Known for his fiery attacks on gays, non-Greeks, migrants and politicians, the provocative Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta, 81, has resigned, making the announcement during a mass on Aug. 18.
He was notorious for his support of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and bashing gays, which led to his being sued and condemned earlier this year by a local court to a seven-month suspended sentence for hate speech.
Last year, he said that the wildfires that killed 102 people in villages northeast of Athens, nearly wiping out the village of Mati, was God’s punishment for the “atheist” then-Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the Radical Left SYRIZA.
Commenting in 2015 on a parliamentary debate to extend cohabitation agreements to same-sex couples, Amvrosios wrote online: “Do not go near them! Do not listen to them! Do not trust them! They are the damned members of society! They are not human beings, they are rejects of nature.”
The judges unanimously found against the Bishop, one of the most conservative in the powerful Church of Greece.
A lower court had acquitted him, but the case was appealed by the state as Greece does not have double-jeopardy laws and people charged with crimes can keep being taken to court. Lawyer Kleio Papandoleon, representing a group of citizens seeking legal action against the bishop, hailed the ruling, saying it set limits to “inflammatory and racist speech.”
Archbishop Ieronymos, head of the Church in Greece, said Bishop Amvrosios was wrong to blame the wildfires on Tsipras’ atheism. “This is a sad phenomenon. God is love. God does not take revenge but urges all to love one another… there is a limit to personal views,” Ieronymos said.
“Atheist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras draws the wrath of God,” Bishop Amvrosios wrote on his blog. “The atheists of SYRIZA are the causes of the general disaster! Their atheis, draws the wrath of God!” he also added.
That drew quick condemnation on social media, including from other Greek Orthodox clerics with the head of the Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, who has done essentially nothing to rein in the provocative Bishop, at first putting out a statement saying Amvrosios was “only expressing his personal opinion.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)