February 2, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Today is the election of the head of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus

The first stage of the election of the Archbishop of New Justiniana and all of Cyprus is taking place today, Sunday, December 18, in Cyprus.

Six members of the Holy Synod are contending for the post of Primate of the Cypriot Orthodox Church (CPC): Metropolitan George of Paf (Papachrysostomy), Locum Tenens of the Archiepiscopal Throne, Metropolitan Athanasios (Nikolaou) of Limassol, Metropolitan Basil (Karayiannis) of Constantine, Metropolitan Isaiah (Kikkotis) of Tamas and Orinis, Metropolitan Morph Neophyte (Masouras) and Metropolitan Chrysostomos (Papatomas) of Kyrenia. After today’s elections, a trio of clergy will be determined who will continue to fight for the main church post.

The names and portraits of candidates for archbishops appear on the ballots, voting takes place at 942 polling stations, which will be open until 18:00 (from 12:00 to 14:00 closed for a break).

The new primate of the OOC will be determined in the second stage of the elections – by voting directly among the members of the Holy Synod, which will have to meet between Christmas and the new year, from December 26 to 31 – the exact date has not yet been set. However, the highest church body of the OOC does not always elect the winner of the general vote, so any of the three who won today’s vote could theoretically become the new archbishop of Cyprus.

According to public opinion polls, Metropolitan Athanasius is leading by a significant margin, Metropolitan Isaiah is in second place, but who will be third is not yet clear. Metropolitans George and Vasily are fighting for this place.

According to the results of a telephone survey commissioned by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation between November 24 and December 3, out of 1,002 Orthodox believers, 30% said they prefer Athanasius to the archbishop’s throne. Isaiah (14%), George (13%), Basil (11%), Neophyte (7%) and Chrysostom (3%) followed. 20% of respondents have not made their choice. 64% of survey participants planned to take part in today’s general vote, 33% were not going to go to the polls.

Recall that the post of head of the OOC was vacant after the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus (1941-2022), who had been the primate since 2006. As our publication reported, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus died at 6:40 am on November 7, 2022 at the age of 82. For the last 4 years, the archbishop suffered from cancer, and before his death, he was in the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia. The testimony released by the doctors states that he “died peacefully, having passed through painful trials with courage, patience and Christian fortitude.”

The rite of his funeral during the funeral held on November 12 in Nicosia was performed by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. There were suggestions in the media that Bartholomew arrived on the island largely in order to influence the outcome of the upcoming elections for the head of the OOC, namely to support the locum tenens of the archiepiscopal throne, Metropolitan George, and to try to weaken the election positions of Metropolitans Athanasius and Isaiah.

Two years ago, they were among the four Cypriot hierarchs who called “a flagrant violation of the synodal, collective and democratic regime” of the functioning of the OOC the commemoration during the divine service by the Archbishop of Cyprus of the name of Epiphanius (Dumenko), the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), behind which the Russian Orthodox Church ( ROC) does not recognize canonical status. With this step, Athanasius and Isaiah demonstrated their independent position not only in relation to the head of the OOC, but also to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who granted autocephaly to the OCU.

This year, Isaiah has already made several visits to Istanbul to the Ecumenical Patriarch and was able to settle the previous problems in his relationship with Bartholomew. Isaiah also has the support of one of the most authoritative and influential members of the Holy Synod of the OOC, Metropolitan Nicephorus of Kykkos and Tilliria, who himself decided not to participate in the struggle for the post of primate of the Church.

A certain blow to the positions of the leader of public opinion, Metropolitan Athanasius, can be considered the decision of the Holy Synod of November 28, when changes were made to the Church Charter. Then the highest church body decided that Orthodox believers who are foreign citizens would not be able to participate in the upcoming elections of the Archbishop of Cyprus. The highest church body explained this step by the unwillingness to postpone the voting date, since the procedure for registering foreigners could take too long. The Russian-speaking diaspora of the city of Limassol, where Athanasius occupies the chair, is about 50 thousand people, among whom about 40 thousand are Russian citizens, and not all of them have Cypriot citizenship, writes GreekReporter.

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