Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist

Why can’t we keep the church out of politics?

By Loucas Charalambous

I HAVE NO interest in the religious aspects of the row between Andreas Pitsillides – one of the most striking specimens of the country’s political demagoguery in the last few years – and Archbishop Chrysostomos who sanctioned the absurd decision for the former’s excommunication.

This column has always avoided dealing with the activities of priests and monks. I consider it pointless dealing with men who, sporting black robes, have appointed themselves representatives of God on earth. I often wonder why God, if He exists, tolerates these self-appointed representatives.

I therefore have no intention of expressing an opinion about the ‘excommunication’. What really concerns me is that these men, responsible for this paranoid act, unfortunately affect the fate of our country, something that is much more worrying than whether Pitsillides is heading for hell.

The fact that the Archbishop and his people, who are still living in the Middle Ages, influence political decisions about the future of Cyprus should worry us much more than any excommunication. Here is an example of the Archbishop’s thinking: “Pitsillides needs to be humbled, to come down to earth and ask the mercy of the Church…. We love him, but he must surpass his limitations, make the change and we will help him.”

This man who expresses this obscurantism is the same man that almost every night appears on our television screens with similarly irrational views about our national problem. The responsibility for this belongs to the politicians and the media which give him publicity on a daily basis, almost as regularly as the president.

I do not dispute the right of the Archbishop to say whatever nonsense he wants to. But it makes no sense for the politicians to run after him seeking his support in elections. Those that have given him a role in politics as well as the media – which cover his every utterance as if he were a co-head of state – are responsible for his behaviour.

The same repugnant mentality is shared by almost all members of the Church hierarchy. The Bishop of Kyrenia who, with his demented stance, has been preventing the restoration of Ayios Panteleimonas monastery, is another example of this mentality.

Takis Hadjidemetriou, the president of the technical committee dealing with the restoration of monuments, warned that if restoration work did not begin immediately the monastery would not make it through winter without collapsing. It should also be noted that for the first phase of the restoration project, the EU has provided €900,000, funds that would be lost if work did not start soon.

For 40 years now our priests and politicians have been ranting and raving about the destruction of our religious monuments in the north and blaming Turkey for this in countless international forums. Turkey is co-operating over the restoration; it is the bishop blocking any work from being done. Hypocrisy and irrationality reign here as they have in the excommunication of Pitsillides. These are the representatives of God?

Some 55 years ago Archbishop Makarios – another monk – took the political post of president of the republic, which had been established with his signature – with the sole purpose of dissolving it, as he admitted in a letter sent in 1964 to the then prime minister of Greece George Papandreou. He had signed the agreements but never considered that he would have to honour them, he wrote. That political brinkmanship, the consequences of which we are still suffering today, was no different from the religious brinkmanship of last week’s excommunication.

I have written in the past that Cyprus was destroyed by the monks and lawyers. Unfortunately, the future of Cyprus and its inhabitants to a large extent is still in the hands of the monks who, in the 21st century are resorting to the practices of the Middle Ages. This cannot be a good sign for our future.


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