Elections for new archbishop of Cyprus will likely turn into an issue over Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, with some bishops being favoured by the Russian church, and Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit for the funeral signalling the other line that could be followed.
The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church will be visiting the island for the first time in almost four centuries for the funeral of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who will be buried on Saturday, according to one expert on church matters.
Confirming this to the Cyprus Mail, religious expert Aristides Viketos said that the last patriarchal visit to the island was by Jeremias I, who was enthroned sometime in 1522.
Shortly after his election, Jeremias I travelled to Cyprus, Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine.
According to a report in daily Politis on Thursday, not only is the Patriarchate of Constantinople interested in who will head the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus, but there is also interest from the US, Greece, and the others.
Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit signals the side Cyprus has taken on the schism that had developed between Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow over the recognition of the Ukrainian orthodox church as independent.
The top contenders are said to be the bishops of Limassol, Tamassos, Constantia, Morphou, Kyrenia and Karpasia. Other pundits include Bishop of Paphos Georgios, currently the caretaker of the Church of Cyprus.
The three likely candidates to make up the triumvirate will be Limassol, Tamassos, and either Paphos or Constantia.
Tamassos and Limassol are already in a contest to try and secure the votes of the Russian orthodox community in Cyprus, as they have better relations than others with the Moscow Patriarchate.
However, according to Politis another factor has emerged in this race, as Ukrainians are tending to support Paphos’ Georgios or Constantia’s Vasilios.
Viketos said that to vote, all Orthodox Christians living in Cyprus for more than a year over the age of 18, and with proof of belonging to the faith, either through a baptism or marriage certificate will be eligible to vote.
This will make some of the Russians and even a small number of Ukrainians eligible to vote in the elections to be conducted in churches.
The Russians will most likely support Limassol or Tamassos, while Ukrainians will head in a different direction, depending on if they follow the line of the freshly-established Ukrainian Orthodox church.
During his presence at Archbishop Chrysostomos’ funeral, Patriarch Bartholomew is expected to commemorate the prelate of the Ukrainian Church Epifanios, which might prove problematic as some members of the Holy Synod did not approve of even Chrysostomos II’s approval of the Kiev church.
At a memorial in for the archbishop in Istanbul, Bartholomew said: “His death is a great loss for the greater church and for us on a personal level, which is why we spontaneously decided to go to Nicosia to be at the funeral of the late prelate on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, in another signalling on the matter, transatlantic condolences arrived in Cyprus over the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II.
US President Joe Biden sent condolences to the archbishopric saying that Chrysostomos had been a person of significant confidence and bravery, who charismatically led the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus during a critical period.
“In 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting the Archbishop in Nicosia. I was moved by his passion – he was a leader dedicated to dialogue among faiths and the unity between all the religious communities in Cyprus,” he said in his message.