In April 2019, the heads of the ancient autocephalous Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus met in Cyprus to discuss the crisis facing the Orthodox Church. As agreed at this meeting , Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus attempted to act as a peacemaker and intermediary figure to seek a positive resolution to the crisis. Archbishop Chrysostomos has publicly stated that his efforts were not welcomed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The following letter, from Patriarch Bartholomew to Archbishop Chrysostomos on the occasion of the Church of Cyprus’ patronal Feast of St Barnabas, dated 9 June 2019, clearly expresses the EP’s own self-understanding of his role, rights and responsibilities in world Orthodoxy in such a way that it becomes evident why he would not welcome Archbishop Chrysostom’s mediation.
Greek original here.
Most Blessed and Holy Archbishop of Nea Iustiniana and all Cyprus, very much beloved brother in Christ God and concelebrant of our Mediocrity, Kyr Chrysostomos, we fraternally embrace you in the Lord, addressing you with great joy.
“Inasmuch as as the Great Church, the common Mother and caretaker of all, has reasonably established and the particular Church on Cyprus refers the pestilence that has befallen her, soul-destroying malady and spiteful abuse from certain malignant people, to this common Great Mother Church for relief and correction with the double-edged sword that the Lord has until now bestowed upon her…” (The Petition of the Cypriots on Behalf of their Archbishop Philotheos. Kallinikos Delikanes, Ἐπίσημα Ἐκκλησιαστικά Ἔγγραφα, vol. 2, pp. 586-587)
With these inspired words, the ever-memorable Metropolitans Joachim of Paphos, Makarios of Kition and Nikephoros of Kyrenia, along with twenty-one clergymen and an equal number of select laymen from Your blessed island appealed to our Great Church of Christ in the year 1759 for the resolution of an ecclesiastical problem among them at the time.
And we keep these things as sacred relics bequeathed to us by our illustrious predecessors, the Archbishops of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarchs, a whole series of honorable men who spent their entire life for the glory of God and service to the Church.
Through reading and scrutinizing such ecclesiastical texts, we are reconsecrated [literally, rebaptized: ἀναβαπτιζόμεθα] for the responsibility that we consciously bear as we minister from the seat of the martyric Phanar. For we are a great-martyr Church: indeed, not so much for external reasons, but especially because we always and everywhere have the responsibility from the Divine and Sacred Canons and from the sanctified practice of the Church to serve the truth alone, without calculations and second thoughts, without other impertinent concerns and unworthy expediencies.
We are the Great Church of Christ, who birthed all the newer ones, who has preserved your own autocephalous status since the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus, who has the responsibility of caring for every other Church, both the ancient sisters and the newer daughters who were weaned from our Canonical body, in toil, deprivation and distress, but also with concern and care, so that they could have their own internal autocephaly.
It is in this sense that we understand and recall with boasting, at this sacred and distinguished hour of the Feast of your See, Your forefathers’ declaration, most Blessed and holy brother, that the Church of Constantinople, the Great Church of Christ, is the “common Mother and caretaker of all.”
And so she is. She truly is. We regret that we have arrived at the point of repeating self-evident matters and matters of organization in the Orthodox Church, but we are forced to because on account of pastoral withdrawals, certainly in dark days of history, our passionate and noble attitude and our decorum with regard to a certain falsely-called (as it appears in the end) Pan-Orthodox unity made it seem that we had chosen for our See to resign from the responsibilities with which the Church has adorned it. But no.
Until the end of the ages, to the chagrin and shame of the recalcitrant spirit that hates the good and those inspired by him, in Constantinople shall live steadfast and immovable the most precious and holiest [possession] of our pious Race [ τοῦ εὐσεβοῦς ἡμῶν Γένους ] and our blameless faith, our Holy Great Church of Christ, the Mother and mistress among the Churches.
In Constantinople, there is not a coordinating body in the manner of a choir director, but rather she herself is the loving heart and clever mind of the Orthodox Church. The Phanar lives, Your Beatitude, and we have come here today to lovingly remind on the one hand Your Beatitude, who recognizes it and has love for us and on the other hand all those who hate us and love us.
The Phanar lives because the Lord of Glory wills it, He who was crucified and has not been brought down, who is risen and has ascended from us to the Heavens. It lives because it has the prayers of the God-bearing Fathers of the holy Councils, which granted it sacred, inviolable and non-negotiable privileges of service.
Therefore, with these feelings of love and respect, we take part with all our soul and mind in the splendid and eucharistic rites of the feast of your See, knowing that in this land watered with the blood of the pious children of the Church, from Apostolic times the Romaic consciousness and its devotion has lived in the hearts of our faithful children.
There lives the fragrance of the life in Christ. In Cyprus, there lives a precious part of Ecumenical Romeosyne, from this Great-Martyr Romeosyne, whose tree has taken root through the blood and sacrifices of her children for our blameless faith and lofty ideals.
We have come, through our representative, our most reverend brother the Metropolitan of France, Kyr Emmanuel, to embrace Your Beatitude and the holy hierarchs in the Lord and also to bestow our Patriarchal prayers and blessing from the Mother Church of Constantinople upon the Most Holy Church of Cyprus.
We have come to embrace You in an Apostolic spirit, as Andrew embraced Barnabas. Congratulating you heartily, we pray from the Phanar for every good thing of the Lord and that which is well-pleasing to Him, that He may keep Your honored Beatitude, the brother hierarchs around You, the righteous clergy and the Christ-loving people in health and many blessings. May it be so.
9 June 2019
Your reverend Beatitude’s loving brother in Christ