Children’s charity Ark of the World (Kivotos tou Kosmou) issued a statement on Thursday (Greece time) saying it had no knowledge of allegations of child sexual abuse in one of its structures that were aired by state media ERT.
Ark of the World provides “special care and protection to mothers and children … It is first and foremost intended and addressed to young unprotected children, most of whom come from single-parent families, and to many children without parents, who experience difficult circumstances, neglect, abandonment, lack of medical care and uncertain future.”
The charity has hosted and supported hundreds of abandoned, orphaned and migrant children over the years relying greatly on donations from the public and government.
The charity’s founder, Father Antonios, has received much media attention for his philanthropic work since 1998 and was awarded the annual European Citizen’s Prize in 2018.
According to police the charity is under investigation for abuse following the findings of an inquiry by the Greek Ombudsman.
A senior prosecutor is expected to order a probe into the leaking of the case file on the alleged sexual abuse.
On Friday the head of the prosecutor’s office, Nikos Eleftherianos, began a preliminary examination into the leak of material from the case file.
The charity’s announcement said that “We unequivocally condemn such incidents and assure that the Ark of the World and its social services will assist the authorities in investigating the accusations”.
“We declare that if it becomes clear that if personnel at Ark of the World bear responsibility, we will take the necessary measures and suffer the consequences.”
Meanwhile, Greece’s Employment and Finance Ministries said it was suspending an offer to Ark of the World to use premises owned by the Single Social Security Entity (EFKA) until the matter has been cleared up.
Father Antonios who appeared on state and private owned TV following the allegations said that he is not aware of any cases of abuse and could not pinpoint towards any employees that could have mistreated children.
Speaking to ERT both Father Antonios and his wife said that they heard of the claims from the media adding that “I have in mind certain children who could have manufactured such allegations. Some of those children are juvenile delinquents…,” a comment that caused a lot of backlash against the Ark of the World.
Among the allegations being investigated by police and judicial authorities are at least two cases of sexual abuse, beating, and negligence by employees and executives according to state-run news agency AMNA.
On Saturday, it was revealed that one of the main alleged victims has testified that their abuser was Father Antonios himself.
Daily Kathimerini said that the Citizen Protection Ministry expects that the number of complaints over abusive behaviour will rise.
Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos stressed on social media that “the law is the law and applies to everyone,” but made no reference to the alleged abuse.
“We want to help the children but we want to know where do these funds go,” added Minister of Finance, Christos Staikouras.