Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus, has died aged 81 after a long battle with cancer. His funeral will be held on Saturday at 12pm at the Apostolos Varnava cathedral at the archbishopric.
According to an announcement from his doctors, the archbishop passed away peacefully at 6.40am on Monday. Between Thursday until the funeral, the archbishop’s body will be at the cathedral for the public to pay their respects. Ecclesiastical and state mourning will be held until the funeral. Flags will be at half-mast until then.
“The archbishop fell peacefully asleep after facing the test of his illness with courage, patience and Christian determination,” said the statement signed by Iosif Kassios, Dimitris Papamichael, Petros Agathangelou and Michalis Protopapas.
“What those of us who were close to him experienced during the difficult hours of his illness, was his humility, the kindness of his soul and his profound faith as well as his concern for his flock.
“He leaves behind a work characterised by foresight, boldness, highlighting and respecting and restoring the church’s historical tradition along with innovative changes, always seeking the harmony and unity of the church. What we will remember will always be with us, that is his honesty, kindness and smile.”
“The people of Cyprus mourn the loss of Archbishop Chrysostomos II,” President Nicos Anastasiades said in a tweet. “His reform work for Orthodoxy, the church and his action for the welfare of our people is enormous.
“On behalf of the state and myself, I personally express my sincere condolences to the holy clergy, our people and the family of the archbishop.”
A meeting by the Holy Synod decided his death would be announced in all Orthodox churches and leaders of all Christian denominations. Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople announced he was travelling to Cyprus for the funeral. He will lead the procession along with the members of the Holy Synod. He also carried out a short service at the Patriarchical Church.
The Holy Synod called on the public to pray for the archbishop’s soul.
During the funeral, all churches across Cyprus will ring bells and will hold a service in his memory on Sunday. The archbishop’s body will be buried below the Apostolos Varnava cathedral as he wished, at the grave he prepared. A service will be held every day for 40 days at the cathedral.
A book of condolences will be available at the archbishop’s office from 10am on Tuesday until 12pm on Friday.
Following an extraordinary cabinet session chaired by House speaker Annita Demetriou, standing in for the president who is in Egypt, the government decided that president will give a eulogy for the archbishop at the funeral.
Cabinet also agreed that all cabinet members, the government spokesman, the president’s undersecretary, the deputy government spokeswoman, and the director of the president’s office will attend.
The president and cabinet members, as well as the government spokesman will all sign the book of condolences opened and all official events are postponed until after the funeral.
Bishop Georgios of Paphos, who under church rules is the caretaker until a new election, said the priority for the Holy Synod will be the funeral for Chrysostomos and then the election.
He told CNA he had been with the archbishop on Sunday: “I was with him yesterday and I didn’t realise that the end was so close, because he opened his eyes, saw me, made a sign, I understood that he understood me and I told him a few things,” he said. “I left and did not realise that the end was so close.”
Georgios said the archbishop had faced his illness and impending death “with the patience of Job, letting God’s will be done”.
“It will be centuries before the Church of Cyprus will forget him,” the bishop told reporters before the Holy Synod convened.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela went to the archbishopric and said he was there to pass his condolences on to the family.
Demetriou also visited the archbishopric. She tweeted earlier: “Until the last moment of his life, Archbishop Chrysostomos cared and worried about the Church of Cyprus and its flock. We are deeply saddened by his loss. May his memory live forever.”
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said the archbishop had always shown a great interest in education. “He was concerned about schools, about young people, about students,” he said on Monday.
Reflecting on the Archbishop’s accolades, Georgios said Chrysostomos made great leaps for the church and its administration, which cannot be left unnoticed by the Orthodox world.
“He restored the Synod of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus. Since the 12th century, when the Latins abolished the 14 bishoprics, our church has been left without an Autocephalous Church Synod. An Autocephalous Church Synod means there are at least 13 bishops. The archbishop accomplished this,” the Paphos bishop told reporters.
The bishop added the archbishop had created a fund for all priests to be paid, irrespective of where they served, to which the archdiocese contributed millions of euros.
The archbishop also founded the Theological School and the large student accommodation in Limassol to support university students with financial problems, as well as creating the Apostolos Varnavas cathedral.
A short service was said at the cathedral, where the archbishop’s body was taken.
Chrysostomos II was enthroned as archbishop in November 2006 after a contentious election campaign. He was known to have outspoken views on many issues from how the church was run, to the Cyprus issue. He also weighed in unabashedly on social issues like homosexuality, gay adoption rights and abortion, often causing major controversies.
He always described himself as a realist and saw no reason to seek out popularity.
Born Herodotos Demetriou on April 10, 1941 in Tala, Paphos he lost his father at the age of ten.
After finishing primary school, two years later, he became a novice at the Ayios Neophytos monastery in Paphos from where he continued his education, graduating high school in 1963.
On November 3 that year, he was ordained by Bishop Georgios of Trimithounda and for the next five years, he was a deacon at the monastery and working there, where he picked up a flair for business dealings.
In 1968, he began tertiary studies in theology at the University of Athens, graduating in 1972. On October 19,1972, he was elected abbot at Ayios Neophytos.
In February 1978, Chrysostomos was elected Bishop of Paphos, which threw him into the public eye.
Following the retirement of Archbishop Chrysostomos I in 2006 due to Alzheimer’s, Chrysostomos was named locum tenens until his election as Archbishop on November 5, 2006. He was enthroned a week later on November 12 at St Nicholas cathedral in Nicosia.