By Sarah Ktisti

Members of the Holy Synod who will vote for a new archbishop on Saturday kept their cards close to the chest for the most part on Friday as the choice comes down to three.

These are Limassol Bishop Athanasios, who gathered a clear lead with 35.68 per cent of the public vote last Sunday, Bishop of Paphos Georgios who got 18.39 per cent and Bishop of Tamassos Isaias with 18.1 per cent.

The real battle for the throne seems to be playing out between Athanasios and Georgios.

“The people will be scandalised if the Holy Synod does not respect their vote,” Athanasios said on Friday. However, he stressed that he would accept “with peace and love” any result of the synod. Speaking to CyBC’s Trito, he indicated that he does not want protests from his supporters if he was not elected. He said he himself was ready to offer to the church, but if this was not possible, he would continue his ministry.

Meanwhile, Georgios said Bishop Nikiforos of Kykkos’ position in favour of Athanasios was not based on the synod’s charter.

In response to a question on Friday whether he met privately with other hierarchs to secure their support, he said that all the members were at the synod on Thursday, but it was not possible to ask them whether they would vote for him or not.

“Everyone knows the other, roughly figuring out where they will cast their vote. I don’t think it would be fair as of now to anticipate one or the other,” he suggested. “We expect everyone to position themselves as they feel.”

Asked to comment on Nikiforos’ support for Athanasios, Georgios said he respects everyone’s position but that his reasoning is not supported by the church charter.

He said the charter speaks of the election of three persons by the people, it does not speak of percentages or ranking order.

Bishop of Constantia and Famagusta, Vasilios said the new head of the church would be elected by the one who will be guided by the Holy Spirit and expressed the hope it would all be the starting point of a new era for the Church.

Earlier in the week, Vasilios said he would be holding individual meetings with each of the three bishops before making a decision.

He explained in an interview with Alithia, that he had created a protocol over important matters, including the Cyprus problem, which he would ask them to sign. Vasilios highlighted that some bishops are opposed to any solution to the Cyprus problem and this immediately disqualifies them from the post in his view.

For his part, controversial Morphou Bishop Neophytos said considering all the speculation in the media on who would vote for whom, he wanted to stress that his support was not “a given” for anyone in particular.

As far as the objections are concerned, three had been submitted but, as the Superintendent of Elections, Yiannos Charilaou, suggested, they were not such as to be considered as affecting the electoral process, given that they mainly concerned a verbal confrontation of a voter or with a president of a centre.

Meanwhile, according to Cybc’s analysis late on Friday, it is estimated that, barring any shocking twists, Bishop Georgios of Paphos will be the new Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, from the first round of voting by the Holy Synod.

Georgios is expected to secure eleven of the sixteen available votes.

In addition to his own vote, the custodian of the Archbishop’s throne is estimated to receive support from: Bishops Nectarios of Kition, Neophytos of Morphou, Bishop of Trimythoundos, Varnavas, Bishop of Constantias, Vasilios, Kyrinias Chrysostomos, Arsinois Pagratios, Karpasias Christophoros, Chitron Leontios and Mesaorias Grigorios.

The bishop of Paphos is also expected to receive support from his rival, Bishop Isaiah of Tamasos and Orinis.

On the other hand, Limassol’s Athanasios – along with his own vote – is expected to be supported by: Bishop of Kykkos Nikiforos, Amathoundos Nicolaos, Neapolis Porphyrios and Ledras Epiphanios.