Cyprus Orthodox Church backs Ukrainian Church’s independence

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The Cypriot Orthodox Church’s top decision-making body on Wednesday backed the Archbishop’s move to effectively recognize the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence, overturning an earlier position of neutrality on the thorny issue.

Of the Holy Synod’s 17 bishops, 10 voted not to contest last month’s decision by Archbishop Chrysostomos II to extend blessings to the leader of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphanius I during a liturgical service.

The Archbishop’s reference to Epiphanius as head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church during a service was seen as de facto recognition of its independence.

Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is considered first among equals in the Orthodox patriarchy, last year granted independence to Ukraine’s new Orthodox Church, severing its centuries-long ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Bartholomew’s move angered the Russian Orthodox Church, which cut ties with the Patriarchate. The Patriarch’s decision also divided the Orthodox world, with some churches expressing support and others criticizing it.

Dissenting Cypriot Bishop Nikiforos said that the Holy Synod’s decision wasn’t binding on those who disagreed because it was a matter of “faith and holy canon.” Nikiforos said the Holy Synod also rejected his compromise proposal not to go against the Archbishop’s move, but not to be in full communion with Epiphanius either.

Another dissenter, Bishop Isaias, wrote that his opposition rests on the premise that Epiphanius wasn’t properly enthroned as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church leader in line with church rules.

But Holy Synod spokesman Bishop Georgios said the body’s decisions are binding according to its constitution whether they’re made unanimously or by majority.

He said the Synod also called on all Orthodox churches to work “in order to overcome the present crisis that threatens the Church of Christ with a schism.”

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