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Cyprus’ Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II dies at 81

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the outspoken chief of Cyprus’ Greek Orthodox Christian Church whose forays into the nation’s complicated politics and funds fired up supporters and detractors alike, died Monday. He was 81.

Chrysostomos had suffered from liver most cancers for the final 4 years and had spent his remaining days on the church’s headquarters within the capital.

A bulletin issued by a workforce of docs stated the archbishop “passed peacefully after facing the trial of his ailment with courage, patience and Christian endurance” at 6:40 a.m. Monday.

“All those were close to him during the difficult hours of his ailment experienced his humility, kindness and deep faith as well as his concern for his flock,” the bulletin stated. It added that the archbishop left behind a legacy marked by his “vision, daring, respect for and restoration of the church’s historic tradition as well as innovative changes that always aimed for the unity of the church.”

“What we will always follow us is his directness, kindness, politeness and his smile,” the bulletin stated.

The CyBC stated the Holy Synod – the church’s highest decision-making physique – will convene to make preparations for the funeral to which different Orthodox Church leaders can be invited.

Tall and imposing with a white beard in accordance with Orthodox clerical custom, Chrysostomos seldom held again from talking his thoughts on points starting from politics to the nation’s funds, rallying supporters however inflicting consternation amongst some politicians and different critics who scolded him for not sticking to his spiritual duties.

Previous to the island nation’s multibillion-euro monetary rescue by worldwide collectors in March 2013, Chrysostomos declared he would have most popular that the cash-strapped nation abandon the euro as its forex somewhat than settle for a bailout deal that he stated would set its financial system again many years. He stated a euro exit would not less than salvage Cyprus’ dignity.

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After the deal was signed, forcing massive depositors within the nation’s two largest banks to take a success on their financial savings, an indignant Chrysostomos stated: “This isn’t the Europe that we believed in when we joined.”

The archbishop additionally didn’t chorus from making his feedback private. He as soon as informed communist-rooted former President Dimitris Christofias to have interaction in some self-reflection after having been handed a “prosperous, happy nation and leaving it with some people going hungry.”

The cleric railed in opposition to politicians and bankers he known as “thieves” who ran for canopy whereas “poor people paid the piper” for his or her ruinous choices. He additionally warned that he wouldn’t hesitate to name on the individuals to stand up in an effort to forestall technocrats from “wreaking havoc” on the nation’s banking sector.

His feedback in regards to the world of finance prompted some critics to say he was behaving extra like a businessman and banker than a religious chief.

Though Chrysostomos had previously brazenly courted Russian buyers and the Kremlin’s political help, relations with the Russian Orthodox Church frayed when he adopted in 2020 the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s determination to acknowledge the brand new Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence.

His forays into the area’s battle zones included a go to to war-torn Syria in 2016 to supply help to that nation’s Orthodox trustworthy. In the course of the coronavirus pandemic, he threw his full help behind scientists’ suggestions for inoculations and different restrictions geared toward stopping the virus’ unfold.

His ascension to the throne in 2006, after his predecessor and namesake may not perform his duties due to poor well being, mirrored his political adroitness.

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Church leaders in Cyprus are elected by lay voters together with a school of clerics, a practice that goes again centuries. Hardly the individuals’s favourite and trailing the 2 frontrunners within the lay vote, Chrysostomos outmaneuvered his rivals by clinching majority help throughout the school to win.

Chrysostomos was at all times open about his right-wing politics and was not afraid to make use of his affect to steer the Holy Synod to bend to his will, even earlier than he turned a pacesetter.

Chrysostomos had spoken brazenly about his mistrust of Turkey’s intentions in Cyprus. In a 2018 interview, he stated he by no means believed {that a} peace deal to reunify the ethnically divided island nation was attainable as a result of Turkey wished to ascertain a Turkish state within the nation.

Cyprus was break up in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an impartial state within the north of the Mediterranean island, acknowledged solely by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there.

Chrysostomos campaigned in 2004 for the church to take a stand in opposition to what was believed to be an unfair U.N.-drafted peace plan that the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots subsequently voted down in a referendum.

Addressing Pope Benedict XVI in the course of the pontiff’s 2010 go to to the island, Chrysostomos accused Turkey of making an attempt to hold out “its obscure plans which include the annexation of the land now under military occupation and then a conquest of the whole of Cyprus.”

Chrysostomos additionally stated Turks “ruthlessly sacked” Christian artworks, claiming they had been in search of to make Greek and Christian tradition disappear from northern Cyprus. Simply as he urged former Pope Benedict, the archbishop additionally appealed to Pope Francis in the course of the pontiff’s 2021 go to to Cyprus for assist to make sure the safety of the sacred Christian monuments.

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Regardless of his politics, the archbishop labored carefully with the Muslim mufti, the spiritual chief of the Turkish Cypriots, in addition to different Christian leaders to rebuild spiritual websites to ship the message that religion is an anchor somewhat than a hindrance to peace.

The church’s weighty affect in Cyprus dates again to the Center Ages, when the island’s Ottoman rulers had acknowledged it as the only consultant physique of the Greek Orthodox Christian inhabitants. That continued proper as much as 1960, when Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule with the election of then-Archbishop Makarios because the nation’s first president.

Born on April 10, 1941, Chrysostomos’ spiritual calling got here early when he joined Cyprus’ well-known monastery of Saint Neophytos as a lay-brother proper after finishing main college. He steadily rose by the church’s ranks till 1978, when he was enthroned bishop of his native prefecture of Paphos.

As archbishop, Chrysostomos shored up church funds and enacted a string of reforms, includng restoring the church’s decision-making independence by bolstering the Holy Synod with the ordination of recent bishops and the drafting of a brand new structure.

Chrysostomos additionally opened a church workplace on the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels and was a robust supporter of nearer relations between the Orthodox and Catholic church buildings.

“I want to do real work, not just for show. I came and I’ll eventually be gone, so I want to leave something behind for this country, that’s what matters,” Chrysostomos informed state broadcaster CyBC in 2022

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