July 23, 2021

Cyprus archbishop puts dissenting bishops on notice, while one dissenting bishop releases book on Ukraine


PARSIPPANY, N.J. – Archbishop Chrysos­tomos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, issued a statement that he will implement methods to put in place members of the Synod of the Church of Cyprus who do not agree with the decision to recognize the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) that was granted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in January 2019.

Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol, neophyte of Morphia, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos, Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamasos, as well as Bishop Nicholas of Amafunt and Bishop Epiphanius of Ledera, who do not recognize the autocephaly of the OCU, refused to take part in the conciliar service appointed by the Synod of the Archdiocese of Cyprus on July 10.

Archbishop Chrysostomos stated that the refusal of hierarchs to perform conciliar service indicates disrespect for the decisions of the Synod and an attempt to “circumvent the primate.” “I’m not dead. I’m still alive,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Chrysostomos said hierarchs who refuse to serve him are mistaken, and if he begins to restore order, the Metropolitans will cease to be members of the Synod. “That’s why I keep silent, so as not to harm the Church,” he said.

When asked whether this crisis will lead to a break in Eucharistic communion within the Archdiocese of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos replied: “I have ways to put them [bishops] in their place, but I will not start now.”

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Nikiforos on July 1 released a book, “The Ecclesial Crisis in Ukraine and its Solution According to the Sacred Canons,” by Holy Trinity Publications (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) in Jordanville, N.Y. Many of the reviews on the website, including by Metropolitan Timotheos of Bostra (Patriarc­hate of Jerusalem), are critical of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision to grant autocephaly to the OCU, calling the OCU faithful “schismatic groups.” Other Orthodox bishops from various jurisdictions have also posted comments on the book.

A description of the book notes, “All of this [the process of granting autocephaly to the OCU] transpired without any attempt by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to seek a consensus of all the Orthodox Churches before embarking on this course of action.”

This, however, is untrue, as all of the Orthodox Churches in communion with Constantinople were invited to the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in 2016 in Crete, which was not attended by the Russian Orthodox Church (whose delegation was to include Metropolitan Onufriy, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate, as well as other UOC-MP bishops in Ukraine), the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of America.

However, the 2016 Council included representatives of the patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Church of Romania, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

The book description on the Holy Trinity Publications website continues: “In this pithy text he [Metropolitan Nikiforos] eloquently explains why the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have created a schism in the Orthodox Church worldwide and how in turn they reflect the promotion of a new ecclesiology that distorts the traditional understanding of the Orthodox Church as headed only by Christ Himself. He is clear that the only road to healing and ending schism is a return to a form of inter-Orthodox relations which respects both conciliarity and hierarchy. In doing this he stresses his utmost respect for the historical place of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the hope that it will turn back from the path it is currently on to resume its rightful place in the plurality of the Orthodox Church.”

The table of contents of the book also asks odd questions, such as: “Ukraine belongs to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of what patriarchate?” The answer, however, is clear. When Kyivan-Rus received baptism into Christianity in 988 by Byzantine bishops from Constantinople, the lands today that are known as Ukraine and beyond were placed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Church of Constantinople), as the Moscow Patriar­chate did not exist at the time.

Patriarch Bartholomew underscored this on July 26, 2008, during his visit to Ukraine for the 1,020th anniversary of the Christianization of Kyivan-Rus
“This initiative [to celebrate the 1,020th anniversary] is an obligation insofar as all great nations ought to guard most zealously their historic memory, especially of those events that have sealed indelibly the proper spiritual identity of their national consciousness and determined, more or less, their perennial contribution to the community of nations. It is also and particularly significant today, for the depth of the great people’s history constitutes an inexhaustible resource of strength and radiation to those near and afar,” Patriarch Barthol­omew said.

Patriarch Bartholomew is scheduled to visit Ukraine in August for the 30th anniversary celebration of the country’s renewed independence.