Monday, March 22, 2010

Greek Cypriot Orthodox archbishops' tombs' desecration

A 34 [43]-year-old Romanian man has been arrested for the desecration of the tombs of Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishops Kyrillos II, Kyrillos III and Sofronios III (heard via Andreas Manolis's Reuter blog).

When did it happen and how was it discovered?

An earlier Reuter's (2010a) report had said that the vandalism had been committed '[u]nder cover of darkness and only metres from a police station'.

It has been widely reported that the desecration was discovered after a fire at the cemetery (though no source yet has explicitly associated the fire with the crime); according to Nicosia Division Police Commander Kypros Michaelides, 'the suspect has also admitted to setting [the cemetery fire]' (paraphrased by Hadjicostis, 2010).

(Obviously, this story has been discussed by the community, for example on the (currently voluntary) Greek diaspora media website Greek Reporter (c.f. Papastopolou, 2010).)

What happened?

Kathimerini and Reuter's (2010b) later report agreed that the suspect had admitted removing the tombstones from the graves of Archbishops Kyrillos II, Kyrillos III and Sofronios II.

But Reuter's (2010b) explicitly stated that he had 'denied removing any human remains', as did Cyprus News Report's Adrienne Morley that he had 'denied stealing any ossuaries containing bones'.

And indeed, Cyprus News Report's Sarah Fenwick paraphrased police reports that it was 'most likely' (but unconfirmed) that the Church itself removed Archbishop Sofronios III's ossuary from his grave.

(It was first thought that two ossuaries had been stolen; but it was then learned that the Church had removed the remains.)

Who did it and why?

Kathimerini also said that the suspect 'presented officers with a bag containing human excrement', while Reuter's said that he 'threw [it] at police officers'. In fact, Greek Cypriot police spokesperson Michalis Koutsounotos said that he 'left a bag of human excrement and tried to flee' (paraphrased by the Associated Press's Menelaos Hadjicostis, 2010).

[Contrary to Hadjicostis's paraphrasing, the Cyprus Mail's George Psyllides directly quoted police spokesperson Michalis Katsounotos that the suspect 'hurled a bag with human excrement at the officers before trying to flee'.

Psyllides cited unsourced "reports" that on other occasions, the suspect 'had soiled two Nicosia churches with human excrement'.]

Reuter's (2010a) earlier report claimed that the desecration bore 'some similarity' to the theft of former Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos's corpse; but even when it was believed that the graves had been robbed, there was no similiarity (apart from the simple fact that both acts were grave robberies).

Commander Michaelides tactfully suggested that, '[f]rom what he [the accused] says, it appears he has issues with the Church and holy grounds' (cited by Reuter's, 2010b).

Morley flatly stated that he had 'mental health problems', and that the police already knew him because of his 'obsessive grudge' against the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church.

The ever sympathetic Archbishop Chrysostomos II called those responsible 'brainless, blasphemous fools' (cited by Hadjicostis, 2010).

So, it was a sad case; but it was not even a crime (as the person who desecrated the graves was mentally ill and had no control over or responsibility for his actions).


Fenwick, S. 2010: "False alarm - archbishop bones". Cyprus News Report, 21st March. Available at:

Hadjicostis, M. 2010: "Suspect nabbed in Cyprus archbishops' tomb attack". The Associated Press, 21st March. Available at:

Kathimerini. 2010: "Tombs of three Cyprus archbishops wrecked". Kathimerini, 21st March. Available at:

Manolis, A. 2010: "Vandal desecrates Cypriot bishops' tombs". Reuter's [weblog], 21st March. Available at:

Morley, A. 2010: "New evidence in archbishop tombs case". Cyprus News Report, 21st March. Available at:

Papastopolou, A. 2010: "Grave robbers steal Cyprus archbishops' remains". Greek Reporter, 21st March. Available at:

Psyllides, G. 2010: "Man who desecrated Archbishops’ graves to undergo psychiatric evaluation". Cyprus Mail, 23rd March. Available at:

Reuter's. 2010a: "Grave robbers target Cyprus Orthodox bishops' tombs". Reuter's, 21st March. Available at:

Reuter's. 2010: "". Reuter's, 21st March. Available at:

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