Sister Stands by Accused Cleric

By Mariam Ibrahim
National Post
October 7, 2010

The sister of a high-ranking Canadian archbishop who is under police investigation for sexual abuse says she will stand by her brother "100 per cent."

Archbishop Seraphim Storheim requested a leave of absence late last month from his position as the Canadian head of the Orthodox Church in America after Winnipeg police launched an investigation into sexual-abuse claims dating back nearly three decades.

But Dianne Storheim-Hill says the allegations are totally at odds with her brother's character, and she has faith his name will be cleared.

"We stand by him 100 per cent," Ms. Storheim-Hill said. "His life has been totally for other people -- not to hurt them, but to help them."

A statement posted on Sunday on the website for the Orthodox Church in America -- which has an estimated 700 parishes and other institutions in North America--confirmed Archbishop Storheim's three-month leave.

The Edmonton-born Archbishop began his religious career as an Anglican priest, but later converted to the Orthodox Church and became a monk.

An online biography says he was ordained as a priest in New York in 1979, and became a bishop in Edmonton in 1989. He became the archbishop of Ottawa and Canada in March 2007. He's also served in Winnipeg, Moose Jaw, London, Ont., and in Europe and the United States.

Ms. Storheim-Hill said she last saw her brother in Victoria in July for a meeting of the Orthodox Church in America's Archdiocese and council.

"People love him so much they lined up in a very long line up to receive a goodbye hug from him," she said.

Ms. Storheim-Hill said her brother is respected in the church community in Edmonton, adding she has received emails and phone calls of support since news of the allegations broke this week.

"I've had friends who are not in the church talk to me today, and they don't believe it either," she said. "It's just so out of his character."

She said she won't believe the allegations unless they're proven "beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Archbishop Storheim has not been charged with any offences.

According to SNAP Orthodox, an American advocacy group for abuse survivors, the claims involve two men who allege the abuse happened in the early 1980s, when the pair visited Winnipeg as 10-year-old boys.

The Archbishop -- born Kenneth Storheim--served as rector of Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg between December 1984 and June 1987, his biography says.


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