The Church has always had a prominent and very influential role in Cyprus. This role was evident in most aspects of life, from education to politics, and was largely determined by the man who was Archbishop. While individual bishops often make their views on issues public, it is the Archbishop who sets the agenda, deciding what involvement the Church should have in public affairs, aware that no president would dare stand up to him.

In the 1993 presidential elections, for example the then Archbishop, Chrysostomos I, was so unhappy with the political leadership that he forged an alliance of Diko and Edek that backed a candidate of his choice. Although his candidate lost, the new president still allowed him to choose the education minister, something that has become something of a tradition since then. The next Archbishop, Chrysostomos II, made a habit of meddling in politics and publicly spouting his views on most public matters. As caretaker in 2004 he had an instrumental role in opposing the Annan Plan.

There was therefore great interest to hear how the new Archbishop Georgios viewed his role. He expounded his intentions during the ceremony for his enthronement on Sunday. Although the Church was particularly concerned about issues of education, he said “We do not seek, nor do we attempt, through blackmail, to lead the government of the country on issues of education or any other issue.” It would not, however, “give up our right to have an opinion on the most important issues facing the country and express it freely, as every citizen has this right today.”

Predictably, on the Cyprus issue, Archbishop Georgios, declared that he would continue the hard line stance of his predecessors, warning that “we will not hesitate to highlight and censure any deviation and we will fight to avert solutions that would put at risk our survival on the land of our fathers.” He also announced that the Church, in consultation with state authorities, would actively contribute the defence. He also called for the re-activation of the “dogma of unified defence space between Greece and Cyprus,” a pact that was never fully implemented before being scrapped some 20 years ago.

In short, the new archbishop has given up the Church’s say on education but has asserted the right to a say on defence and the handling of the Cyprus problem. By what authority is he calling for the re-activation of a defunct defence dogma, which the governments of Greece and Cyprus had shown, in practice, they have no interest in? This suggest that Georgios has every intention to meddle in state affairs, which is not a good sign. The new archbishop should interfere less, not more, in state affairs.