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20 May, 2024
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Archbishopric hopefuls turn attention to foreign voters

Big unknown as next Archbishop of Cyprus could be decided by coin toss as island negotiates East and West


A growing number of reports on the archbishopric election in Cyprus, a high stakes political affair set to take place next month, suggest foreign voters are a big unknown as six contenders navigate a deeply divided society where influences from East and West are being renegotiated.

Six candidates have formally expressed interest in leading the Church of Cyprus following the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos earlier this month, with the war in Ukraine creeping back into Holy Synod backrooms after the late primate irked some members in 2020 when he sided with Kiev.

The Church has reportedly hired the State for assistance, as Orthodox believers will cast their ballot on December 18 to choose their candidate. The top three will later end up on a ticket out of which the winner will be selected by the Holy Synod, either by majority or, in case of a tie between the top two, a coin flip.

Political games were ratcheted up after it emerged that a large number of new foreign voters could bring surprises to the composition of the top three, one of whom could possibly win by a coin flip

Local media have been reporting on popular candidates and behind-the-scene analysis on the three likely to end up on the ticket, even before the passing of Chrysostomos, but political games were ratcheted up this week when it emerged that a large number of new voters could bring surprises and alter the composition of the three at the top.

Foreign Orthodox believers who reside in the Republic of Cyprus are eligible to vote under certain conditions, but their names have not yet been added to the election roster that automatically included Greek Cypriots.

Experts initially estimated that a process for people to get added to the list could go smoothly within the deadline unless too many voters express interest.

But as officials receive applications which are then having to be processed and forwarded to local parishes, it has emerged in local reports that candidates have been upping their campaign efforts to make sure their supporters get registered to vote.

The main focus is on untapped Russophone believers including Russians, Ukrainians, and other Slavic people, with media pundits saying it was still unknown how many of them will go to vote in an election that is often ignored by Greek Cypriots.

Some candidates favor close ties with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who recognized the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine in 2019, triggering a split with Moscow and severing its centuries-long ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which immediately cut ties with the Patriarchate.

Bartholomew attended Chrysostomos’ funeral after a special flight from Istanbul through Greek airspace to Larnaca’s old terminal had been arranged, with the unusual visit marking the first time in 400 years that a Patriarch of Constantinople set foot on the island.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who also attended the funeral, called on Chrysostomos’ successor to follow the late archbishop’s legacy and keep the Church of Cyprus on the same path with Bartholomew.

Other contenders favor a neutral stance or even mending ties with Moscow, with religion pundits speculating Russophone believers would either vote based on the Russia-Ukraine issue or on local parish allegiances.

As the Holy Synod could end up possibly flipping a coin to reveal the next archbishop in Cyprus, stakes remain high as campaigns kick into a high gear only a month away from Christmas.

Cyprus  |  Archbishop  |  election  |  Church  |  East  |  West  |  Ukraine  |  Russia  |  voters  |  Russophone  |  Holy Synod

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