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Funeral held for Archbishop Chrysostomos (update 4, photos, videos)

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President Nicos Anastasiades and his Greek counterpart bid goodbye to Archbishop Chrysostomos II on Saturday, during the funeral of the head of the Church of Cyprus at the cathedral of Saint Varnavas in Nicosia.

Cabinet, government officials and religious leaders attended the funeral which began at 12pm. With crowds gathered outside watching the procession on a large screen, only those with an invitation were allowed in.

The archbishop died on Monday, aged 81 following a four-year battle with cancer. The date of the funeral was symbolic, falling exactly 16 years since the archbishop was enthroned.

“With feelings of great sadness, I bid goodbye to the leader of the church, Archbishop II,” President Nicos Anastasiades said in his eulogy.

The archbishop always protected the vulnerable members of society, taking great care to look after them, particularly during the financial crisis, he said.

“It was a privilege to meet the archbishop during my tenure as president. His dignity was remarkable and he always wished for the freedom of the country.

“We had a great collaboration, even if we were to have our differences. It was a relationship of mutual respect.”

His efforts to create student accommodations are indicative of the care the archbishop had for the youth, Anastasiades added. “The archbishop’s tenure oversaw a number of crises for the Orthodox church but he maintained the independent, autocephalous church free of any interference.”

Chrysostomos worked hard to heighten the public’s and clergy’s spirituality, working with zeal for the church’s mission. He drove a number of reforms for the church that brought order, such as increasing the members of the Holy Synod.

The funeral service was officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – on the first such visit to Cyprus – together with the members of the Holy Synod. He arrived at Larnaca airport earlier in the day by chartered jet from Istanbul via Kos.

Wishing the archbishop a good journey to the beyond, he said he would always remember how Chrysostomos called him when he was having some troubles in Africa telling him: “Don’t be afraid. Cyprus and I will be by your side. Be a lion in church.”

A military procession earlier made its way to the cathedral.

Anastasiades earlier signed the book of condolences for the archbishop in the presence of the cabinet, where he wrote “we say goodbye to the uncompromising patriot who cared about liberating the country.” Archbishop Chrysostomos was a religious and spiritual leader for the country, he added.

The funeral was also attended by all party leaders, President of the Greece Katerina Sakelaropoulou, Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II and Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain Nikitas.

During the funeral, bells tolled in mourning in all churches across Cyprus, while flags were flying at half-mast.

The late archbishop will be buried in a crypt located under the newly constructed cathedral, as was his wish.

The archbishopric said in a statement that there will be no laying of wreaths.

Police security measures have been increased around the archbishopric and the cathedral. Both inside and outside the church there will be members of the police who will ensure that everything runs smoothly.

All churches in Cyprus will hold a service in his memory on Sunday, while a service will be held every day for 40 days at the cathedral.

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