During its February 18, 2019 extraordinary session, the Holy Synod of the Cyprus Orthodox Church agreed on the following communiqué on the situation in Ukraine:
“The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus convened today, Monday, February 18, 2019, for an extraordinary session chaired by His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostom of Cyprus to discuss in detail the issue of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. Given its development, the issue is connected to the unity of the Orthodox Church as a whole.
Aware of the responsibility of the Cypriot Church for the entire Orthodox Church, as one of the ancient autocephalous Churches which received autocephaly from the Ecumenical Council, the Holy Synod, refraining from phyletism or interference in jurisdiction and rights and pursuing no benefit of its own, decided to present its point of view regarding the principles that should guide the relationships between the Orthodox Churches, with the strong belief that respecting these principles can help resolve the crisis.
- Having attained national independence, every nation has the right to also request its ecclesial autocephaly. This right is also guaranteed by the holy canons. (It is customary for ecclesiastical affairs to follow politics).
- If sincerity is necessary for the peaceful coexistence of the faithful, while insincerity undermines relationships, then it is all the more so for relationships between the Churches. How stable and sincere can we estimate the relationships between our Churches to be when, despite unanimous decisions made at the meetings of Orthodox Churches Primates in 2014 and 2016 regarding the convening of the Holy and Great Council [of Crete], the four Churches actually did not participate in the Council, without any substantial reason? How do we answer the Lord’s exhortation, “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no” (Mt 5:37)? Even more surprising is the appeal for consensus a posteriori from those Churches that first violated it themselves. A satisfying definition of the word consensus was given and accepted by all participants in the Primates assembly in 2016. This consensus applies to every church present at the Council, and does not leave room for deliberately blocking any decision. If one or two Churches do not agree with a decision, their disagreement is recorded, but they sign the decision anyway. The voice of the canons is clear, “Let the opinion of the majority prevail.”
- What serious message, as Orthodox, are we sending to the rest of the Christian and non-Christian world, when in solving serious problems, we cannot agree on how to sign issues we agreed on? How can we be convincing about following the Lord’s commandment, “who wants to be the first among you, let him be the last” (Mark 9:35)? If the agreement on proclaiming autocephaly, voted on during the 5th Pre-Council Conference, had not be canceled due to the lack of agreement on the way of signing the Tomos of autocephaly, would today’s problem have occurred?
- How much are we embracing faith, when we break the Eucharistic communion between our Churches? Is it possible for an ecclesiastical decision to cancel the action of the Holy Spirit in churches pertaining to another jurisdiction? The apostle Paul clearly states how to prove that we are “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” and that “there is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (see Ephesians 4:3-5). The Holy Eucharist, through which we are sanctified, must remain outside the scope of ecclesial disputes.
- Stopping to commemorate the primate of another Church for any administrative or jurisdictional reason does not witness to humility, which is the sign of Orthodox ethos. When our faithful are afflicted by so many temptations and scandals, we, Church leaders, are setting the worst example for them. Unfortunately, this is not the first time. There was the case of the Antioch and Jerusalem patriarchates, as well as older cases between the Ecumenical and Jerusalem Patriarchates, and between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Athens.
- The two-thousand-year experience of the Church of Cyprus and of the entire Orthodox Church gives us reason to doubt the possibility of confirming, a posteriori, ordinations performed by deposed, excommunicated, and anathematized bishops. All Orthodox accepted the deposition, excommunication, and anathematization of individuals who played a major role in the Ukrainian crisis. If there is a right of appeal, it should have time limits depending when it was submitted and how long it can be considered.
If we follow in good faith these above principles and show readiness to comply with the holy canons of the Orthodox Church, then the Ukrainian issue and all the other issues afflicting the life of the Church will be solved.
As for the specific issue of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, we believe that:
The announcement of the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate was aiming at achieving reconciliation and unity of the Church in this country. We do not question this goal. However, today this goal has not been achieved so far. It is reasonable to leave some time for the result to be seen. If the goal is not achieved, we expect the Ecumenical Patriarch to take advantage of his role as moderator, having the first position in the Orthodox world, and either to convene a Pan-Orthodox Council or a primates’ conference in order to resolve this issue. Our main concern should be the salvation of God’s people living there [in Ukraine].
However, even if unity is achieved around the new church leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarchate must also find a way of reassuring the faithful regarding the validity of the ordinations and sacraments performed by these Church leaders. And still, understanding the sensitivity of the Russian people in relation to the place where their ancestors received baptism, the Ecumenical Patriarchate needs to ensure they have an appropriate jurisdiction there.
The Church of Cyprus remains available to all interested parties, in order to bring peace to the Church, “which the Lord secured with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).”
Source in Greek