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Archbishop says poor turnout in election a cause for concern

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The “indifference” shown by the public about taking part in elections for the new Archbishop are a matter for concern, the new prelate said on Tuesday although he added that this did not mean people were “averse” to the Church.

On December 18 anyone both Greek Orthodox and registered to vote was entitled to take part in the first round of electing a new Archbishop. However, only 30.2 per cent of people did so.

He also said that the traditions of the Cyprus church must be stuck to.

Elsewhere, Georgios commented on the fact that Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou stood next to him as he received congratulations for his election.

Georgios opined there was nothing untoward with that, since he and Prodromou have had “a close collaboration” in his own capacity as head of the Holy Synod’s education committee.

He also spoke of the separation of state and Church, noting that the Church has no say in secular education.

“We [the Church] do not give the nod to the education minister, we have no say in the matter.”

On the Cyprus issue, the Archbishop said that going forward the Church would from time to time air its views “collectively” following discussions in the Holy Synod.

He noted that he personally has not had contacts with Turkish Cypriots – but that from his new position he would change that.

Archbishop Georgios was doing the media rounds on Tuesday in what looked like a damage-control exercise following reaction to adversarial remarks he made over the weekend.

On Saturday the Holy Synod voted Georgios – up until now the Bishop of Paphos – as the new Archbishop from the top three voted for by the public, after the throne was vacated with the passing of Chrysostomos II.

Due to the holidays, Georgios’ enthronement will take after Epiphany.

But in comments soon after his election, the Archbishop sought to put paid to rumours about wheeling-and-dealing during the vote within the Synod. He came second in the public vote after Bishop Athanasios of Limassol sealed a convincing victory.

“I think that from today some people, whose occupation was to wander from media outlet to media outlet exposing both the Church and themselves, should cease,” he had said.

In the vote within the Holy Synod, Georgios received 11 of the 16 votes, with Limassol bishop Athanasios getting four, while one of the bishops abstained.

Georgios’ remarks drew swift condemnation from professor of theology at the University of Nicosia Christos Economou. The theologian accused the new Archbishop of seeking to gag or bully critics, adding that such comments do not bode well as they smack of an authoritarian mindset.

He also recalled the discrepancy between the popular vote and the outcome in the Holy Synod, and said that he personally would not be silenced.

Asked about this on Tuesday, Georgios defended his comments.

“My statement did not aim to muzzle anyone, but rather to point out that people should speak with more decorum,” he said.

He said this does not mean he cannot accept criticism but just that it should relate to something that can be improved, bot when something such as the elections, has finished.

“Across the world, bishops are elected by bishops. Only in Cyprus does an electoral procedure take place among the populace, and its purpose is so that the people can express their opinion.”

Addressing speculation over horsetrading that led to his election, Georgios dismissed this as “journalistic conjecture.”

Speculation swirled that the Bishop of Karpasia backed Georgios, hoping the latter would ‘sponsor’ him during the elections for the now available seat in Paphos.

The Paphos bishopric is a coveted franchise, as it is an Apostolic See. According to tradition, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas founded the Church of Paphos in 46AD. It was the first Christian church founded by the Apostles.

Regarding the succession at the Paphos bishopric, Georgios said that following his enthronement he will issue a circular setting the date for elections.

The process to place a new bishop in Paphos will follow the same format as in the archiepiscopal process – a popular vote leading to the emergence of a short list of three candidates, followed by the deciding ballot in the Holy Synod.

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