IF THERE is one thing that characterises Archbishop Chrysostomos it is his tendency for speaking without thinking. He just opens his mouth and fires away about issues he knows little about, often making sweeping statements that betray naive thinking and an embarrassing superficiality. His views are what we would expect to hear from a publicity-seeking politician than from a spiritual leader with the responsibility of providing his flock with moral guidance.
Showing off his politician’s persona on Wednesday, he announced that Muslims living in the north would be barred from going to the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca on pilgrimages if the Turkish Cypriot regime prevented him from conducting services in churches in the Karpas where Christians lived. He said: “This is unacceptable and I made it clear that if you do not allow us to go and conduct services wherever there are Christians, forget the Tekke.”
He was referring to Turkish settlers that have special dispensation to come on pilgrimages to the Hala Sultan Tekke three times a year.
The funny thing is that Chrysostomos does not have any power to stop anyone from visiting the Tekke. This is the government’s responsibility – the decision to allow settlers to cross south on pilgrimages was taken by the Cyprus foreign ministry and not by the Church. Meanwhile, the representative of the office for Religious Dialogue told Politis that, as far as he knew, there were no such problems and expressed the hope the Archbishop’s comments were the result of a misunderstanding. This is a polite way of describing the Archbishop’s impetuousness.
Chrysostomos seems to have made this fuss because he was annoyed that he had been prevented from conducting services at churches in the Karpas, which have their own priests anyway, by the regime in the north. As he said, he did not object to the restrictions imposed by the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’ on the services conducted in different churches in the north. What was important was for the regime in the north to allow repair work on the churches that were collapsing and not to stop him from conducting services in the two to three villages in the Karpas, he said.
Was this a reason to issue threats, which he cannot carry out, appearing vindictive and petty-minded? And this at a time when there has been constructive dialogue between the religious leaders who had shown a commendable spirit of co-operation. Chrysostomos took a leading role in this dialogue, but now he is threatening to ruin everything because he took offence at the regime’s snub. As usual, did not consider the consequences of his words. Unfortunately, it is not his style to do so.