ATHENS, Greece – Tarnished by sex and corruption scandals, Greece's embattled Orthodox Church (search) approved wide-ranging reforms Saturday, including the creation of a special council to examine cases brought against clergymen.
The 102-member Holy Synod (search), the Church's governing council, approved the reforms proposed by Church leader Archbishop Christodoulos, at the end of a two-day emergency summit.
The church's image has been damaged by scandals, sexual revelations surrounding bishops — who take a vow of celibacy — and allegations of involvement in trial-fixing and embezzlement.
On Friday, Christodoulos apologized and asked forgiveness from the Greek nation calling the crisis "particularly grave."
The special council will convene under the auspices of Christodoulos and will include members from Greece's Supreme Court, the Council of State, the country's highest body of legal arbritation and the Auditor's Court.
The creation of the council will be subject to the approval of Greek legislators. The summit was a rare move by Christodoulos as the full Synod normally meets every October.
The church is investigating possible trysts by bishops, including a 91-year-old cleric, after a photo published in an Athens daily allegedly showed him nude in bed with a young woman.
On Feb. 4, Metropolitan bishop Panteleimon of Attica was suspended for six months over allegations of embezzlement.
A day earlier, the church suspended archmandrite Iakovos Giosakis after he was charged by a public prosecutor with antiquities smuggling.
Giosakis is also under investigation in a major trial-fixing scandal in which eight judges have already been disciplined while at least one judge faces criminal charges for bribery and money laundering.
Christodoulos has rejected renewed calls for a separation of church and state, which would require a constitutional change.
"The people of the church will not become more moral with a seperation of church and state," he said.
Orthodox Christianity is the official religion in Greece (search), with more than 97 percent of the country's 11 million people baptized Orthodox.