Analysis: A divided island faces an uncertain future after the death of the Cypriot Orthodox archbishop

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A map showing the division of Cyprus. CIA World Factbook / Wikimedia (CC0)

The Turkish occupation has been described as harsh and Cyprus has repeatedly denounced the loss of Christian heritage in the northern part of the island.

Chrysostom II always had a categorical position on this subject. However, in a 2018 interview, he said he would never believe a peace deal to reunite the ethnically divided island was possible because Turkey wanted to establish a Turkish state in the country.

When Pope Benedict visited the island in 2010, Chrysostom II spoke out and accused Turkey of trying to implement “dark plans, which include annexing lands currently under military occupation. , then the conquest of the whole of Cyprus”.

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Chrysostom II and ecumenism

Beyond political positions, Chrysostom II argued for the need for closer relations between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

In 2022, in one of the last interviews with Cypriot state television, he declared: “I want to do a real job, not a demonstration. I have arrived and I will leave one day, so I want to leave something behind for this nation. That is what matters.”

His ecumenical initiatives were numerous. Acting as President of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus, he participated in the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the inauguration of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 at the Vatican.

In response to the fraternal gesture, Benedict XVI sent his delegation to the ceremony of his enthronement.

The climate of mutual fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus was then strengthened with the trip of Pope Francis to the island in December 2021.

Reform of the Cypriot Orthodox Church

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Chrysostom II was also a reformer. He promoted the change of the Charter of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, which has been in force since 1914 and has been revised twice. First, the charter significantly changed the electoral system, giving more power to the faithful. In addition, the boundaries of the metropolises were changed, a five-member synodal court was created, and ecclesiastical divorce procedures were modified.

He also favored the expansion of the Holy Synod with the reconstitution after 800 years of ancient episcopies abolished during the Frankish domination of the Latins in 1222. In this way, the autocephaly of Cyprus had a complete synod – that is to say with at least 13 members, meaning that a Great and Supreme Synod could now be convened without requesting the participation of bishops from other Churches.

On a practical level, Chrysostomos introduced a unified payroll system for the clergy and established the Theological School of the Church of Cyprus. The latter was the dream of Patriarch Makarios III, who was unable to realize it following the Turkish invasion of 1974.

His death leaves a great void in the Cypriot Church and Cypriot society. Who will be able to perpetuate his legacy?

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