eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • December 2016 : The Church of Cyprus and the Reunification Talks

With a new round of talks on the reunification of the island planned to take place in Geneva a month later, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus expressed its deepest concerns and asked the President of the Republic of Cyprus to inform their body about the development of the Cyprus issue. The statement of the Holy Synod reads : “Following a thorough discussion, all members of the Holy Synod expressed their deepest concern over what is seeing the public light regarding the forthcoming new round of talks in Geneva from January 9 to 12.” (Cyprus Mail) The Holy Synod also decided to invite other political leaders and hear their positions on the issue before taking a stand.

In September 2016, the Holy Synod had already expressed concerns over the direction taken by the talks, especially regarding the future of the Republic of Cyprus and the protection of Hellenism on the island. The September 2016 Statement reads : “If the Republic of Cyprus is abolished and replaced with a new nation based on two equal states, it is certain – Turkey’s policy throughout the years leaves no room for doubt – that very soon Turkey will lead matters to a dead end, and unable to resort to international organizations without Turkish consent, we will be held hostage, spelling the beginning of the end of Hellenism in Cyprus.” (Cyprus Mail) The debate recalls the central place of the Orthodox Church in the Greek Cypriot society.

  • October 2016 : Religion in School

In October of this year, Eliza Savvidou, the ombudswoman of Cyprus, decided to take action concerning primary and secondary school children’s visits to religious events, regardless of their religious affiliation or non-affiliation. According to the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) policy, students of religious groups other than Greek Orthodox (i.e. Armenian, Maronite, and Latin Church) can be excused from religious education as part of their right to religious freedom. However, this right seems difficult to implement in schools of the Republic of Cyprus. Regardless of their religion or ethnicity, students are pressured to attend school-organized Church services or religion classes, despite the official neutrality of the State.

It is the official mission of the ombudsman to monitor the implementation of the MoE’s policy on exemptions, and to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the MoE on religious freedom in education. According to the Cyprus 2015 International Religious Freedom Report prepared by the U.S. State Department, the office of the ombudsman received complaints dealing with this issue in 2014.

The Orthodox Church has called for demonstrations against the ombudswoman’s claim of State neutrality. Archbishop Chrysostom opposes the ombudswoman’s authority to monitor whether or not children in school should go to church. The head of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus declared : “It is not her business whether children should go to church or not. The education ministry has its program, and it will not ask the ombudswoman if it should apply it or not.” (See Cyprus Mail). The issue of State neutrality in the context of public education is perceived by the Orthodox Church as a secularization of the Cypriot society imposed by the European Union.

  • March 2016 : Church opposes abortion bill

The Orthodox Church of Cyprus is opposed to a proposed bill allowing abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy with no requirement either for an explanation or a medical condition that would prevent carrying to term. The current legislation on abortion in Cyprus allows termination of a pregnancy in case of rape, or if the life of the mother is in danger, or if it could cause "physical and mental damage" to her or to her other children. The proposed bill was discussed at the committee level of the House of Representatives.

In response, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus issued an Encyclical disseminated in all the parishes of the island and calling abortion murder. The document states : "We call on the competent service of the state that have prepared the submitted bill without the required religious and ethnic sensitivity, and without due regard to the traditions of our people, to be prepared to take their responsibilities before God and our nation for changing the national practice."

D 20 décembre 2016    ANicolas Kazarian

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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