The views expressed in your Opinion section (Cyprus Mail, Saturday, November 2) regarding the Church and the formation of civil laws do not seem like very rational opinions to hold. It is rightfully stated that the Republic of Cyprus is a secular state. The opinion fails to admit, though, that there exists any kind of connection between the responsibilities of the elected representatives and the wishes of the people they represent, the majority of whom happen to be members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus.
The Church of Cyprus is vitally concerned with all matters regarding the life and death of its faithful. Its interest is to see that the members of its flock always remain as closely connected to God as is humanly possible.
This responsibility to the faithful includes a concern over what will be done with the person’s body after death, so that the body will be taken care of in accordance to the practices of the Orthodox Church. When laws are formed that may impact the Church’s practices it is not unreasonable that the Church seeks to voice its concerns, nor is it unreasonable that the representatives of the people seek the views of the Church in such matters while they are crafting particular laws.
This is not to give the Church a final say in the matter, but to hear its views. For example it was reported by the Cyprus Mail that a previous law would have required priests to perform funeral services regardless whether that would be for burial or cremation.
This would have been a bad law. It would have forced the Church to openly defy the laws of the state, since Orthodox priests are forbidden to perform funeral services for people who are to be cremated. One can also see this as a reasonable practice of the state, since the state after hearing the Church’s views can then make sure that laws exist which might better protect the wishes of its citizens in such matters.
These benefits can be seen in the fact that the current incarnation of this law regarding cremation requires the express written consent of the person who has died in order to be cremated after death. The family therefore cannot go against the person’s wishes, and thus deprive them of an Orthodox funeral, simply because they want to save money.
Just as it would not be unreasonable for any secular state to invite journalists and editors to express their views whenever it was crafting laws regarding libel suits, censorship, or any other matter that might hinder the media from performing their duties, the Republic of Cyprus is not being unreasonable nor is it simply pandering to the clergy whenever it seeks to hear the Church’s views regarding matters in which the Church also has a vital interest. In fact, the representatives are acting quite reasonably.
Nichalas, a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church of America living in Cyprus