Paphos Bishop Georgios Elected as New Leader of Cyprus Church
Nicosia – The Cyprus Orthodox Church on Saturday elected Bishop Georgios of Paphos as its new leader, following the death of Archbishop Chrysostom II last month.
The 73-year-old cleric received nine votes from the 16-member Holy Synod, the church’s highest decision-making body, versus four for the second-placed Bishop of Limassol, Athanasios. There was also a blank ballot.
The Holy Synod’s decision followed a lay vote on December 18 among all Orthodox Christians in the eastern Mediterranean island nation, in which Athanasios led the poll, followed by Georgios and Bishop Isaias of Tamasos.
According to the church constitution, a lay vote is taken to elect the three chief bishops, and then the Holy Synod holds its own secret ballot to elect the new archbishop.
Georgios had been set as the favorite for synod approval despite Athanasios’ electoral victory, as numerous media reports suggested it was the network of loyalties and dynamics within the synod.
In a remark before the synod vote, Athanasios said the will of the people should be respected but that he would accept any outcome “with peace and love” and urged supporters to show “respect”.
“Truly worthy” shouts from assembled supporters greeted the announcement of Georgios’ election in the 16th-century Cathedral of St. John in the Archdiocese compound in the capital, Nicosia.
“First of all, I thank God who allowed today’s election, the synodal members who chose me with their vote and the people who chose me to be among the groups of three,” said Georgios after his election. “I will try not to appear inferior to my predecessors.”
One of the first to congratulate Georgios was Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, who tweeted that the new archbishop would continue the “great spiritual work of the Church of Cyprus for the benefit of her flock”.
Georgios is considered a steady hand, as he held the post of synod secretary and reiterated his predecessor’s positions regarding the island’s ethnic division, as well as the Church’s support for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence from the Moscow Patriarch, in line with the position of the Synodal Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
Georgios studied chemistry and theology in Greece and later in the UK before rising through the ranks of the Church and being elected Bishop of Paphos in 2006.
According to his biography, he won a European Court of Human Rights ruling against Turkey for violating his human rights after being arrested and ill-treated by Turkish authorities during a protest against the island’s partition in 1989.
By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS Associated Press