11/08/2022, 10.09
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Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus has died

by Nikos Tzoitis

He fought a long illness. For 16 years he headed the oldest Christian autocephalous reality, opposed a secularised conception of the Church and relaunched relations with Rome, making the words of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew his own.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - After a long battle against an incurable illness, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, head of the oldest Christian autocephalous church, died yesterday morning, as sanctioned by the 4th ecumenical synod.

Born Herodotos Demetriou on 10 April 1941, His Beatitude embraced monasticism at an early age, and then attended the prestigious Faculty of Theology in Athens. In 1978, Archbishop Makarios III appointed him head of the ancient diocese of Pafos, where the Apostles Paul, Matthew and Barnabas had preached.

With the death of his predecessor Chrysostomos I, in 2006 he entered as an outsider in the trio of candidates for the archiepiscopal throne: he had obtained the least number of preferences, as emerged from the primary voting of the faithful (male and simple clergy), according to the ancient tradition of the Church of Cyprus.

The synod then elected him with great surprise as the new archbishop. After centuries of stagnation, during his 16 years in office he breathed new life into this very ancient Church, distancing himself from a secularised conception, also born of geopolitical pressures from various states.

Chrysostomos II reconstructed the statute of the synod of the Church of Cyprus. He thus restored dignity to his clergy, until then dependent on political influences, and at the same time founded the Cyprus School of Theology for the training of clergy and laity.

What mattered to him was the unity of the Church as the true body of Christ and not as an instrument of personal ambitions. He was one of the most active supporters of the work of the Pan-Orthodox synod in Crete (2016), and worked intensively for the unity of the Church, never claiming privileges.

On the Ukrainian issue, he recognised the autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, provoking the wrath of the pro-Russian party in his own synod. Chrysostomos II, however, always tried to reconcile the schism with the Russian world and beyond: he was convinced that the Russian Church was succumbing to a secularised conception.

As a reference he had the Synod of Constantinople of 1872, which had condemned 'philetism', the prevalence of a nationalist conception in the Church of Christ. That is why he also regarded Turkish Cypriots as brothers from the same land of God.

During his years as head of the Church of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II revived relations with his sister Church in Rome: for his ecumenical efforts Pope Benedict XVI (June 2010) and Pope Francis (December 2021) visited Cyprus.  He had also adopted the words of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who considers Rome and Constantinople to be Siamese Churches.

Bartholomew will be present at his funeral, the first time for an ecumenical patriarch.

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