After he summarily quit – during a mass – ultra-conservative Bishop Amvrosios said he wasn’t sorry about his disdain of gays or his support for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn although the village he served – Kalavryta – was the scene of one of the worst Nazi massacres of World War II.
He said he had no regrets about his extremism despite being denounced even within the Church for his constant provocations although being sorry for causing any upset during the service.
The 81-year-old told ANT1 TV that he had not had “any specific case” in mind when he apologized though, adding to the confusion about what he meant or didn’t. “I am not apologizing for any specific cases but because novone is infallible and it is possible that we upset people without intending to, I apologize to my flock, seeing forgiveness if I bothered anyone, so that I can be alright with my conscience,” he said, adding however that, “I have nothing to regret.”
As for calling gays “the scum of society” – a comment that led to a court handing him a seven-month suspended sentence for hate speech in January, he said he regarded it as “a medal” and was proud of it.
“The Bible is the law of our lives, the word of God which we preach,” he said. “The Bible condemns the abnormal relations and when the servant of God preaches the truths of the Bible, this is not something for which he can be condemned,” he added.
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.
He was convicted in January of incitement to hatred and abuse of ecclesiastical office by a three-member misdemeanor court in the Peloponnesian town of Aigio, for advising followers to “spit” on gay people.
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 that 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)