ARCHBISHOP Chrysostomos has a tendency of saying more than he should when speaking in public, but he was right to censure the three bishops of the Cyprus Church that have turned their back on the Ecumenical Patriarch and aligned themselves with the Moscow Patriarch in the dispute over the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The three bishops had organised a monastic conference last month together with the Moscow Patriarchate at which, according to Chrysostomos, a position against the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos was taken. In an interview with Politis, the Archbishop said he had reprimanded the three bishops, for violating the Holy Synod’s decision to adopt neutrality in the Ukraine dispute, but “unfortunately they do not listen.”
Not surprisingly, the three bishops – of Limassol, Kykkos, Tamasos – responded with a statement, accusing the Archbishop of violating this neutrality, although they made no attempt to conceal their support for Moscow in what they said. They referred to the “alleged” autocephalous Church of Ukraine, repeating Moscow’s accusations against it and insisting it “is under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate,” despite the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In taking this position, the Cypriot bishops were showing their complete disregard for the decision taken by the Ecumenical Patriarch, considered by the Orthodox Church to be the “first among equals.” What is astonishing is that there are Cypriot bishops prepared to openly side with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russians, Kirill, who has designs on replacing the Patriarch of Constantinople as the leader of the Orthodox Church.
And they are quite prepared to resort to technicalities to justify their allegiance to Moscow. This also may explain why the Holy Synod decided to adopt a neutral position when the dispute over Ukraine surfaced. The bishops of Limassol, Kykkos and Tamassos were so strongly in favour of Moscow the Synod was obliged take an official stance of neutrality. This was in contrast with the Church of Greece and Patriarchate of Alexandria both of which backed the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church.
We would hate to think that this betrayal of Bartholomeos by our bishops is determined by financial considerations. Russians are known to make generous donations to bishoprics and monasteries in Cyprus. Perhaps this allegiance to Moscow merely follows the political tendency of our times, even though it is very doubtful that if Greece was in a dispute with Russia there would be Greek Cypriot politicians siding with the latter.
In the case of Ukraine, our bishops claimed they took a stand on principle. They believed the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian church constituted a violation of holy canons, which is Moscow’s line.