mercoledì 23 novembre 2022

The election campaign for Cypriot primate begins & other news

The palace of the late Archbishop Chrysostomos II in Nicosia
(Peter Anderson)
When the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus met on November 12, two days after the funeral for Archbishop Chrysostomos II, two dates were set:  (1)  November 22 was the deadline for a candidate to register officially his intention to run for the position of Archbishop; (2) Sunday, December 18, was set as the date on which the Orthodox faithful would vote for their favorite candidate using a ballot listing the candidates who had officially registered.  November 22 has now passed, and six bishops have officially registered their intention to run. (link) (official announcement).  The six bishops are:  Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos (age 73); Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kyrenia (age 52); Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (age 63); Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou (age 60); Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia (age 74); Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasos (age 51).  On November 22, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia announced that he had changed his mind and would not seek to be the new Archbishop.  On the same day, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos announced that he would be supporting Metropolitan Isaias for Archbishop. (link)

On November 18 the Cyprus Times published the results of a poll using a sample of more than 2,000 participants. (link) The results were as follows:  Athanasios – 34.7%; Isaias – 17.1%; Vasilios – 12.3%; Georgios – 11.4%; Neophytos – 10.6%; Chrysostomos – 3.2%.  On November 23, Alpha News Live released the results of its sample of more than 1,000 successful telephone interviews. (link) The latter poll showed: Athanasios – 23%; Georgios – 14%; Isaias – 14%; Vasilios – 9%; Neophytos – 6%; Chrysostomos – 2%.

It is reported that shortly before Archbishop Chrysostomos II died, he had indicated privately that he hoped that the next Archbishop would be Vasilios, Georgios, or Metropolitan Nektarios of Kiti (who decided not to run) as they would not change the character of the Church of Cyprus. (link)  Vasilios and Georgios are quite ecumenical in their view points, and both have served on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  On the other hand, Athanasios is much more conservative and boycotted the meeting of the Orthodox Cypriot bishops with Pope Benedict in 2010 and the meeting with Pope Francis in 2021.   See (link) (interview of Athanasios concerning his refusal to meet the pope)  Also, Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou was one of three Cypriot bishops who boycotted the meeting with Pope Francis in 2021.

The recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) has been an issue on which the six candidates have differed.  As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus had voted on November 25, 2020, whether to oppose the action by Archbishop Chrysostomos II to commemorate in the Liturgy the primate of the OCU.  The vote was 10 to 7 in favor of not opposing.  Of the six candidates specified above, it was reported that three of them, Athanasios, Isaias, and Neophytos, had voted to oppose the action of the Archbishop. (link) Metropolitan Athanasios and Isaias were among the four bishops who signed a strongly-worded public letter on October 24, 2020, condemning as “a flagrant violation” the action of Chrysostomos in commemorating the OCU primate.  The letter stated that the Moscow Patriarchate “has justifiably severed ecclesiastical communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as with the Churches of Greece and Alexandria.”  The signers maintained that the granting by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of “autocephaly” to the OCU was “an arbitrary, anti-canonical and anti-church action.” (link)

Now after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the warm meeting between Metropolitan Isaias and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar on July 25, and the visit of Bartholomew to Cyprus for the funeral of Archbishop Chrysostomos, the mood has changed.  On November 16, Metropolitan Isaias was interviewed on Alpha News Live. (link) In the interview, he expressed his support for the Ecumenical Patriarch with respect to Ukraine.  He stated:  “For me, the war was also a catalyst in the theological aspect of the Ukrainian conflict.  I could not see people who claimed to maintain unity with a people being bombed and destroyed.  What scandalized me from some attitudes is the attempt to justify the attacks of the soldiers by saying that whoever is killed on the battlefield that he will go to heaven.”  Metropolitan Athanasios has stated that whoever is elected must abide by the decisions of the Holy Synod in relation to the commemoration of the OCU primate.  Commenting on the Ukrainian crisis, he described it as a very "sensitive issue."  He stated that it is not the time to consider ecclesiastical matters when people are suffering. (link)

Although most would probably maintain that an election of a primate should be different from a political election of a governmental leader, the election campaign to elect a primate of Cyprus now seems to have many of the characteristics of a political campaign.  The social media is being used extensively by the candidates and their supporters.  This use is summarized by the following article: (link).  Groups of supporters and “friends” are now working actively on behalf of their respective candidates.  The following is the Facebook page of the “Friends of Metropolitan Athanasios:” (link)  The page has 33,000 members.  I tried to scroll down to the end of the page, but finally gave up because it had so many entries.  The following is the Facebook page of Metropolitan Isaias:  (link).  In reviewing these websites, one sees the great number of public appearances and media interviews in which the candidates and their friends are participating.  And, of course, like political elections, there are the polls on how the various candidates are doing.  Christodoulos Protopapas, who is a candidate for the presidency of Cyprus, has assumed the role of heading the staff of Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou.  The staff is now organizing support groups for Metropolitan Neophytos in various cities.  (link)

Although the charter of the Church of Cyprus provides that the Synod of Bishops will select the new primate from the three candidates who receive the most votes in the December 18 election, there are now voices being raised that the Holy Synod should simply select as primate the candidate who received the most votes in the December 18 election, unless the Synod determines that this candidate is unsuitable. (link) In other words, the bishops should not substitute their own personal preferences for those of the people.  According to the foregoing article, “The upcoming archdiocesan elections will show whether our Hierarchs are in company with the people they shepherd or walk alone without the people.”  This raises some interesting questions.  It should be remembered that many of the Orthodox who will vote in the election may have very little contact with the Church aside from being baptized in it.  One wonders whether the choice made by such individuals might be dictated not so much by the Holy Spirit but by the effectiveness of a candidate’s election campaign.

In other important news, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on November 22 discussed the issue of the "illegal entry" of the Church of Russia into the spiritual and pastoral jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on the continent of Africa. (link) The Synod decided to depose Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the Moscow Patriarchate’s “Exarch of Africa,” from the priesthood.  The Synod also decided to cease the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill in the Liturgy.  However, the Synod apparently did not decide to sever Eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.  Metropolitan Leonid has already commented on the decision on his Telegram channel and stated that an official response from the Moscow Patriarchate will be coming after it sees the actual decision.  (link) 

The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) met on November 23.  Some of the decisions made are summarized at (link).  One of the decisions was for the UOC to brew its own myrrh. (link) This is another development which shows that the UOC intends to sever completely its dependence on the Moscow Patriarchate.  In addition, the Holy Synod decided to remove Metropolitan Elisey (Ivanov) from the administration of the Izyum diocese and send him to retirement. (link)  Elisey, age 49, left Izyum for Russia after the Ukrainian Armed Forces reoccupied the city.  Archimandrite John (Ternovetsky) was elected to be the new head of the Izyum diocese.  The Synod also issued a statement expressing concerns about improper actions and accusations against the UOC in Ukraine. (link)

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA