Six bishops contest Church leadership

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Six bishops are contesting to become the next Archbishop of the Cyprus Church after they submitted their candidacies for the 18 December vote.

Commissioner for the archbishopric elections Ioannis Charilaou said there are now six candidates.

Those candidates were Paphos Bishop and caretaker of the throne Georgios, Limassol Bishop Athanasios, Morphou Bishop Neophytos, Constantia-Famagusta Bishop Vasilios, Tamasos Bishop Isaias and Kyrenia bishop Chrysostomos.

Karpasia Bishop Christoforos decided on Tuesday that he will not be running.

“The succession to the Archbishop’s throne is primarily a purely ecclesiastical event rather than an electoral process.

“An event which has its reference in the essence of the Church.

“Therefore, it cannot be an ordinary secular process, which will bring out contention, confrontation, conflicts and human passions and weaknesses,” said Bishop Christoforos.

The first stage of electing the next Archbishop is for the faithful to vote. Then it will be up to the Holy Synod to choose the next leader from the top three.

The Holy Synod will then convene to choose one of the three clergy proposed by the faithful.

The Church’s top decision-making body comprises 17 senior clerics; after the Archbishop died on 7 November, there are 16 votes.

In the first round of voting, if one of the candidates acquires 50% plus one vote, he is declared Archbishop. That means he needs the backing of nine clergy members.

If the first round fails to produce a victor, it goes to a run-off between two candidates who got the most votes.

Alliances

Campaigns and alliances were made several years before the death of the late Archbishop Chrysostomos II.

Kykkos Bishop Nikiforos said he would support Tamasos Bishop Isaias and called on people to vote for him.

“Isaias is my spiritual child, and we will all work for him to be elected,” said Nikiforos at a gathering of employees of Kykkos monastery.

He said Isaias has an open mind and has taken on a multi-layered national, religious, social, cultural, and philanthropic set of works.

Tamassos Bishop Isaias, Limassol Bishop Athanasios, and Paphos Bishop Georgios are the three favourites.

Athanasios, probably the most popular cleric, had received the backing of politicians, economists, and other community members.

The group numbering 231 individuals, said: “The actions of Limassol Bishop Athanasios in the second largest ecclesiastical region of Cyprus make him the right choice to take the helm of the Church of Cyprus as a good shepherd.”

Meanwhile, the thorny issue of recognising the recently proclaimed independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Russia’s invasion will be decisive in the campaign for Archbishop.

Athanasios came out against the recognition of the Ukrainian Church, aligning himself with the Russian Orthodox Church, in a move causing a mini split in the Holy Synod.

The issue arose in 2020 when Archbishop Chrysostomos II moved unilaterally to recognise the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence from Moscow, overturning an earlier Holy Synod position of neutrality on the controversial issue.

Tamasos Isaias was also once in the pro-Russia camp and has recently jumped ship, claiming to be appalled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

His “stance changed after the first bomb hit Ukraine”.

“It was a very traumatic experience for me.”

However, sources close to the Church believe it is unlikely that the bishop intends to cut all ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Constantias bishop Vasilios is understood to have been a close ally of the late Archbishop, with Paphos Georgios also on the same page with Chrysostomos II on the Ukrainian Church matter.