Cyprus’ newly elected Archbishop Georgios says he will adhere to the island’s church traditions but also promote religious inner-peace, adding all people of Cyprus are united against one enemy.
In comments made to local media after Christmas, Archbishop Georgios spoke against a recent trend in Cyprus where holy relics were being brought for pilgrims on a frequent basis.
Okay with holy relics but some overdo it
Georgios said he would be okay with pilgrims having an experience with holy relics on a rare occasion but called for moderation, saying "unfortunately some overdo it."
Georgios called on all Cypriots including Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Catholics, and Maronites to 'find ways to work and live together on the island' adding 'our enemy is occupation'
“Many times this is also done for financial reasons but we must pay special attention here because this is influence from foreign churches and we must preserve our tradition,” Georgios said.
The new archbishop, who was the only bona fide pro-western candidate in the top three candidates before a secret Holy Synod vote last week, said he wanted to focus on “religious inner-peace that targets the human soul.”
Georgios also spoke in favor of the church building college student dormitories.
In previous statements the then-bishop of Paphos said it was “unacceptable” for young people to rent apartments in the Turkish Cypriot north, following news that college students could not rent apartments in the Greek Cypriot south due to high costs.
Cyprus Problem & demographics
Georgios also said he would be focusing on the Cyprus Problem and demographic challenges on the island, pointing to his public support for large families.
The new archbishop also touched on controversial issues, saying he wanted the Holy Synod to address proselytization issues for young monks following recent complaints from families about their sons in monasteries.
Georgios also vowed to stay away from exerting any influence on the leadership of the education ministry, adding he was a supporter of the concept of separation of church and state.
The archbishop, who is seen largely as having similar views with his predecessor, the late Chrysostomos II, called on all Cypriots -including Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Catholics, and Maronites- to “find ways to work and live together on the island.”
“Our common enemy is occupation,” Georgios said, a reference to the division of island.
Big elephant in the room
But Georgios stayed away from offering any remarks about Ukraine, a big issue that took center stage earlier this year but went quiet after Chrysostomos on his deathbed called for truce amongst candidates.
Chrysostomos had sided with Kiev in a religious battle between East and West, echoing a decision by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul.
Georgios clarified in a state-radio interview on Tuesday that Cyprus’ ties with Fanari would be sisterly relations, adding the Patriarchate of Constantinople was not a Matrice to the independent Church of Cyprus but a Sister Church.
Georgios made no comments about Kiev but in the past he had expressed strong support in recognizing the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The issue of Ukraine has deeply divided the Orthodox Church in Cyprus, where a large Russian population was kept from voting for their top three bishops due to technical reasons.