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26 May, 2024
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''Same-sex childbearing not allowed,'' says Archbishop George

Archbishop George addresses criticisms in exclusive interview

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

Archbishop George of Cyprus clarifies the content of his Christmas message, which sparked political reactions. In his first interview of the new year with "K", the Primate of the Church does not escalate the conflict, but he does not change his stance either.

He opposes the strategy of making concessions to Turkey, believing that the occupying force's ultimate goal is to take over Cyprus. The Archbishop is also concerned about the issue of same-sex couples and their childbearing, and warns of protests if the government proceeds with legal regulation. Regarding Archimandrite Pagratios Meraklis, he believes that there were no mistakes in essence and that the whole issue is closed for the Holy Synod.

He announces his visit to the Vatican in 2024, while he strongly criticizes the Metropolitan of Paphos for his refusal to accept the Horn of the Apostle Paul from the Vatican in Cyprus, a refusal that he says exposes the Church of Cyprus. On the financial front, the situation remains bleak, with the Church standing on its feet after 2026.

How did you feel when your references to the Cyprus problem in your Christmas message caused discontent during the holidays?

  • What has been said is not true. I think if we all sit down and talk about it, we will agree with what I am saying. Because our own country is in danger. Perhaps we did not assess Turkey's intentions well and we trusted the nice words that it once uttered. I think this is something that has no basis in history or in Turkey's behavior. If we examine how Turkey has been scheming for Cyprus for years, then we should not shirk our responsibility and protect this place from Turkification. If, after a few years, the next generations accuse us of failing to protect our land, what will be our excuse?

However, you have been criticized that your views create division and are contrary to the spirit of the holidays.

  • Christmas has deeper messages, beyond the external decorations. And one of the deeper messages of Christmas is that Christ came to free us from the bondage of Satan and from any other bondage. Christ made us free, gave us the freedom that is his attribute, since he created us in his image and likeness. If, therefore, we mortgage this freedom to every invader, and if we do not do everything in our power to regain our freedom, then we offend God himself. We tarnish the image and likeness of our creation. The message of Christmas is to fight for freedom. We are not asking to conquer other peoples and deprive them of their rights, we are asking to have our own rights, we are asking for our own freedom. Everyone has the right to express themselves, let alone the Church, which has preserved the religious and national identity of this land in difficult times. We are worried about the outcome of this struggle and our path.

How do you evaluate the position of the president of the Republic on the Cyprus issue so far?

  • I think the president wants to show the rest of the world that we are willing to compromise and put the blame on Turkey for the lack of talks. But I don't think we have any more room for concessions to demonstrate our willingness. We have already made so many retreats, if we retreat further it means we cannot survive in the land of our ancestors. Both the president and the entire political leadership should see the problem in its real dimensions, evaluate, objectively, the aspirations of the occupying power and proceed with diplomatic actions that we have everywhere, to promote our positions and our aspirations around the world. The free world cannot say that human rights apply only to some and not to us. We must realize that this path of constant retreat leads nowhere. I do not attribute any bad intentions to the president or any party. They view the occupying power with some leniency. Turkey did not give us any reason to do so.

If Turkey persists on a two-state solution, the Greek Cypriot side will have to agree to resume talks?

  • Why resume talks if we reject this model? I know that this is not their ultimate goal either. It is a ploy to take over the whole of Cyprus. I do not believe that the government and the parties have shown this. 

Do you have a comment on the new UN envoy to Cyprus?

  • I have to say that she should remain faithful to the UN principles that she must serve by coming here. She should not be tempted or influenced by the powerful of the world, who may try to dictate their own interests to her. Great Britain in particular has started to act suspiciously again, as it has done throughout history. It wants to promote its own positions, to protect its own interests, and it does not care about the interests of the Cypriot people. My message is to stay faithful to the UN principles. 

In Greece, a big debate has started on same-sex couples and their adoption rights. How will you deal with this issue if the government proceeds with legislation?

  • The Church has no executive power to forbid. We will protest, we will call on our people, those who want to listen to us and follow the teachings of the Gospel, to stay away from these things because they are contrary to the Gospel. There can be no same-sex couples and marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman. The case of adoption by same-sex couples is also unacceptable because they will not have role models within such a couple, and they will be led to the same situation. The Church is always against this because it violates the Gospel principles.

The Church has had and expressed an opinion on education issues over time. Will you accept sex education to be included in the school curriculum?

  • But I think this has been going on for thirteen years. This year it just caused this uproar because it was given this name. There are the curricula, the books that the children were taught. As a Holy Synod we set some conditions and said that since there is the internet, where there are many irresponsible views by many, why shouldn't there be a responsible view by the Ministry of Education, by the teachers, to guide the children properly. I believe that parents should not trust some websites that do not have any responsibility and present things out of proportion and away from their true dimension. I think a responsible attitude from us will benefit them rather than harm them.

Is the issue of Archimandrite Pagratios Meraklis closed for you and the Holy Synod?

  • I think so because he himself, knowing the sacred rules and the situation, came, asked for what he wanted, what he could get, and he got them. He himself told us that he is content and does not pay attention to the noise that is made by others without his consent and against his will. 

Were there any mistakes in terms of hierarchy?

  • I don't think there were any actual mistakes. If some verbal errors were made in the approach, yes, but no actual errors were made in the handling of the matter. 

Ten years after the crisis of 2013, what is the state of the Church's finances?

  • I thought they would be better. The Church has enough debts, the archdiocese at least, because of the buildings that were made, the student residence in Limassol, the Nicosia Cathedral, which are with loans that have started to be paid off. There are enough loans, efforts are being made to repay them in the long term and to improve the work of the Church.

When do you think the Church's finances will return to normal?

Economists tell us that if there is no another economic crisis, we will be able to stand on our feet by 2026 at least. 

January 8th marks one year since your enthronement. What is your assessment? 

  • This year I saw all the problems of the Archdiocese and the Church of Cyprus and I think we made the planning that we had to do. It was a preparatory time and I think it went smoothly. We did not stop implementing the daily program of the Church. Our donations, our reports on the world's problems, our scholarships for studies, our transfers of patients abroad. We prepared the ground for the implementation of what we had announced.

Is there an issue that needs to be addressed urgently?

  • There are many problems. We have already started building student housing in Nicosia as well. Our immediate plans are to make some church schools too. We already run three kindergartens with our own teachers, with our own programs that are under the Ministry of Education. We have plans for elementary and high schools. It is something that we need.

You recently unveiled a bust of Archbishop Kyprianou in Patras. However, your visit to the Church of Greece was not preceded by a peaceful visit. When do you plan to do it? 

  • Greece is not a foreign country for us, nor is its church. The late Archbishop did not pay a visit. It is not a prerequisite for going to another metropolis. Archbishop Ieronymos came to us, of course, but it does not imply the other. If necessary and if there is a suitable time, but I do not see it as urgent. Whenever I go to Greece I also meet with the Archbishop, we have common plans, we have a communication channel. It is not something that needs to be done immediately.

The Church exposes the Metropolitan of Paphos

50 years of diplomatic relations with the Vatican have been completed, with the Church of Cyprus having good relations with the Roman Catholic Church. Do you intend to go to the Vatican?

  • Indeed, our relations with the Vatican are very good and it is not only that they responded –The Pope, with his many diplomatic missions in different countries, supported our fair demands, helped repatriate our stolen treasures– it is also the fact that they serve us in countries where we do not have churches. We do such services where we are needed in Cyprus. I intend to visit the Vatican, an invitation has already been sent through our ambassador there. We want to maintain these relations especially in a hostile world. Christians need to join forces, it is more what unites us than what divides us. 

When do you expect the visit, time?

  • Within 2024. I have not scheduled it yet.

What is the status of the arrival of the Horn of the Apostle Paul in Cyprus, on which there was a consultation between the late Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Pope Francis?

  • Yes, I was involved in these proceedings and the pope in a gesture of goodwill to us for the first time allowed the Horn of the Apostle Paul to leave the Vatican and come to Cyprus. We asked for it, we are exposed, unfortunately the new Metropolitan of Paphos, influenced by some other views, did not want the Horn to come to Cyprus. This attitude exposes the whole Church of Cyprus. Already in Paphos there are many protests, delegations come daily and express these protests to me. I will call him again, the Metropolitan, I will put him before his responsibilities and tell him that we must, even if each metropolis has a relative independence, set it aside for the greater good of the church.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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