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Critic tells Archbishop to ‘tone down’ comments on refugees

Archbishop Chrysostomos


A leading theologian has called on the Archbishop to refrain from making inflammatory statements, especially when referring to refugees from the Middle East, which has caused a stir on social media.

Andreas Pitsilidis, a critic of Archbishop Chrysostomos for his conservative and often extremist views on the national issue, religious education and the LGBT community, urged the primate of the Church of Cyprus on Wednesday to stop making inflammatory statements aimed at refugees from the Middle East, which are against the law and poison the Cypriot identity.

Chrysostomos has put himself in hot water again, this time with his message read out in all churches on Christmas Day, in which he claimed the arrival of Middle Eastern refugees to Cyprus was another machination of Turkey to gain control of the island.

In his message, the archbishop said that the island is facing many dangers, among them Turkification, demographic collapse, the flight of youth abroad in search of work, cultural decay, the disconnection of the Orthodox tradition from the Greek Cypriot identity, and linguistic alienation.

To all this, he said, is added the threat of alteration of the national identity of the government-controlled areas “due to the forwarding on behalf of Turkey of a large number of Muslims, so-called immigrants”.

“All these ‘immigrants’ do not come here just for the fat allowances we so generously offer to them. They come, or rather sent here, to alter our national and cultural identity with visible the danger as described in Exodus (1.10) … ‘if war breaks out, they will join our enemies’,” the archbishop’s message said.

Chrysostomos called on the government and political parties to join forces and fight against these risks effectively.

After word got out of the archbishop’s Christmas message, social media was inundated with posts against the church leader and his stance on refugees.

The only political party to react was the opposition Akel that criticised the archbishop of spreading “intolerance rather than love, pettiness not solidarity”.

The archbishop’s extreme and divisive political views, the party said, are a criminal offence, stressing that this is not the first time he makes provocative statements.

Akel also criticised politicians who do not react to these statements, among them President Nicos Anastasiades and his administration, who with their passive stance encourage the archbishop to continue acting in such a way.

“Beyond that, the archbishop’s provocative statements are an insult to the Church, Christian values and our culture in general,” Akel said.

The poisonous views of the archbishop, the party said, do not represent all those who believe in love and solidarity, which are the true messages of Christmas.

Speaking to Sigma TV on Wednesday, Pitsillides said he agrees with Akel and doesn’t find their statement harsh at all.

“What the man is doing is forbidden by law. He ought to stop doing this,” Pitsillides said.

Rather, he ought to send out a message of unity, Pitsillides said.

The archbishop’s statements, Pitsillides said, “poison and alter our identity”.

Some people on Facebook compared Chrysostomos’ Christmas message to that of Pope Francis, who made a call for everyone to embrace all children, including child refugees that flee their war-torn countries.

The archbishop irked many last year over his comments that he would tell school children that homosexuality was a sin and unnatural and that one ought to struggle to overcome it.

Accept-LGBT filed an official complaint against Chrysostomos with the attorney-general for promoting hatred based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which was dismissed by the latter last May. The AG found that Chrysostomos’ remarks, while “intense,” were not directed at a particular group based on their ethnic background or religion.

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