Priest Exploited Position to Sexually Assault Women

Toronto Sun
May 6, 2015

Ioan Pop.

A disgraced Romanian Orthodox priest has admitted to sexually assaulting 10 women, exploiting his position to victimize 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 1, 1999 through September 2013. The assaults occurred while victims were seeking religious services such as confessions, weddings and funerals.

Pop also tried to confine, seduce and spark an affair with a despondent woman in 1999. He vowed to curse her and her family for generations if she exposed him, court heard.

Pop pleaded guilty to seven sexual assault charges but he also admitted the facts on three other allegations. Those facts can then be weighed by the judge 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 covered by a publication ban, ranged in age from early 20s to mid-30s.

One woman was kissed on the mouth by Pop while he was performing a memorial service for her grandmother in All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church in February 2009. Another married woman had her breast groped and her knee kissed by Pop during a confession in November or December 2011. He also told her what he would 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,” said Garrity.

One victim had emigrated to Canada with her husband and young child, court heard. 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.

The woman and Pop were going to the hospital when they stopped off at a friend’s home “to pick up some religious robes,” court heard.

Once inside, Pop propositioned the woman, who vehemently rejected him. He restrained her by his forceful hugs as she threatened to scream to escape.

“Pop said, ‘No one would know as he was a priest and he could not tell anyone,’” said Garrity.

The terrified, crying woman finally left with Pop, court heard.

He threatened to curse her and her family “for generations to come” if she revealed the incident.

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, Garrity said.

The ’99 victim and 12 others came forward after the 2013 victim’s complaint was made public.

In another incident, Pop, now 56, visited a 24-year-old East York woman’s apartment home to bless it in July 2006.

“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,” Garrity told Hryn.

“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.

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,” Garrity said.

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 the All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church at 545 Danforth Rd. in Scarborough, where he served from 2004 until 2013. He’s now barred by a court order from practising as a priest.

“He was a very caring priest who contributed so much to the Romanian community, from fundraising to accommodating the poor and distressed families,” his prominent lawyer Joseph Neuberger said.

Pop “went beyond the boundaries of permissible behaviour after his daughter’s tragic death a few years after he came to Canada,” the lawyer said.

Pop will be sentenced on June 23.









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