Cyprus LGBT – Accept Group submitted a complaint to the European authorities denouncing the case of the bishop of Morphou Neophytos over his remarks on homosexuals. The letter refers to the events of the past few months when Bishop Neophytus in his publicly recorded speech on June 25, 2019, claimed that homosexuality could be passed on when pregnant women have and enjoy anal sex. Since then he had done other statements on the topic. The group also claims the actions and decisions of the Police and the general prosecutor as inappropriate. In particular, the letter states that “the police, during their conclusive statements of the investigation, determined that the Bishop is not in violation of any laws due to the fact that the words he used are not his but are driven from a Greek Orthodox Saint, Saint Porfirios. Finally, the Attorney General decided to endorse the conclusion of the police investigation claiming that the Bishop was paraphrasing and was answering a question from the crowd. He did not proceed further with the investigation nor taking it to court”.
It is stated that the basic freedoms of LGBTI individuals were violated. The purpose of the letter is “to create alliances that will help combat and eliminate such phenomena in the future”.
The group said the bishop’s remarks had prompted numerous people to come forward with testimonies about church officials promoting “conversion therapy” that for some had provoked suicidal thoughts.
Finally, Accept – Cyprus LGBTI states that “it will continue its protests at local and pan – European level with the aim of creating the right conditions to ensure respect for basic human rights for all LGBTI citizens of the Republic of Cyprus”.
The general prosecutor has received similar complaints in the past although this is the first time he has gone so far as to order a police inquiry. Instances of homophobic hate speech by senior clergymen were reported in 2016 and 2017 but no action was taken.
Cyprus was among the last EU member states to decriminalise homosexuality, doing so in 1998 under pressure from Brussels as it prepared to join the bloc. In the four years since the legislation came into force outlawing hate speech, there have been no legal proceedings in response to homophobic and transphobic comments.
Despite the innate social conservatism of Cypriot society, attitudes toward homosexuality have changed significantly in recent years, according to opinion polls.
In what was interpreted as a backhanded criticism of Neophytos from a senior fellow cleric, the bishop of Kyrenia, Chrysostomos, issued a statement saying it was not the place of clerics “to meddle in couples’ bedrooms”.
Chrysostomos said he had never heard of Orthodox Christian saints making references to “such matters in such details”.
But Neophytos has so far stood his ground. When asked by the Cyprus Mail why he had made the comments he said: “I expressed the position of the church and the position of the saints.”
Archbishop Chrysostomos said the controversial statements on homosexuality made by Morphou Bishop Neophytos do not represent him. The head of the church of Cyprus told daily Politis the bishop’s opinions “are clearly his personal opinions.”