Outspoken leader of the Cyprus Orthodox Church dies

Outspoken leader of the Cyprus Orthodox Church dies


The leader of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostom II, has died at the age of 81, his doctors said on Monday, after years of battling cancer.

Chrysostom, an outspoken cleric who influenced both politics and religious life on the divided island, has led the powerful Orthodox Church since November 2006.

“The archbishop passed away peacefully after facing the challenge of his illness with courage, patience and Christian determination,” his doctors said in a statement.

“What will always accompany and haunt us is his honesty, kindness and smile,” they added.

The Holy Synod, the church’s governing body, was due to meet later on Monday to decide on the burial arrangements to take place in the capital, Nicosia.

The Synod will then lead the process of choosing Chrysostom’s successor, which will also involve a plebiscite of adherents of the Church.

Official dates and other events were canceled after the death.

“The people of Cyprus mourn the loss of Archbishop Chrysostom II,” President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted.

“His reformatory work for orthodox Christianity, the church and his commitment to the prosperity of our people is enormous.”

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou told state broadcaster CyBC that the Archbishop is “a special figure for Cyprus and today is a day of sadness”.

Chrysostom was born Irodotos Dimitriou on April 10, 1941 in Tala, a village near the western city of Paphos, and had been treated for a colon tumor and liver metastases since 2018.

He was a vocal opponent of the 1974 Turkish invasion, launched in response to a coup sponsored by Greece’s then-ruling military junta that divided the island into a Greek-Cypriot-controlled south and a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot north.

— “Nonsensical” Russian invasion –

Chrysostom had also campaigned against a settlement plan by former UN chief Kofi Annan, which Greek Cypriot voters rejected in a 2004 referendum.

As a religious leader, he promoted interfaith dialogue and worked closely with other Christian and Muslim leaders.

The Archbishop released a joint appeal with Turkish Cypriot Mufti Talip Atalay and Armenian and Maronite religious leaders in 2020, urging joint efforts to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He had chastised priests who refused vaccination against the corona virus.

In April, Chrysostom blasted an “unchristian” and “insane” Russian invasion of Ukraine, despite close ties between his church and Russia’s Orthodox leadership, which has backed it.

It is estimated that the Orthodox Church owns property worth billions of euros (dollars) across Cyprus.

It is considered one of the wealthiest organizations in the country with holdings and shares in banks, beverage manufacturing, hotels and cement manufacturing.

The Archbishop’s pronouncements on economic, political and social issues are influential in a religious society that practices the same orthodox beliefs as the Russians, a relatively large diaspora in Cyprus.

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