A priest attacked seven bishops from the Greek Orthodox Church by dousing them with acid during his disciplinary hearing for alleged drug trafficking.
The priest, who has been named by local media as Theofylaktos Komvos, 37, poured the caustic liquid over the senior members of the church during meeting at the Petraki Monastery in Athens on Wednesday.
The seven bishops, who were considering deposing the priest, suffered burns on their faces and hands in a meeting that descended into a ‘bloodbath’, before being rushed to hospital.
A police officer who helped restrain the suspect was also injured in the attack, as were a lawyer and a presiding clergyman. All three were also hospitalised.
Komvos, who was facing the disciplinary hearing for allegedly being involved in drug trafficking, was arrested unharmed and detained for questioning.
A witness of the attack said he ‘froze’ when he saw blood and heard screams, describing the scene as a ‘blood bath’.
A priest attacked seven bishops from the Greek Orthodox Church by dousing them with acid during his disciplinary hearing for alleged drug trafficking, police said. Pictured: Police officers are seen at the entrance of Petraki Monastery after the attack on Wednesday
One bishop who was injured in the attack has described how he felt his eyes burning after Komvos poured the acid on them.
Police said it was not immediately clear what liquid was used, but the priest had reportedly brought a ‘large bottle of corrosive liquid’ to the meeting, newspaper Ta Nea reported.
The bishops had been meeting to consider stripping the suspect of his priesthood after he was allegedly discovered with 1.8 grams of cocaine in June 2018 which he had hidden ‘near his genitals’, reports In.gr.
It was during the pronouncement of the verdict that the priest took out the bottle and threw it over the bishops.
George Tzikas, a former defence lawyer for the priest who was at the hearing, told ANT1: ‘We did not expect it, he opened a bag, took out bottles and began [pouring it over the bishops].
‘At first I thought it was water, but the place was full of blood. I could not handle it, it was insane.
‘Fortunately there was a policeman inside,’ he said, adding that the priest was unable to empty the bottles.
‘I froze when I saw the blood and heard screams… there was a blood bath.’
The priest, who has been named by local media as Theofylaktos Komvos, 37, poured the caustic liquid over the senior members of the church during meeting at the Petraki Monastery (pictured) in Athens on Wednesday
Bishop Artis Kallinikos, who was a victim of the attack, told Mega TV that he now has ‘burns on my face’.
He said: ‘The former priest was quite accurate and the seven of us were hit in the face by a bottle and from a distance.
‘He began pouring the liquid on us. The bottle was large, two litres, he held it with both hands. He did not say anything.
‘He had the bottle in a bag. When I saw him take out the bottle, my first thought was that it was holy water. My mind did not go elsewhere.’
Kallinikos added: ‘I quickly realised, from the sting in my eyes, the liquid was a caustic liquid because it was immediate. Another bishop’s face changed colour as soon as the liquid fell on him.’
‘I express my abhorrence at this unprecedented event,’ Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou wrote in a tweet after contacting Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos II, the leader of the Greek church.
Most of the victims hold the senior rank of metropolitan bishop.
The seven bishops, who were considering deposing the priest, suffered burns on their faces and hands, before being rushed to hospital. Pictured: Police officers leave the Petraki Monastery on Wednesday
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias visited the Athens hospital where the bishops were initially treated, joined by Archbishop Ieronymos.
Ieronymos told reporters he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the attack but relieved that none of the injuries were considered by doctors to be life-threatening.
Health Minister Kikilias said four of the bishops were more lightly injured and were receiving first aid, while one was transferred to the plastic surgery unit of another hospital and the other two might also be transferred to other hospitals with specialized units, including one with a specialist eye clinic.
He said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had asked for constant updates on the case.
The motives for the attack were not immediately clear. State-run ERT television reported that the hearing was held as an appeal to depose the priest from the clergy.
Police identified the victims as the metropolitan bishops Antonios of Glyfada, Kyrillos of Kifissia, Kallinikos of Arta, Nikodimos of Kassandra, Dionysios IV of Zakynthos, Dimitrios of Goumenissis, and Andreas of Dryinoupolis.