Archbishop Georgios was enthroned as the 76th head of the church on Sunday afternoon, in a ceremony at the Apostolos Varnavas Cathedral in Nicosia.
Church bells tolled as he arrived to the church, which was packed with dignitaries from both the state and the church. The new archbishop said he accepted the task before him, recognising the weight of his responsibility assigned to him by God.
“In Cyprus, the church has the first word. And all eyes are on me.”
The 21st century is a challenging one that is seeing traditions fall apart and people trying to build foundations on rocky ground, he said.
“The church is a refuge for people, where they turn to for answers for the questions that plague them. It is my duty to stand by and support every person.”
A large screen was set up outside cathedral for members of the public to watch the ceremony. Georgios is succeeding Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who died aged 81 in November after a long battle with cancer.
President Nicos Anastasiades, House President Annita Demetriou and members of the cabinet were attending the ceremony, as was Greece’s Archbishop Ieronymos II. Greece’s minister of education and religious affairs, Niki Kerameus was also attending. Bishops from Greece and representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of other Christian Orthodox Churches, as well as other denominations were present.
Bishop of Morphou Neophytos said he would not be attending because he would be too busy praying for banned churches in Ukraine.
Georgios said the 21st century is one of biotechnology, raising many questions that are important for the church to answer. He added the church was aware of a lot of the challenges in current society, ranging from external temptations, efforts by science to question the church and also the financial challenges people are facing.
He noted the church would stand by all of those who needed help. Georgios made reference to the education of the country too, saying priests had historically been the protectors of education, who shielded it from the “thorns of occupation forces.”
“It is the longstanding responsibility of the church to be involved in education and unacceptable that we stay away from this.”
The church will also not stand by and watch Turkey’s actions idly, Georgios said, nor will it accept a solution to the Cyprus problem that does not allow every Cypriot to have their fundamental rights. He expressed there was no issues with Turkish Cypriots who “we used to live peacefully with. There is an issue with an occupying force though.”
Georgios said Hellenism has often been outnumbered but this meant nothing, likening Hellenism with David’s sling against Goliath.
Anastasiades wished him a long and creative tenure for the good of the people and the church. Demetriou said it was a “historic day” and the first time she had seen such a ceremony, saying the state and parliament as institutions were by the side of the church.
A speech by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople read by Archbishop of Thyateira, Nikitas called on the new archbishop to give himself to the church and the common struggle to fight to protect the faith during these challenging times.
“You are taking over one of the most historic churches in the world,” where he must demonstrate his calling not just with words but with actions.
During the ceremony the archbishop was clothed in the middle of the church with the red mantle and was given a second engolpion, which he will wear on his chest together with the cross.
After the Act of the Enthronement Synod was read by the chief secretary, Georgios signed, in red ink, from the inkwell of Archbishop Kyprianos.
He then stood on the first steps of the archiepiscopal throne where the first bishop in command, Bishop of Kition, Nektarios, offered him the imperial scepter, which dates back to 1869, and addressed him.
A letter from the Pope was read by the Nuncio in Cyprus, where he described Georgios as a worthy leader of the church.
Ieronymos, the Archbishop of Athens told Georgios “you are taking over the churchly responsibility at a difficult time across the globe.”
Though there have always been difficult times since the beginning of the ages, the meeting of civilisation and technology in the way it is done now, is unprecedented, Ieronymos said.
“These changes do not leave the traditional Christian way of life unaffected. A new pervasive religiosity seeks to establish itself, with Christians adopting new habits.”
After the ceremony, the archbishop received congratulations, and hosted a dinner in the evening for guests and representatives.
In a recent interview, the new head of the church said he will follow his predecessor’s line on the Cyprus problem, adding he would roll out financial incentives to support people wishing to have three or four children, as part of his efforts to tackle birth deficits.
The archbishop will also begin the position of electing a new Paphos bishop, taking over his previous position as caretaker of the church.
Georgios was born in Athienou on May 25, 1949. He graduated from the Pancyprian high school in 1967.
After receiving a scholarship from the Cyprus State Scholarship Foundation, he studied chemistry at the University of Athens between 1968 and 1972.
Following his graduation, he studied theology at the same university followed by further studies in England in both chemistry and theology.
On December 23, 1984, he was ordained as a Deacon under the Regional Bishop Salaminos Varnavas.
On March 17, 1985, he was ordained as an Elder and ordained an Archimandrite under the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos I.
He assumed the duties of Secretary of the Holy Synod in 1994, while, at the same time, also working as a chemistry teacher in secondary schools.
A few years after that he hit the headlines after being arrested and ill treated by Turkish troops during an anti-occupation demonstration in 1989, following which he lodged a complaint against Turkey with the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe.
In its decision, the Council of Europe condemned Turkey for the first time for violating human rights in Cyprus and imposed a monetary fine.
He was ordained as a bishop on May 26, 1996.
On December 29, 2006, he was elected Metropolitan of Paphos, assuming his duties the day after.
He represents the Church of Cyprus in the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and in the Dialogue with the Roman Catholics.
He is also the president of the Bioethics and Education committees of the Holy Synod.