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  • September 2006 : Election of the new Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus

From September 24 2006 until November 12 2006 three successive rounds of elections took place for the election of the new Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus [see August 2006 update for background ]. During the first round of elections – which took place nation wide on September 24 2006 – the laity elected 1,400 representatives. In the next round of the elections, these representatives elected 100 electors who together with 31 clergymen formed the electoral body that was responsible for electing the new Archbishop.

According to the Constitution of the Church of Cyprus, in order for a person to be elected to the throne it is necessary to obtain a majority of votes both among the laity and the clergy. If no candidate is successful, then the leading candidates of the laity and the clergy move on to the next round of voting, where simple majority rules apply.

The three main contenders that emerged from the September 24 2006 popular vote were the bishop of Kykkos Nikiforos, the bishop of Paphos Chrysostomos and the bishop of Limassol Athanasios. While all believers could cast a vote, participation rate was only approximately 50%. The bishops of Kykkos and Limassol took the overwhelming majority of popular vote, thereby controlling 90 of the 100 laity electors. The bishop of Paphos, however, controlled the majority of the votes among the clergy.

After some ingenious political moves, the final two candidates were the bishops of Paphos Chrysostomos and Limassol Athanasios. Just prior to the final vote, though, the bishop of Paphos met with the bishop of Kykkos and the majority of the Synod’s members. The two sides reached a formal agreement. The agreement stipulated that the bishop of Paphos would receive the bishops’ electoral support during the final round of voting in exchange for upgrading the role of the Synod and increasing the number of bishoprics in the island. Subsequently, the bishop of Paphos was promptly elected to the throne as Chrysostomos II. His ascent took place on November 12 2006.

The bitter public rivalry among the bishops, the heated electoral campaign and the Byzantine voting system did not contribute to uplifting the Church’s image among the public. Following his ascent to the throne, the new Archbishop publicly commented on the need for the Church to smooth out the bad impression caused by the “excesses” of the electoral campaign and for revising the Church’s Constitutional Charter in order to avoid the possible repetition of such an open competition among the higher clergy. Despite these problems, Chrysostomos II’s election ended – for the foreseeable future – the bitter rivalry between Nikiforos and Athanasios. It also signified a continuation with the Church’s past public involvement in the island’s national life.

  • August 2006 : Archbishoprical elections, the candidates’ electoral image

By mid-August, the electoral campaign for the archbishopric throne of the Church of Cyprus is in full swing. Four hierarchs appear to be the main competitors at this point in time. Candidates use various leaflets and pamphlets to publicize their own profiles. These are circulated in churches or just dropped off in individual homes and appartment complexes. Based on an examination of these pamphlets, there follow the electoral self-images of the four main competitors, as they have been reported by the newspaper Phileleftheros (Aug. 13th 2006).

- Chrysostomos, Bishop of Paphou. In addition to his post, Chrysostomos serves as the Chairperson of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus. His electoral pamphlets highlight his key role in safeguarding the archbishopric’s property during reports of financial mismanagement in the last few years. Moreover, the Bishop is fairly well known for his strong opposition to the 2004 Annan Plan.

- Chrysostomos, Bishop of Kition (a. k. a. port of Larnaca). Leaflets and ads circulated on his behalf stress the modernist and open-minded orientation of this hierarch. Prominently displayed are also his close relationship with legendary archbishop and former President of the Republic Makarios III. Additional patriotic credentials include photos from his 1989 arrest by Turkish Cypriot authorities, when, while leading a women’s protest, he entered the Church of St. Kassianos, which is located in the occupied territories.

- Athanasios, Bishop of Limassol. Leaflets and articles in the bishopric’s journal highlight the “spirituality” of Athanasios but also his activist and energetic role in strengthening the status of lower clergy. The Bishop has been on the forefront of consecrating young priests with higher education credentials, supporting efforts to create a rehabilitation center, contributing to the creation of an unemployment center and a family support center, supporting conferences on divorce rates, etc.

- Nikiforos, Bishop of Kykkou. By most accounts, Nikiforos remains the most popular bishop among the Cypriot public (see the June 2006 report). However, because the electoral system is based on the election of representatives both from the laity and the priesthood, it is not possible to predict the election’s final outcome. Leaflets circulating on his behalf stress the wide appeal of Nikiforos as someone who transcends provincialism and who is capable of providing leadership that encompasses the vast majority of the Orthodox population. His activities are voluminous, inclusive of his multifaceted support toward efforts to build good community relationships with the Turkish Cypriot community, his long standing charity work, etc.

According to journalists´ reports, of the above mentioned hierarchs, the bishops of Kykkou and Limessol appear to be willing to stay in the race until the Sept. 24th elections.

  • May 17th 2006 : Elections for the Archbishopric of the Church of Cyprus

An expanded Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus was held under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Synod decided to vacate the throne of the Archbishopric of the Church of Cyprus, due to the chronic illness of Archbishop Chrysostomos.This decision was the culmination of several years of internal discussions within the Church of Cyprus´ hierarchy about when, how, and under what circumstances the throne ought to be vacated. According to the Constitution of the Church of Cyprus, following the vacation of the throne, it is necessary to proceed with elections for a new Archbishop.

Unlike several other Eastern Orthodox Churches, in the Church of Cyprus, both the local bishops and the Archbishop (who acts as the head of the Church and presider of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus) are elected from the laity. Elections for these positions are a regular feature of Cypriot ecclesiastical life.Following this decision, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus has initiated the necessary steps in order to organize the electorate that is set to elect the new Archbishop. The necessary encyclicals have already been circulated. Currently, the elections have been set to take place on September 24th 2006.

There are several contenders among the higher clergy of the Church of Cyprus. However, according to recent polls, the frontrunner is Nikoforos, Bishop of the Kykkos Monastery. The Kykkos Monastery is one of the most well known and prestigious monasteries in the island but also throughout Eastern Orthodoxy. The Monastery enjoys extensive property holdings and is party to several entrepreneurial activities, all of which contribute to its ability to conduct charity work, to collect and display Cypriot artwork from the Byzantine times, and to have its own Cultural Foundation.

For further information, see :
- A brief overview of the history of these elections in 20th century Cyprus : Archbishopric Elections in Cyprus : A Historical Overview of the 20th Century , Nicosia : Power Publ., 2005 (in Greek).
- The Church of Cyprus´ official website (in Greek).
- A presentation of the Kykkos Monastery (in Greek).

D 20 décembre 2006   

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