Father John Varvaris pleads guilty to negligent driving after incident with elderly parishioner

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An elderly priest with a long-standing commitment to his community is facing uncertainty as he awaits the outcome of a tragic incident involving a parishioner he accidentally struck with his car. 

85-year-old Father John Varvaris appeared in the Sutherland Local Court on Tuesday, March 5, after pleading guilty to negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm. 

According to The Daily Telegraph, Father Varvaris was driving a woman, whom he had known through his church, to her late husband’s grave for prayers on September 24, 2022. 

Upon returning her home to San Souci, the 87-year-old woman disembarked from the vehicle, only for Father Varvaris, who intended on reversing, to accidentally accelerate forward, hitting the woman who stood to the left of the car.

The woman fell face-first into a knee-high brick fence, which resulted in her obtaining life-changing injuries.

Following the incident, Father Varvaris immediately helped the woman and called triple zero, where police and paramedics then attended the scene. She was taken to St George Hospital.

st George hospital
The parishioner was taken to St George Hospital in Sydney following the incident. Photo: St George ICU.

The woman was left with a brain bleed, facial laceration and broken teeth, injuries to her eye and an ankle and foot fracture. Documents revealed that since the incident, she hasn’t been able to walk unassisted.

When Father Varvaris was seen in court, his lawyer said he would feel guilty for the “unfortunate accident” for the rest of his days.

His lawyer said Father Varvaris had “momentary inattention” and the consequences were unintentional.

The court heard Father Varvaris’ children had also instigated that their father have a restriction placed on his licence to not travel beyond 15km per day at the time, due to the number of hours he spent serving the community and not taking breaks.

It was also revealed in court that Varvaris had no criminal history and had devoted his life in a “selfless and unwavering way” to his community and Christianity for over 50 years.

The court heard Father Varvaris’ license was cancelled in December 2022 on medical grounds, and over his 58 years of driving, he only had 16 minor traffic offences.

Magistrate Philip Stewart declared Varvaris’ case be adjourned to April 2.

Source: The Daily Telegraph.

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