Why Archbishop Chrysostomos recognized Dumenko

Archbishop Chrysostomos recognized Sergei (Epiphany) Dumenko. Photo: UOJ

Not long ago, Archbishop Chrysostomos declared his neutrality to OCU, now he's changed his stance. Why did he do this and will the Church of Cyprus agree with him?

On October 24, 2020, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, commemorating the Primates of Local Orthodox Churches during the liturgy at the Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery (Paphos region), mentioned the name of the head of the OCU Sergei (Epiphany) Dumenko. This fact caused not only bewilderment among the episcopate present at the liturgy but also a strong discontent among certain members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus. In particular, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol left the Liturgy before it was over.

After the service, Archbishop Chrysostomos explained his act by the fact that "he had to take some position" on the issue of recognizing the OCU, and also by the fact that his decision "would serve Orthodoxy". However, in both cases, the words of the Primate of the Church of Cyprus look very controversial. Moreover, the views of the archbishop on the issue of recognizing the schismatics of the OCU were directly opposite a year and a half ago. Let's follow the evolution of the views of the Primate of Cyprus.

Position 1

The fact is that Archbishop Chrysostomos has repeatedly expressed his position regarding the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukraine. For example, in December 2019, at a meeting with Metropolitan Sergius of Ternopil and Kremenets, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus noted that Patriarch Bartholomew had made a mistake and world Orthodoxy was unlikely to recognize the OCU: “I took the initiative. I had communication with all the Primates. We wait and hope that the Patriarch of Constantinople will understand his mistake. The other Primates are unlikely to recognize Epiphany. Although there were attempts to put pressure on the Jerusalem Patriarch, he did not give in."

Much earlier, in 2017, in response to the information that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine intended to initiate the receipt of the Tomos of autocephaly for Ukrainian schismatics, Archbishop Chrysostomos wrote a letter addressed to the Primate of the Russian Church, in which he emphasized that “the actions of the parliament will lead to the creation of a schismatic church, and the fathers view the schism as the deepest wound on the sacred body of the Church. The Rada creates a schismatic church in Ukraine ... Our Church prays to the Creator of the Church – our Lord Jesus Christ so that He enlightens the political leaders of Ukraine, and they persuade the schismatics to return to the Church you lead”.

A little later, Archbishop Chrysostomos spoke out against the interference of Ukrainian politicians in the affairs of the Church, since, in his opinion, "whenever the state and especially the parliament interfere in the affairs of the Church, the harm is obvious".

“Whenever the state and especially the parliament interfere in the affairs of the Church, the harm is obvious.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus

On May 22, 2019, during an interview with Emilios Polygenis, Editor-in-chief of “Romfea.News”, the head of the Church of Cyprus stated that “a one-sided decision will not be beneficial, and the result would be what I have been afraid of. I could also make a decision in favour of one or the other, but I find it wrong. That’s why we did not do such a thing". He also noted that after the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly in Ukraine, rightly none of the Primates took a position either in favour of the Ecumenical Patriarch or in favour of the Patriarch of Moscow, for “we would definitely have a schism, with mathematical precision”. Archbishop Chrysostom repeatedly stressed that the Cypriot Church would adhere to neutrality in relation to Ukraine and that was, in his view, the only way to solve the problem of the OCU.

Moreover, he went further and initiated a number of meetings with Primates of other Local Churches on the "Ukrainian issue". So, in April 2019, a meeting of the Primates of the Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Cyprus Churches was held in Cyprus. In May of the same year, Archbishop Chrysostomos met with the Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria, and the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Jerome. The head of the Phanar did not like such activism of the Primate of the Church of Cyprus, who decided to take a position of neutrality on the OCU issue.

“We tried and even began to visit several Local Churches, but then we realized that the Ecumenical Patriarch did not want this ... As the Church of Cyprus, we do not claim to recognize (the OCU – Ed.), but we also do not say that we will not do that. We maintain neutral relations and want to have good relations with everyone,” said Archbishop Chrysostom and assured that he would not change his stance.

It was said on October 10, 2019.

Position 2

But, unfortunately, very soon the position of Archbishop Chrysostomos underwent significant changes in favour of recognizing the OCU. Moreover, these changes are so contrary to the previous statements of the Primate of the Church of Cyprus that they simply cannot but shock.

So, in December 2019, in response to the breakup of the Eucharistic communion of the ROC with the Churches of Greece and Alexandria, he declared that both Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill are egoists who need help. However, already on March 6, 2020 (literally a few months later), Archbishop Chrysostomos for the first time said that it was “no problem” for him to recognize Dumenko: “The problem of Orthodoxy for me personally, and I believe for His Holiness, is not whether I will recognize the Primate of the Ukrainian Church. To me that says nothing. I could recognize him yesterday, and today and tomorrow. There is no problem for me."

In this regard, we recall his own words said in May 2019 – the recognition of Dumenko will lead to a schism in the Church with "mathematical precision". It turns out that speaking of “no problem” concerning the Tomos of the OCU, Archbishop Chrysostomos was preparing to split the Church with “mathematical precision”?

The head of the Church of Cyprus on the Ukrainian issue: "I do not change my position."

On March 10, Archbishop Chrysostomos took part in the work of the Holy Synod of the Phanar and expressed his full support for the Patriarchate of Constantinople (although he had previously spoken of neutrality). At the same time, he admitted that Constantinople had the right to grant autocephaly to those whom it wishes and said that this corresponds to the Orthodox tradition.

Eventually, on October 24, the head of the Church of Cyprus, in fact, changed his position, recognizing Dumenko.

However, the next day a message appeared on the website of the Church of Cyprus that Archbishop Chrysostom had been ready to recognize the OCU two months before he did it. Here are his words: “Yesterday afternoon (Friday, 23.10.2020) I sent a letter. Although I had it ready for two months. Then I did not send it then. If he (Patriarch Bartholomew – Ed.) does not publish it today or tomorrow, I will publish it, because I want the Cypriot people and all the Prelates to know my views on Orthodoxy." Why then did he not send this letter?

The answer to this question is given to us by Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos: “On September 9, the issue (of the OCU – Ed.) was raised again, and the Archbishop informed the Holy Synod that he would publish a letter recognizing Epiphany. However, having contacted the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, he decided not to publish the document".

That is, the reason for the refusal to recognize the OCU in late August or early September was not church motives but exclusively political ones. But what about the words of Chrysostomos that “whenever the state and especially the parliament interfere in the affairs of the Church, the harm is obvious”? Moreover, in 2008 he literally said the following: “when political power interferes in church affairs, it often destroys rather than creates because there are few politicians in the modern world who reconcile their lives with moral spiritual values. <…> We are very sad about this situation. We do not agree with such actions. Sacred canons must come first in the Church and must be strictly observed. We are called to create rather than destroy unity."

“When political power interferes in church affairs, it often destroys…”

Archbishop Chrysostomos, 2008

That is, after 12 years, the archbishop completely changed his views on the fact that canons, and not political interests, should come first? Regretfully, yes.

How politics became more important than canons

What is this conclusion based on? On a whole chain of events, each of which explains why the obvious canonical crime of the Primate of the Cyprus Church took place.

So, on September 11 it became known that Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a trip to Cyprus, during which they planned to meet with the President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulidis. Pompeo held his meetings, but Patriarch Theodore did not do everything the way he wanted. While in Cyprus, the head of the Alexandrian Patriarchate was not invited to celebrate the Liturgy in any of the country's churches. The reason is obvious – his support for the OCU.

The fact is that a year earlier, in November 2019, at the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the 1400th anniversary of the Assumption of Saint John the Merciful, taking place in Cyprus, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa, commemorated the head of the OCU "Metropolitan" Epiphany, which caused serious discontent of the Cypriots and provoked a real scandal. Therefore, the head of the Church of Alexandria already in 2020 had to significantly revise his programme of stay in Cyprus since he was required to respect the position of the Church of Cyprus and either not commemorate Dumenko or not serve in Cyprus. Theodore chose the latter.

Moreover, among the tasks that faced him during his stay on the island were meetings with active opponents of the recognition of the OCU – Metropolitans Isaiah of Tamassos and Metropolitan Nektarios of Kition. However, this plan could not be implemented either since both hierarchs of the Cyprus Church were self-isolated due to the coronavirus. However, he did meet with someone, because, according to blogger Alexander Voznesensky, who knows the situation from the inside, if “at the beginning of 2019, out of 17 hierarchs, only 2-3 supported Bartholomew in legalizing the schism, then until recently the difference has been 2 votes (8 – against the schism, 6 – for and one retired). Now (October 24 – Ed.) Chrysostomos, specially before the commemoration of Epiphany, ordained hegumen Panсratios to the place of the retired, knowing that he would support him in the Ukrainian question. That is, the situation looked like a fragile majority against the schism but with a difference of one vote." According to Voznesensky, this state of affairs should be directly related to the visit of Pompeo and Patriarch Theodore to Cyprus. Well, given the direct participation in the creation of the OCU and the constant support that the State Department provides both to this structure and to the Phanar, there is nothing surprising in this.

The supporters of the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics managed, unfortunately, to affect the seemingly unshakable position of Archbishop Chrysostomos on the schism.

In addition, according to Voznesensky, Archbishop Chrysostomos was put under pressure in the form of blackmail: “To convince Chrysostom, the pro-American media threw out dirt against Chrysostom, which was an old story but had a major resonance. The point is that Chrysostom helped a swindler from Malaysia get a Cypriot passport in exchange for 5 million investments, and this despite the fact that this swindler was on the wanted list, and the archbishop essentially helped bypass government checks."

In other words, the supporters of the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics managed, unfortunately, to affect the seemingly unshakable position of Archbishop Chrysostom on the schism. And this proved once again: if a priest puts personal interests above the interests of the Church, then sooner or later there will be someone who will manipulate him at their own discretion.

Does the Synod of the Cyprus Church recognize the OCU?

Archbishop Chrysostomos made a decision to recognize the OCU to the detriment of Orthodoxy and contrary to the position of the Synod of the Church of Cyprus – such a statement was made by the most influential and authoritative members of the Synod – Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tellyria, Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, Bishop Nicholas of Amathountos. The four bishops appealed to the Primate of the Church of Cyprus with a demand to immediately revoke the recognition of the OCU. They reminded Archbishop Chrysostomos that a Synodal decision was made on this issue back in 2019. According to this document, the Church of Cyprus declared that the ordinations of the OCU were not canonical and questioned the possibility of legalizing them "retroactively". They also recalled that the Tomos of the OCU was granted with the aim of achieving religious peace in Ukraine, which never happened. This means that Patriarch Bartholomew must convene either the Pan-Orthodox Council or the Council of Primates to discuss the "Ukrainian problem".

In addition to what was said earlier, the metropolitans of the Cypriot Church stressed that they consider Ukraine the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, which means that the head of the Phanar should not take any action in this country without the consent of the Patriarch of Moscow. Moreover, according to the hierarchs of Cyprus, the bestowal of autocephaly can be carried out by the Patriarchate of Constantinople only with the consent of all Local Churches.

Later, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol said that on September 9, 2020, Archbishop Chrysostomos promised the members of the Holy Synod that he would not take unilateral decisions regarding the OCU. According to Vladyka Athanasios, such disregard for the Synod actually means the abolition of the synodal structure of the Church.

In the opinion of Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos, the actions of Archbishop Chrysostomos regarding the recognition of Dumenko are not only a flagrant violation of the canons but also put the Cyprus Church on the verge of schism. Metropolitan Nikiforos stressed that Epiphanius is a schismatic, the OCU is a “schismatic group” and the one who will serve with Dumenko also becomes non-communicant.

“Epiphanius is a schismatic, the OCU is a “schismatic group” and the one who will serve with Dumenko also becomes non-communicant.”

Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos

At the same time, some supporters and representatives of the OCU argue that “only” 4 out of 17 members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus opposed the recognition of Dumenko. However, it should be noted that the opponents of the Ukrainian schism are not just Synod members but also some of the most authoritative bishops of the Cypriot Church. Therefore, their voices are extremely important. In addition, several more bishops may join the opponents of the OCU at the next Synod, and, in case of numerical superiority, the idea of Archbishop Chrysostomos will fail.

Moreover, the situation at the moment is developing in such a way that the next meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus may raise the question not so much about the recognition of the OCU as about the violation by Archbishop Chrysostom of the rules of the Church and Her synodal structure.

For example, Metropolitan Athanasios stressed that “our disagreement is not only on the substance of the issue” and “whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate did good or bad (recognizing the OCU – Ed.) is another matter”. That is, according to Vladyka, the Synod will consider first and foremost the actions of its primate.

To this, Metropolitan Nikiforos made it clear: "We will not convene the Synod to ratify an illegal act of the Primate of our Church ... The Holy Synod should not ratify the Primate's arbitrariness but make decisions in advance, and these decisions should be applied by the Archbishop."

"We will not convene the Synod to ratify an illegal act of the Primate of our Church ... The Holy Synod should not ratify the Primate's arbitrariness but make decisions in advance, and these decisions should be applied by the Archbishop."

Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos

What does this mean? If the Synod is convened, the question of deposing Archbishop Chrysostomos may be raised. Moreover, those who generally do not oppose the Tomos of the OCU may also be supporters of such radical measures. In particular, Metropolitan Nikiforos said that the rest of the Synod members "cannot accept tacitly the violation of sacred rules, the Holy Charter, violation of the church practice of succession."

Already now we can safely say that by his anti-canonical and anti-church act, Archbishop Chrysostomos actually provoked a schism within the Church of Cyprus.

Yes, the Holy Synod can still make a decision in favour of the OCU. Yes, most of the synodals will probably obey this decision. But there will certainly be those who will oppose. And no matter how the situation develops in the future, we can already say that the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos to commemorate Sergei (Epiphany) Dumenko during the liturgy did not serve either the Church of Cyprus or the world Orthodoxy as a whole, and with "mathematical precision" will lead to an even greater schism.

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