Nicosia, November 26, 2020
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus voted 10-7 yesterday “not to oppose” the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
Hierarchical statements following the session show that the hierarchs themselves are not clear on what this vote means for the Church of Cyprus as a whole. His Eminence Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos said that the hierarchs voted on whether to recognize the OCU and its primate Epiphany Dumenko. However, he also commented that as the Ukrainian question is a matter of faith, not a mere administrative matter, the vote is not binding.
He and the other hierarchs that have spoken against recognition of the OCU have repeatedly emphasized that they are acting according to their hierarchical conscience, as did St. Mark of Ephesus at the Council of Florence, whom Met. Nikiforos referenced. Conversely, Metropolitan George of Paphos, one of the Archbishop’s biggest supporters on the Ukrainian question, said the vote is indeed binding, though it is still unclear if they voted to recognize the OCU or simply to not oppose the Archbishop’s personal decision, given the soft language of the official communique.
And in an article published by the Greek outlet Philenews today, one of the members of the Cypriot Synod reveals that the hierarchs petitioned to have a secret ballot, precisely so that they could vote freely, according to their conscience. However, this request was denied by the Archbishop.
The Synodal member, who was among the minority in yesterday’s vote, supports Met. Nikiforos’ contention that this is a matter of faith, and thus the hierarchs cannot be bound to violate this faith.
The hierarch also emphasized that it was not the person of the Archbishop but his act that was under question. However, if the Archbishop chooses to cooperate with schismatics, then it is up to each Synod member how to respond, the hierarch said. He also emphasized that there is no talk from any bishops about ceasing to commemorate Abp. Chrysostomos.
The hierarch also emphasized that yesterday’s vote could be considered, in a sense, fictitious, as whether due to temperament or the economic dependence of their dioceses, there were hierarchs who were not able to vote as they would have liked.
The Synod member also revealed that the issue of a secret ballot was raised so everyone could express themselves freely, but the Archbishop refused, telling the hierarchs to have courage in their convictions. Recall that Abp. Chrysostomos earlier confessed that he did not tell the other bishops about his decision to commemorate Epiphany Dumenko ahead of time because he knew they would not agree with him.
According to Philenews’ sources, yesterday’s session began calmly enough, when at some point His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou told Abp. Chrysostomos that he was the one who had to defend his decision and develop his position. The Archbishop reacted strongly, blaming the Synod for not supporting him enough in his mediatory efforts last year.