Outspoken Archbishop of Cyprus dies at 81
The leader of the Greek Orthodox Christian Church in Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos II has died at 81.
The tall and imposing cleric, who ascended to the throne amid accusations of skullduggery in 2006, had suffered from liver cancer for four years. Chrysostomos spoke out on numerous political and financial issues, sparking demands that he stick to his religious duties.
Chrysostomos condemned Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine this year.
“Mr Putin can go to church, he can take communion, but at the same time he kills. Is that his Orthodoxy?” he told Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.
Chrysostomos always condemned Turkey for its 1974 invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus. In a 2018 interview, he said he would never believe a peace agreement to reunify Cyprus was possible because Ankara wanted to establish a Turkish state on the island.
During Pope Benedict’s visit in 2010, Chrysostomos accused Turkey of trying to implement “dark plans, which include annexing the land now under military occupation and then conquering the whole of Cyprus”.
Before the multibillion-euro financial rescue by international creditors in March 2013, Chrysostomos advocated leaving the euro as the bailout would set the Cypriot economy back decades. He said the package would cost Cyprus its dignity.
The deal forced large depositors in the two biggest Cypriot banks to lose a slice of their savings, prompting Chrysostomos to announce: “This isn’t the Europe that we believed in when we joined.”
Chrysostomos told the leftist former president Dimitris Christofias that he had taken a “prosperous, happy nation and leaving it with some people going hungry”.
He called politicians and bankers “thieves” who hid while “poor people paid the piper” for their decisions.
Cypriot archbishops retain privileges handed down by a Byzantine emperor in the fifth century. They sign documents in red, carry an imperial staff and wear purple, the colour of the Ancient Roman kings, beneath their vestments.
Chrysostomos encouraged Russian investment and built ties with the Kremlin but relations with the Russian Orthodox Church were damaged when in 2020 he followed the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision to recognise the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s declaration of independence.
Chrysostomos condemned clerics who resisted Covid vaccinations, backed lockdown measures and threatened to sack members of the clergy speaking out against vaccination.
He visited Syria in 2016 to offer support to the country’s embattled Orthodox faithful amid the civil war.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II. Picture credit: Wikimedia