Russia’s war in Ukraine is looking to play a significant role in the upcoming elections for archbishop, with the throne’s hopefuls making statements on the unity and stance of the church. On Wednesday, Bishop of Tamasos Isaias denounced the Russian Patriarchate categorically, because it supported the war in Ukraine.
The bishop had been a staunch supporter of Russia, but speaking on the airwaves, he said that had “blown up after the first bomb hit Ukraine”.
“It was a very traumatic experience for me,” when he saw the developments around the war, he told the state broadcaster. The bishop explained that the Holy Synod had taken a stance to follow the Ecumenical Patriarch and remain neutral.
“The neutrality was aimed at the unity of the church.”
Nonetheless, the fact that Russia’s Patriarch Kirill not only failed to denounce but in fact supported the war, caused him to step back.
“Since 1991 when I was 23, I worked in humanitarian organisations in warzones.”
After witnessing the scenes he witnessed in war, there was no way he could continue to be supportive of the Russian Patriarchate, he said.
Bringing his point home, the bishop noted: “we are a occupied country. We cannot accept this.”
Asked to comment on Russia’s influence on the island, he said “no patriarchy can influence the church of Cyprus.”
The bishop is expected to formally announce his candidacy on Saturday.
On the other hand, Bishop Vasileos of Constantia expressed that church life is inevitably affected by politics but “we will not stop trying to restore relations with other Orthodox churches. The Orthodox world cannot be split due to geopolitical situations.”
With almost half of the Holy Synod throwing their hat in the ring for the church’s top post, the fanfare is also increasing. Bishops of Kyrenia, Morphou, Constantia, Paphos, Limassol, Karpasia and Tamassos have expressed their interest, making this seven out of the 16 members of the synod.
Currently, Limassol bishop Athanasios has a support team which has already announced he was the obvious choice for archbishop.
“We are convinced he will offer his love and support to everyone,” a statement from the team said, referring to help he has offered over the years for the poor, drug addicted and his efforts to bring the youth to church.
In more practical matters, the data protection commissioner Irini Loizidou-Nicolaidou rebuffed concerns surrounding privacy violations with the interior ministry’s move to send a list of eligible voters to the Church of Cyprus for the upcoming elections.
“The interior ministry will give a list of eligible voters. Those who cannot vote will be removed from the list else this would violate legality and proportionality. The church will receive the list of those who can vote.”
This list will not be made public but anyone who is allowed to vote can check, using a personalised password, whether they can vote for archbishop.
Elections are set to take place on December 18. Anyone who is Christian Orthodox and has been a citizen of Cyprus for at least a year has the right to vote for a new archbishop. Non-Cypriots who are not registered parishioners and wish to vote must register, submitting proof of their residency status and that they have been baptised Christian Orthodox.