Cyprus’ Archbishop announced over the weekend that he would send unvaccinated priests home on a mandatory leave of absence, saying they could face even tougher measures if they fail to obey their chief bishop.
Archbishop Chrystostomos said on Sunday that 27 of 123 priests in the archdiocese remained unvaccinated, adding 15 of them did not get jabbed for medical reasons.
But according to state broadcaster RIK News, the head of Cyprus’ Greek Orthodox Church said a dozen priests still refused to heed his call to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Chrysostomos said the suspensions start Tuesday for three months and could be extended without ruling out the possibility the priests could defrocked
Chrystostomos, who has backed the government on its campaign to vaccinate everyone against the coronavirus, said it was unprecedented to have priests and even theologians to disobey their chief bishop.
He also went on to suggest that the suspensions, which start Tuesday for three months, could be extended to six months without ruling out the possibility they could defrocked.
Chrysostomos went on to argue that some priests were not taking him seriously due to his frail health, suggesting they were ulterior motives in their move to remain unvaccinated.
Vaccination remains optional in the Republic of Cyprus but the government has taken steps to push people into getting jabbed, citing fears of further spread of the bug.
But Chrysostomos says the dozen priests were being sent home in order to keep them from exerting influence over church members.
The head of AKEL left party Stefanos Stefanou was asked on state radio Monday morning whether he had a comment on the archbishop’s decision.
“Our position is clear on the separation of church and state,” Stefanou said, adding that he did not wish to make a comment.
“But our stance is in favor of vaccinations but they shouldn’t be mandatory,” Stefanou added.