Bishop of Morphou Neophytos announced on Friday he would not be attending Sunday’s enthronement for the newly-elected archbishop, Giorgios of Paphos but he conveyed his best wishes to the new Church prelate in taking up his duties.

“We inform the Church… that His Eminence the Metropolitan of Morphou Neophytos would like to attend the enthronement ceremony of His Beatitude on Sunday but he prefers to remain in his humble cell, praying , both for His Beatitude, and for the trials of His Beatitude, the Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine,” the statement said.

He also said that other bishops such as those of Vyshhorod and Chernobyl in Ukraine were being “threatened and persecuted by the troops of the Khazarian president of Ukraine, Mr Zelensky”, adding that since the evening of December 31, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine had been prohibited from holding services.

Despite the Ukranian Church officially breaking with Russia, many of the churches and bishops remained affiliated with Moscow.

Early in December, the Ukrainian government drew up a law banning any churches affiliated with Russia under moves described by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as necessary to prevent Moscow being able to “weaken Ukraine from within.”

Neophytos who is no stranger to controversial media headlines, especially for his negative views on homosexuality, was also one of five ‘dissident bishops’ opposed to the Church of Cyprus’ recognition of the Ukraine Church as an autocephalous (self-governing) church, independent of Russia following the 2019 recognition by Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

In 2020 the matter appeared to have been settled when the Holy Synod voted on the matter, with the majority confirming the recognition of the Ukraine Church. But the five ‘dissidents’ – the bishops of Limassol, Tamasos, Morphou, Amathounda and Neapolis – other than Tamasos, never recanted on their positions.

In a twist, however, in November 2021, Limassol’s Athanasios participated with Archbishop Chrysostomos in a co-liturgy which ‘praised’ – that is to say, recognised – the Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev as the primate of the autocephalous Church of Ukraine.

In July last year, both Athanasios and Isaias of Tamasos visited Constantinople and were officially received by Bartholomew, leaving only three ‘rebels’.

Also, Tamasos in November last year denounced the Russian Patriarchate categorically, because it supported the war in Ukraine. The bishop had been a staunch supporter of the Russian Church but said this support had “blown up after the first bomb hit Ukraine”.