BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The Holy Synod of Romania's Orthodox Church was meeting Thursday to discuss what action to take against a bishop who was seen on video engaging in sexual acts with a male student.
The Bishop of Husi, Corneliu Barladeanu, 51, is currently suspended and claims the 18-minute film is doctored.
The two-day meeting is the first time in its 92-year history that the synod has gathered to decide on action to take in a sex scandal.
In the courtyard outside, pilgrims and believers lighted beeswax candles, prayed and visited the patriarchal cathedral on a hot Thursday morning. Most said they were not aware the synod was meeting.
But many Romanians are increasingly demanding more accountability from the powerful Orthodox Church to which more than 85 percent of Romanians belong. It has been criticized for the generous subsidies it receives from the state and for being exempt from some taxes.
Public furor over the bishop and another scandal involving a priest who had sex with a male student has been more marked as it involves homosexual acts. The church, however, insists the bishop would have been similarly rebuked if the alleged sexual misdemeanors involved a woman.
Stelian Tanase, a commentator, did not agree. "Society is still not accepting of homosexuality," he said. "And the church has been losing popularity in recent years," for various reasons, "so it needs to take action."
Church spokesman Vasile Banescu told The Associated Press: "The message is that you should not be ordained if your moral behavior does not meet church standards." He said the church would be stricter in the future over monks that broke the vow of chastity. Bishops are required to be monks in the orthodox faith.
"I can hardly believe these stories are true," said Susana Muresan, 86, who rides seven stops in the bus every day to visit the patriarchal cathedral. "If they are true, I am confident the bishop's case will be judged correctly."