ARCHBISHOP Chrysostomos knows very well how to dominate the headlines. He illustrated this talent once again on Friday, when he explained to a small group of youths, invited to the Archbishopric, how he planned to save Cyprus. His comments after the meeting sparked a political debate that was still dominating the current affairs shows yesterday.
On Friday, apart from announcing a Church initiative to find a suitable presidential candidate for the 2013 elections, he also declared that he could secure a much-better solution to the Cyprus problem than the politicians, by using the island’s hydrocarbon deposits to bring the Turkish Cypriots on side. The government and AKEL were outraged, questioning his right to interfere in politics, a sentiment also expressed by DISY, but more politely.
He had pre-empted this, by repeating the familiar argument that the Church had a responsibility to take the initiative. “The Church, for 2,000 years has led our people and will always express its opinion clearly.” The Church initiative was the will of the people, he claimed, adding that everyone he met told him, “we no longer trust anyone but the Church”. Whether the people who speak to Chrysostomos are a representative cross-section of society, is questionable.
Even more questionable is his claim that the Church provided the country with sound political leadership. In the fifties it set union with Greece as its target and ended up with a bi-communal, independent state, which collapsed in 1963. And in 1974, we lost almost 40 per cent of the Republic’s territory, which is still held by Turkey. All these catastrophes took place while the Church, under Archbishop Makarios, also our president, was running the country.
This record of colossal political failure, strangely, is never attributed to the Church, which is why Chrysostomos believes he has a right to expound his simplistic views about the Cyprus problem. He said he would pursue a unitary state in which the Turkish Cypriot minority’s rights would be safeguarded, because a federal solution would lead to the ‘Turkification’ of Cyprus. How he would secure the Turkish Cypriots’ agreement to his proposed settlement, he never said. And he has not noticed that the ‘Turkification’ of the north has become a fact, thanks in part to the ‘unyielding struggle’, the Church has been waging since 1974.
The Church of Cyprus has helped Greek Cypriots keep their cultural heritage over the centuries of foreign occupation and rule, but this does not give naive priests the right to play the political leaders. The long-lasting harm done to the country during Makarios’ rule is a compelling argument against any Church involvement in politics.