Russians in Cyprus will not be part of the Orthodox plebiscite during a highly contested archbishopric election next month, following a decision by a Holy Synod quorum on Monday that ruled there was no time for foreigners to register to vote.
During a crucial meeting on Monday, the Holy Synod decided that an archbishopric election scheduled for next month was to take place based on voting rosters provided by the State without the addition of foreign-born members of the Church, citing “lack of time” ahead of voting on December 18.
The decision appeared to be a U-turn after previous reports suggested foreign-born Orthodox believers living in Cyprus for at least one year were eligible to register to vote, including Russian and foreign nationals from eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Media pundits described the large demographic group as a big unknown, with contenders for the throne having to navigate a deeply divided society where influences from East and West were hanging in the balance.
Foreign Orthodox believers in Cyprus are a big unknown, with contenders for the throne having to navigate a deeply divided society where influences from East and West are hanging in the balance
But not all Holy Synod members were present at Monday’s crucial meeting on housekeeping issues for the election, which is to be held a day after a memorial service for the late Archbishop Chrysostomos who passed away in early November.
Tamasos metropolitan bishop Isaiah, a top contender who had fallen out of favor with Chrysostomos, was visiting Istanbul on Monday after he was invited by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who favors a pro-western primate in Cyprus.
Isaiah, who is said to be popular among Russians in Cyprus including many who live in Limassol, did not have a representative at the meeting to vote on his behalf.
Church officials said only one vote was against the Holy Synod decision, with local media saying members did not believe there was enough time for people to register.
The voting of a new archbishop has been on and off a topic of discussion, since the possibility of scrapping open elections was tossed around in late 2021.
Direct voting by the people is a church tradition that has been running for decades in Cyprus.
But a hybrid method was recently found with voters choosing the top three, out of whom the winner will be selected by the Holy Synod, either by majority or, in case of a tie between the top two, a coin toss.
Cypriot citizen voters who do not wish to have their names included on the Orthodox roster next month must notify the Church by Tuesday 12 noon by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.