A deep actor on the island of Cyprus: Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church

Sun, 13 Nov 2022 10:52 GMT
The Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church has a say in many areas of life, from politics to economy, from international relations to the judiciary and education.
A deep actor on the island of Cyprus: Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church

The Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church's ability to fully influence and have a say in politics and daily life after Makarios the Third was elected Archbishop in 1950, continued with all its reality during Chrysostomos the Second, who died of cancer last week.

The independent Greek Orthodox Church, whose founder and first protector was considered to be the apostle Barnabas (Apostolos Varnavas), was accepted as the representative of the Christian people on the island when Cyprus came under the administration of the Ottoman State.

The church, which had a profound effect on the decision-making mechanisms of the Greeks both in the Ottoman administration and in the British colonial period, had the power to influence many areas of life, from state affairs to economy, from international relations to judiciary and education, with the influence of Makarios the 3rd in the last period of the British colonial administration.

After 1960, there were objections and criticisms from inside and outside the church to the integration of the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church with the state administration and politics.

One of these objections was experienced when the Holy Synod of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, at its session on March 2, 1972, decided that 3 metropolitans declared that it is against the church laws for a clergyman to hold a secular office and invited the incumbent President Archbishop Makarios the Third to resign.

While the 3 metropolitans who participated in this objection, which went down in political history as the "1972-1973 Cyprus religious coup attempt", were dismissed, Makarios the Third argued that the presidency of the Republic of Cyprus cannot be called secular and under these conditions, having a secular office does not give anything to the archbishop.

Archbishop becomes the first president of the Republic of Cyprus
Especially after the establishment of the bi-communal Republic of Cyprus in 1959, the fact that Makarios the Third became the first President of the Island, in addition to his clergy mission, put the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church in a position to have a greater influence on politics, the international relations of the state and social life.

Chrysostomos the First, who was elected archbishop after Makarios the Third, and Chrysostomos the Second, who came after him, continued to keep the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church as an institution of the Greek Cypriot Church, which governs the state rather than the religious structure, and has a constant influence on politics, education, economy, and judiciary.

Unlike many other Orthodox churches, by adopting Enosis, the ideal of connecting Cyprus to Greece from the 1930s, and using more extreme nationalist arguments instead of religious messages, the Church of Cyprus became a "bishop businessman" by directly entering into economic investments and commercial affairs. The creation of the model has been the focus of criticism from time to time.

The Church has repeatedly raised its voice to protect its interests and to associate them with the public interest and general interest, as the measures envisaged by the European Union (EU) for the banking sector after the economic crisis experienced by the Greek Cypriot Administration in 2013 affected the Church's economic interests.

Even though the clergy who run the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church, from Makarios the Third to Chrysostomos the Second, declare that they do not interfere with the state administration and life, but only express their views as leadership, the influence of the church on all decision-making processes of the Greek Cypriots is accepted by all layers of the society.

Interventions ranging from the rejection of the Annan Plan to the economic crisis
The Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church Archbishop Chrysostomos the Second, who died on Monday, was known for his interventions and comments on politics, international relations, education, stock market, and economy rather than religious affairs during his tenure in 2006-2022.

Representing the political and economic power in the Greek Cypriot Administration, Chrysostomos the Second was directing the church as a political structure rather than a religious actor during his term.

Before he took office, Chrysostomos the Second, who took an open front against the Annan Plan, which was submitted to the public vote by the UN in both sides of Cyprus in 2004, and campaigned for a "No" vote, was the Greek Cypriot in 2020, when Hagia Sophia was opened as a mosque. "Türkiye has learned to destroy, it has learned to appropriate the cultures of others, and sometimes it destroys what it believes does not benefit it," his administration (GCA) made a statement to the media.

Chrysostomos the Second, who, like the archbishops before him, was influential in state affairs and social life as well as in church affairs, argued that the credit and bailout packages offered to the Greek Cypriot Administration during the 2013 economic crisis should not be accepted and claimed that they would bring collapse to the Greek Cypriot Administration.

Chrystotomos asked to leave the Eurozone
Arguing that the EU should leave the common currency Euro Zone, Chrysostomos the Second also made statements against the acceptance of loans and bailout packages offered by credit institutions and some European Union (EU) member states to the Greek Cypriot Administration.

In 2013, when the financial crisis hit, Chrysostomos the Second accused the technocrats of harming the banking system and called the people to revolt.

He gave warm messages to both the Russian capital and the Fener Patriarchate.
Chrysostomos the Second, who had previously viewed Russia and the Russian capital positively, recognized the decision of the Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew, which gave independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, after Russia's intervention in Ukraine, and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin with harsh words.

Bartholomew's participation in the funeral ceremony for Chrysostomos today draws attention in this respect.

Corruption allegations
Evaluating the entry of the far-right and racist Greek National Popular Front (ELAM) into the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives as "good children's success" in domestic politics, the Second Chrysostomos responded to the criticisms that he was a party to politics, "The head of the church has the right to express an opinion on political issues." he replied.

On the other hand, it was claimed that the citizenship of the Greek Cypriot Administration, which has been given to the businessman Low Taek Jho, who has been wanted by Interpol with a red notice since 2016 within the framework of a corruption investigation in Malaysia, was obtained through the reference letters that Archbishop Chrysostomos the Second wrote to the administrators in exchange for 300 thousand euros.

Archbishop Chrysostomos the Second admitted that he had received 300,000 euros from Jho "without malice" and that he had written letters to some ministers.


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