NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus' attorney general said Thursday he instructed police to launch an investigation into whether an Orthodox Christian bishop has committed a criminal offense over his remarks on homosexuals.
Police spokesman Christos Andreou said the force's chief has ordered investigators to start the probe immediately.
Morphou Bishop Neophytos stirred up controversy after saying during a June lecture that homosexuality could be transferred to unborn children if a pregnant woman has anal sex, a claim with no scientific basis.
The bishop told his audience that homosexuals could be "good Christians" as long as they subdued their desires through spiritual guidance. But his explanation of how homosexuality could be "transferred" to the unborn — "usually through the parents" — triggered a groundswell of condemnation from political parties and LGBT groups.
The Cyprus government had earlier criticized Bishop Neophytos for his "insulting" and "injurious" remarks and called for their retraction. The country's human rights commissioner considers the remarks discriminatory.
Cyprus' Orthodox Church considers homosexuality a sin, but hasn't officially taken a stance on the bishop's remarks. The leader of the church, Archbishop Chrysostomos, appeared to distance himself from the bishop's remarks.
One of the bishop's church peers, Kyrenia Bishop Chrysostomos, said in a statement that clerics shouldn't "meddle in couples' bedrooms" and that he was unaware of Orthodox Christian saints ever making references "to such matters in such detail."
The Orthodox Group of Dogmatic Research said in an article posted on the Cyprus' church Website that Bishop Neophytos' remarks were misconstrued and taken out context and that the essence of the cleric's message was that the parents' spiritual state affects the child.