Voices from Russia

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Toronto Priest Exploited Position to Sexually Assault Women

00 ioan pop. romanian orthodox priest. canada. 07.05.15

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A disgraced Romanian Orthodox priest admitted to sexually assaulting 10 women, exploiting his position to victimise them in church, during confessions, and in other places. Ioan Pop, 56, used his holy position to fondle, kiss, and make unwanted sexual advances at women from April 1999 through September 2013. The assaults occurred whilst victims sought religious services such as confessions, weddings, and funerals. Pop also tried to confine, seduce, and spark an affair with a despondent woman in 1999. The court heard that he vowed to curse her and her family for generations if she exposed him. Pop pleaded guilty to seven sexual assault charges, but he also admitted the facts on three other allegations. The judge can then weigh those facts as an aggravating factor on sentencing, which could result in a more severe sentence. Crown attorney Jackie Garrity read out the disturbing facts to Justice Peter Hryn.

The Romanian women, whose identifies are under a publication ban, ranged in age from early 20s to mid-30s. Pop kissed one woman on the mouth whilst he was performing a memorial service for her grandmother in All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church in February 2009. Pop groped the breast and kissed the knee of another married woman during a confession in November or December 2011. Garrity said that he also told her what he’d do to her sexually “if he were her husband”, and then told her she was “his angel and that he wanted to spend days with her”.

The court heard that one victim emigrated to Canada with her husband and young child. Her husband became gravely ill. The devoted wife attended his hospital bed every day and in July ’99, she reached out to Pop to bless her dying spouse. Testimony stated that the woman and Pop were going to the hospital when they stopped off at a friend’s home “to pick up some religious robes”. Once inside, Pop propositioned the woman, who vehemently rejected him. He restrained her by his forceful hugs as she threatened to scream to escape. Garrity said, “Pop said, ‘No one would know as he was a priest and he could not tell anyone’”. The terrified, crying woman finally left with Pop. He threatened to curse her and her family “for generations to come” if she revealed the incident. Garrity said that the victim took “this threat very seriously” and never reported it until after the police first charged Pop in September 2013 after another woman complained he molested and licked her in church when she sought his help in a child custody matter. The ’99 victim and 12 others came forward after the 2013 victim’s complaint became public.

In another incident, Pop, now 56, visited a 24-year-old East York woman’s apartment home to bless it in July 2006. Garrity told Hryn, “Pop suddenly stopped the ritual, and began crying and talking to the victim about women who suffer breast cancer, describing the fact that many women do not survive this illness. Ultimately, he offered to bless the woman’s breasts. She was concerned that the priest had some kind of premonition that she herself may have breast cancer”. The victim agreed to the blessing. Garrity said that he “put his hand inside her top, making the sign of the cross of her bare nipples with holy water to purportedly bless her breasts”. He then “hugged her tightly for about 30 seconds … in what the victim perceived to be a sexual manner”.

Pop, who emigrated to Canada in 1999 with his wife and two children, started a religious community in East York and then built All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church at 545 Danforth Road in Scarborough, where he served from 2004 until 2013. A court order now bars him from practising as a priest. His prominent lawyer Joseph Neuberger said, “He was a very caring priest who contributed so much to the Romanian community, from fundraising to accommodating the poor and distressed families”. Neuberger said that Pop “went beyond the boundaries of permissible behaviour after his daughter’s tragic death a few years after he came to Canada”. Pop’s sentencing will be on 23 June.

6 May 2015

Sam Pazzano

Toronto (ON) Sun

http://www.torontosun.com/2015/05/06/priest-exploited-position-to-sexually-assault-women

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