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Our View: Bishops’ support in church spat underlines Russia’s power

Archbishop Chrysostomos shared his views on the presidential candidates in upcoming elections

The influence wielded by the Russian Federation on our political system is well-documented and remains as deep as it was at the time of the Soviet Union, when the majority of the parties, for reasons that are difficult to explain, backed the Kremlin against the West. Nothing has changed today with parties now invariably siding with Moscow against our EU partners on sanctions, in the case of the annexation of Crimea and earlier the invasion of Ossetia, while some have called for offering Russia a naval base.

Apart from the political system, Moscow also appears to have a tight hold over the Church of Cyprus as the dispute over the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine has shown. Four members of the Cyprus Holy Synod – the bishops of Limassol, Kykkos, Tamasos and Amathous – have openly sided with the Russian Church against the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate, which had recognised the independence of the Ukraine Church, that had been under Moscow’s authority, but broke away after the annexation of Crimea.

Archbishop Chrysostomos, recently announced the Cyprus Church also recognised the Ukraine Church, provoking the criticism of the four bishops because he had made the decision without seeking the approval of the Holy Synod. A little over a week ago, the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul praised Chrysostomos’ decision and questioned the motives of the bishops, whose stance on the Ukraine, “reveal not their sensitivity for Canon order and the unity of Othodoxy, but rather their indifference for these, because of other reasons.”

We do not know the merits of the theological arguments, but what is astonishing is that four Cypriot bishops have openly sided with the Moscow Patriarchate, which works in tandem with President Putin, against the ecumenical patriarch, the archbishop of Greece and their own archbishop. If any Cypriot politicians had sided with a foreign power in dispute with Greece and Hellenism, they would have been vilified by their colleagues, the media and church leaders and been accused of treachery.

Nobody has uttered a word about the betrayal of Greek Orthodoxy by the four bishops, acting as the defenders of the Moscow patriarchate which has been systematically undermining the Ecumenical Patriarch. After the politicians, the bishops are also championing Russia’s interests, citing arcane, theological technicalities for their betrayal of Greek Orthodoxy. Archbishop Chrysostomos, to his credit, has refused to be bullied by them into following Moscow’s diktats. We hope there will be a politician or two prepared to follow his example, because Cyprus runs the risk of being turned into a Russian satellite state.

People’s apathy in the face of the four bishops’ anti-Greek stance is a bad sign.

 

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