on February 10 that Christodoulos personally called him to receive Vavylis for confession and spiritual guidance in 1998, when he was already a wanted man. The abbott proceeded to give Vavylis another letter of recommendation.
The Jerusalem Patriarchate's Archbishop Alexios of
Gaza told state TV that Christodoulos met with
Eirinaios and Vavylis at an Athens hotel in 2001 and
instructed Vavylis to go to Jerusalem to help elect
Eirinaios, describing the mission as one to promote
Christodoulos' spokesman, Father Epiphanios Economou, told the Athens News that the archbishop has not seen Vavylis since 1987 and that the recommendation was made at the request of his parents - "respectable citizens of Volos" - as part of Christodoulos' pastoral duties.
A VPRC poll showed that Christodoulos' negative
ratings were 47 percent, versus 43 percent positive, a nose-dive since May 2004, when his positive ratings were at 68 percent.
Eirinaios, whom Vavylis accuses of having formed a
"criminal group" to defame his rivals for the
patriarchal throne through illegal means, denies that
Vavylis ever worked for him and attributed the
allegations to a plot to harm the patriarchate. But
evidence has emerged that in 2002 Vavylis was part of a Jerusalem Patriarchate mission to the Vatican, where he went as "Rev Fr Rafaele Apostolos Anagnostakis".
But Greece's consul-general in Jerusalem at the time, Petros Panagiotopoulos, told state TV that Vavylis was so close an aide to the patriarch that one had to go through him to speak with Eirinaios. Panagiotopoulos said he expressed reservations about Vavylis to Eirinaios, who said he could do nothing because Vavylis was ristodoulos' "spiritual child".
There has been speculation in the Greek press that
Vavylis was a secret service agent of Greece, Israel, or both.
Gag the clergy
The public uproar has led to mounting calls for the
separation of church and state, from politicians
ranging from Pasok leader George Papandreou and Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos to prominent
conservative politicians like Ioannis Varvitsiotis.
But the government so far categorically rejects such a prospect.
But the crisis has also led the church to hunker down and prohibit clergy from speaking publicly about church scandals.
"The Holy Synod decided that after the creation of a
three-bishop investigative committee, to which anyone possessing legal evidence against clergy can submit it for review, it is no longer useful for clergy to participate in public discussions on church
improprieties on television, radio or other mass
media, except with the special order of the Holy
Synod," read the synod's official communique on
The move raised questions about the church's
determination to achieve transparency amidst an
avalanche of accusation of judicial and sexual
improprieties committed by priests and bishops.
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