Theologian speaks out on endless display of saints’ relics in churches

The veneration of the ‘remains’ of saints and items believed to have belonged to them is developing into a way for the church to promote religious fanaticism, a top theologian has said.

Venerating slippers and canes is idolatry,” theologian Theodoros Kyriacou told the Cyprus Mail, referring to some of the items that have been displayed.

The issue has come to the fore, as a continuous parade of religious ‘artefacts’ are consistently brought to Cyprus by various churches from Greece purporting to be genuine and miraculous.

Kyriacou was commenting not only on the large amount of saints ‘remains’ and belongings which the archdiocese exercises no control over, but also does not seem to curb.

“There needs to be some rules,” Kyriacou said, adding that this parade does not promote faith but “fanaticism”.

Archbishop Georgios himself has also said that he is against this long line of artefacts which seems to stem from the close ties churches hold with other churches in Greece.

In a famous case two years ago, the slippers of Saint Efraim were paraded around Cyprus, with long queues forming for almost three days at a church in Nicosia of the ‘faithful’ seeking to venerate the footwear.

feature nik the slippers of saint efraim

The slippers of Saint Efraim

I am against the parade of remains so often in an effort to extort money from the public,” he said in a previous interview. Each worshipper is expected to make a donation to the church’s coffers.

He added that even as bishop of Paphos, he had never requested or attempted to bring remains of a saint, save for one time when he had requested through then Archbishop Chrysostomos II for the head of the Apostle Paul to be brought to Cyprus from Rome.

Archbishop Georgios added that the request had been granted, but the late archbishop had died just as permission had been given.

The prelate said that the new bishop of Paphos Tychikos objected to the remains of the apostle brought to Cyprus as Catholics from the Vatican would have overseen the process.

Despite the archbishop seemingly against the remains of saints parading through the island’s churches, other bishops and churches seem to be continuing this unending cycle.

Throughout the summer and fall months, almost all the metropolises in Cyprus had some kind of relic on display from saints’ hearts to slippers.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis even attended a service in Paphos back in October, when the relics of Saint Marina were brought from Greece.

feature nik government spokesman konstantinos letymbiotis at a veneration of relics in paphos

Goverment spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis at the veneration of relics in Paphos

Discussing the parade and the authenticity of some of the relics, Kyriacou said that some of the relics are in doubt, and that the items must be verified.

Kyriacou also criticised the manner in which these items are brought to Cyprus, which usually involves a priest or bishop from the Greece’s Orthodox church escorting them on a plane.

He said that he found it an “insult” to the lives of the saints to have their remains transported from their purported resting place to all around the world for economic gains.

He said the remains should stay where they are, and those wishing to venerate them can perform a pilgrimage to the church they are located.

This point was also raised by Archbishop Georgios in a previous interview, who shared Kyriacou’s view that the remains should not be paraded around in such a frequent manner.

However, taking all this into account, the church seems not to have taken many steps to limit the procession of relics, especially as they may not be genuine artefacts of the saints themselves.