Moscow plays off Cypriot hierarchs against the OCU

24 September, 09:11
Moscow plays off Cypriot hierarchs against the OCU - фото 1
Opposing further recognition of the OCU by universal Orthodoxy, the Russian Orthodox church actively plays off its supporters among the hierarchs of the Church of Cyprus and even talks about the schism in it.

This is reported by Religiyna Pravda.

Thus, a conference of the Russian Orthodox church has been recently held in Moscow, during which two hierarchs of the Church of Cyprus made their statements – Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamasos and Metropolitan Nikephoros of Kykkos.

The former scolded the “Euro-American policy” that Cyprus is guided by, while the latter openly criticized Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and his alleged “ambitions” and supported the Moscow Patriarchate, which severed Eucharistic ties with churches that recognized the OCU.

In addition, Metropolitan Nikephoros published a book dedicated to the “church schism in Ukraine”, which is now actively promoted by the Russian Orthodox Church.

A little earlier, Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol criticized the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine on pro-Russian channels.

In the summer of 2021, six Cypriot synod members allegedly refused to take part in the Conciliar service appointed by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus due to disagreement with the recognition of the OCU. These were: Metropolitans Athanasius of Limassol, a neophyte of Morphia, Nikephoros of Kykkos, Isaiah of Tamasos, as well as bishops Nicholas of Amafunt and Epiphanius of Ledera.

In parallel with these statements and actions, resources favorable to the MP constantly say that there is allegedly a “split” in the Church of Cyprus because of the OCU. The last time that such a headline appeared was on September 22 in a video about the consecration of a new Church of the UOC-MP in Volyn, which was attended by Archimandrite Nektarois Bakopoulos, Secretary of the “rebellious” Diocese of Tamasos of the Church of Cyprus. Of course, he is not a hierarch, however, even such a person will do – the UOC-MP might have thought.

According to religious scholar Dmytro Horyevoy, it is somewhat premature to talk about schisms. In fact, it's all about definitions, especially as regards what exactly can be considered a split.

“As long as they do not create a parallel hierarchy, do not choose a Primate, this is not a formal split. This is a rather serious sign when hierarchs refuse to concelebrate with their first hierarch, informally this can be considered a schism. However, the question arises: Is this really happening through the OCU, or does the Church of Cyprus have its own internal conflict? It seems to me that the issue is not so much in the OCU, but in the fact that they have an internal conflict. And the OCU is simply used as a screen,” the expert noted.

He noted that many factors are intertwined in the situation with the support of the Cypriot Metropolitans of the Russian Orthodox Church. And one of them is money.

“The Moscow Patriarchate is actively cooperating with Cyprus, and many pilgrims go there. This is organized through various channels, one of which is the “Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society”, which is led by Sergei Stepashin. Of course, pilgrims bring profit to the Archdiocese. On the territory of the diocesan administration of the Diocese of Tamasos, they even built a church in a purely Russian style with bulbous domes at the expense of Russian businessman Zarinkov, that completely break out of the local Mediterranean landscape,” the religious scholar said.

He also noted the poor state of health of the current head of the Church of Cyprus, Chrysostomos, who has cancer and in May 2021 underwent another operation.

"Frankly speaking, everyone understands that after a while the position of head of the Church of Cyprus will be vacant, so there is a certain game of different clans and forces. I think that this part of the hierarchs, who are guided by Moscow, probably want to beat something out of those upcoming elections,” Horyevoy said.

He explained that the Cypriot Metropolitans can bargain with Moscow for some support in exchange for further fulfillment of its whims. "Pre-election trade-in is underway, as far as I understand. And I think that they can go not only with the Russians but also with the Phanar,” the expert added.

Another factor that may influence Moscow's active cooperation with the Cypriot Metropolitans is the policy of the Cypriot authorities, which is now focused on limiting the influence of Russian shadow capital. The Russians, in turn, are trying to maintain their influence, including with the help of the Church.