Tamassos, Cyprus, February 22, 2021
While there are attempts to weaponize the Church of Cyprus for geopolitical interests, these attempts have never come from the Russian Church, says His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos.
But he and several of his brother bishops had to obey their consciences and publicly speak out against the way their primate, Archbishop Chrysostomos, played along with the politicization of the Church and created a tense situation within the Holy Synod.
His Eminence, who has consistently stood with the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine and with those hierarchs who defend them, addressed these and other matters in a new interview published on Romfea today.
The geopolitical tension between the East and West is on the rise and acutely felt in Cyprus. And while attempts to instrumentalize the Cypriot Church have been felt for some time, concerns that the Russian Church is trying to control the Cypriot Church are a fabrication, “deliberately implanted and patiently cultivated by various decision-making bodies through their organs” and supported by all modern means of propaganda, Met. Isaiah says in his new interview.
“In fact, there has never been any move by the Russian Church to interfere in our internal affairs,” he emphasizes.
On the other hand, Met. Isaiah spoke in an interview earlier this month about the geopolitical weaponization of the Patriarchate of Constantinople against the Russian Church.
Russians used to be welcomed in Cyprus, but now everything having to do with them is demonized, and this obviously affects those who have ecclesiastical relations with them. Ultimately, “Orthodox dogma is being victimized,” His Eminence believes.
The demonization of all things Russian is also manifested in accusations of a Russian fifth column in the Cypriot Holy Synod. However, Met. Isaiah and his brother bishops are not interested in playing the Archbishop’s game and trying to prove their Hellenic and Cypriot credentials. It’s more important to fight against the oppression of the Cypriot church, injustice, religious racism, and ethnophyletism whatever the cost, for the unity of Orthodoxy, he stresses.
Rumors of a Russian fifth column are nothing more than “intimidation and blackmail” to try to force the Holy Synod to outright recognize the Ukrainian schismatics. In November, the Holy Synod voted by a slim majority “not to oppose” the Archbishop’s decision to commemorate the schismatic Epiphany Dumenko but not did not explicitly recognize the schismatics.
Asked why he, together with Metropolitans Athanasios of Limassol and Nikiforos of Kykkos and Bishop Nicholas of Amathountos spoke out publicly against the Archbishop after he unilaterally decided to enter into communion with the Ukrainian schismatics rather than to raise their concerns at a meeting of the Holy Synod, Met. Isaiah notes that the Archbishop acted publicly and outside of the Holy Synod, and they responded in kind, in accordance with their consciences.
Of course, it would be easier for those who seek to manipulate the Cypriot Church if they would remain silent, but “The truth must be told and confessed, no matter how bitter.”
Asked how he felt when Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople criticized him and his brother bishops so strongly, the hierarch of Tamassos says he was pained at how the Patriarch was lured into this, noting that he has always had good relations with him.
But, “When you love someone, you tell them the truth. If you reconcile your conscience with something you consider illegal and unjust, to please your dissenting brother, then your love is selfish and not real,” Met. Isaiah underlines.
There are many Russians in Met. Isaiah’s metropolis, for whom a Russian-style church was built, and sometimes Russian-style vestments are used, which has brought him no small amount of criticism lately. However, “The demonization of art for geopolitical purposes is something racist-fascist, something reminiscent of the Nazi attitude against Jewish culture and McCarthyism in the United States,” His Eminence believes.
Asked about the atmosphere in the Holy Synod, Met. Isaiah confesses that it can be quite tense sometimes, as trust between the bishops has been greatly shaken. When it comes time to choose a new primate, the Metropolitan will support whoever can reunite the Synod and make the necessary changes.
He earlier spoke about how Abp. Chrysostomos intentionally manipulates the bishops to turn them against one another.
Finally, the Metropolitan describes the priorities in his metropolis: “The goal is to make Christ the center of man’s daily life, to offer him various choices for his path to Jesus, and not to create impasses for him.”
“I wish, through my diocese, to highlight the real goals of the Church, which is the spiritual and social support of our people and not businesses. Economic activity should not dominate the life of a hierarch to the detriment of his pastoral ministry,” Met. Isaiah concludes.
Recall that the Archbishop is at the center of a scandal involving his acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Malaysian fugitive in 2015 in exchange for helping the criminal receive Cypriot citizenship.