Morphou, Cyprus, December 14, 2020
His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou explained in his Sunday sermon why he is unwilling to close the churches in his Metropolis despite the latest order from the state that all churches throughout the country be closed.
“The law of God is above the law of the state,” he said. According to the latest order, all Church services are to be held without any of the faithful until December 31.
Met. Neophytos announced to his flock last week: “In the metropolitan area of Morphou, we inform, as the local Metropolitan, that our holy churches will continue their operation and will not be closed in any way.” The police announced that for the time being, the Metropolitan does not seem to have broken the law with his encyclical.
“There is the law of the state that says that services should be held but without believers. I am breaking the law because I take on your responsibility. I said it, I wrote it and I repeat it. Why am I doing this? Not for bravado and pseudo-heroism, as one of our respected people said” the Metropolitan said in his homily on Sunday, referring to Archbishop Chrysostomos, the primate of the Cypriot Church.
The Archbishop said over the weekend that the Church is not above the state and he expects all hierarchs to obey the government’s order until the Holy Synod is able to formulate an official response. The Holy Synod will meet tomorrow to discuss the matter.
However, “We are doing this because above the law of the state there is the law of the Holy Gospel,” Met. Neophytos emphasized.
“The Gospel, that is, the law of God, is above the law of the state and all throughout these months, I have felt that there is a conflict of duties within me. The law of the state must be observed by the bishop and apply it, but when the law of the Holy Gospel says something else, which should the bishop and you Orthodox believers apply?” the Cypriot hierarch asked.
“And if you have any right, any excuse, the bishop does not. That is why I proposed to apply the law of the Gospel which says: Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. This is what Christ says. So I apply the law of Christ, Who is my boss. That is why I said I take the responsibility for all of you who follow this law of the Holy Gospel,” His Eminence explained.
Other Cypriot hierarchs have also spoken out against the new measures, although they have not taken the same stance as the Metropolitan of Morphou.
His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos addressed a letter to President Anastasiadis in response to the new measures, calling on him to hear the cry of agony of the people and to respect the sacred traditions of the Church. Metropolitan George of Paphos called on the government to reconsider these new excessive measures, noting that the people are faithful and want to go to church during the holidays.
His Eminence Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos has described the new measures as “a great shock” and “very extreme and unnecessary.” Only those who fight against Christ and the Church can rejoice in the closing of the churches, he said, adding that he will propose at tomorrow’s Synod meeting that the Church petition to have the churches open at least on Sundays and the feast of the Nativity.
For his part, His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol said that the Holy Synod will try to achieve the best outcome—that the faithful not be deprived of the services and the ability to receive Holy Communion during the holy days of the feast of the Nativity.