The original Greek audio of the interview can be found here.
INTERVIEWER: Good afternoon, geronda. Your blessing.
MET ATHANASIOS: Good afternoon. God’s blessing
INTERVIEWER: I would like to ask you a question in regard to the patriarchal concelebration the day before last on the feast day of St. John the Merciful.
MET ATHANASIOS: Yes?
INTERVIEWER: I heard Epifanios commemorated as the Metropolitan of Kiev.
MET ATHANASIOS: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: We all know that the church of Cyprus doesn’t acknowledge him as Metropolitan, and I would like, as was surely sorely scandalized by this, to hear your view regarding this issue, if you can enlighten us as to why this happened, so we are not scandalized like this for no reason.
MET ATHANASIOS: Yes. Thank you very much. Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: No, thank YOU, geronda.
MET ATHANASIOS: It’s a difficult question, and the answer causes a bit of pain, but we must tell things as they are, so there aren’t things left hanging, and there aren’t things that cause our brothers’ consciences to be scandalized. First off, let me say that our metropolis, with much love and with much honor and respect received the visit of His Holiness the Patriarch of Alexandria, our beloved brother and our personal friend from our childhood years, or rather our student years, let me say, and it was a great blessing and a great honor that His Beatitude came to us to bring joyous light with his presence, the celebrations of St. John the Merciful to celebrate 1400 years since his blessed repose, as a successor of the Patriarch of Alexandria, St. John the Merciful.
We invited the Patriarch of Alexandria to visit us over a year and a half ago, far before there were issues concerning Ukraine and autocephaly and the rest of it. And because we were scheduling the celebrations far in advance, and we had to invite His Beatitude far ahead of time, we communicated amongst ourselves, and we sent a written request very early, so the patriarch could make his own schedule as well, and make plans to be with us, which happened, and we thank him especially. In the meantime, this issue of Ukraine came up, which is, unfortunately, a thorny issue for our church and for Orthodoxy in general. The Church of Greece and the Church of Alexandria recognized Epifanios as Metropolitan of Kiev and now commemorate– both the primate of Greece and the primate of Alexandria– Epifanios, as Metropolitan of Kiev.
The church of Cyprus, according to the order of the synod, expressed by our archbishop Chrysostomos, has aligned itself with the position that it will not recognize, at least for the time being, Epifanios, and will not move towards any act of commemorating him until it sees things better, and therefore, the Church of Cyprus has not yet commemorated Epifanios as Metropolitan of Kiev. And my position is, and I have stated it both in writing and officially, that my personal view is that the canonical metropolitan of Kiev is Onoufrios and the holy and sacred synod around him, which we all recognized until recently, the whole Orthodox Church, and there had not been an issue doubting the recognition of the Metropolitan of Kiev, Onoufrios, and for many and different reasons I had not placed myself in a position supporting Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev, and both then and now I recognize and accept Onoufrios and the hierarchy around him, which consists of the hierarchs of Metropolitan Onoufrios, as the canonical Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.
When the Patriarch of Alexandria came, he had already, in the meantime, commemorated, in Alexandria, Metropolitan Epifanios as the Metropolitan of Kiev. He had commemorated him officially and he had also published an official announcement, the Patriarch of Alexandria. We have no reason to question or doubt His Holiness of Alexandria, and we respect his views and his judgment, and we love him and respect him specially. When His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria came to Cyprus, then certainly we had a certain anxiety about what would happen now with the commemoration of Epifanios. However, when he came to us in Cyprus, one of the representatives of the Archdiocese of Cyprus, of the bishops there of the Holy Archdiocese, assured me that he had spoken with His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria, and received the promise and the assurance that the Patriarch of Alexandria would not commemorate Epifanios during the Divine Liturgy, but he would only commemorate, as is normal, the archbishop of Cyprus and the local metropolitan, so, me, and he would not commemorate anyone else, precisely so no problem would be created. I was told the same thing by the attendants of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria. They assured me that Epifanios would not be commemorated as metropolitan of Kiev. Despite that, however, without my knowing beforehand, without anything having been said to me, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria judged that, at that moment, he should commemorate Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev. The first I heard of it was at that moment of the Great Entrance during the Divine Liturgy, and naturally I judged that I could not react at that moment, and therefore the thing happened, and I was silent, praying and considering what should be done now, and where this heartbreaking situation would lead our Orthodox Church, believing wholeheartedly, of course, that our Good God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Founder of the church, will not let His Church be tempted, but will lead her to the true way of truth, and He will give what is right and what is appropriate to the hearts of the primates of the Church.
It is a fact that the Patriarch of Alexandria as well is very troubled, from what he told me himself as well, this issue occupies him. He is not happy about this situation which is happening in the Orthodox Church today. He is a person who knows reality very well, but as you can understand, he is a patriarch, second in the order of Orthodoxy, and he expresses the Patriarchate of Alexandria. We cannot impose our views upon him, and we can’t tell him who he will commemorate and whom he won’t. He is a primate of an ancient patriarchate. What I will say, in conclusion, however, is that the commemoration of Epifanios as metropolitan of Kiev, even if it happened in the Church of Cyprus and more specifically in the Holy Metropolis of Limassol, this does not express either the Holy Metropolis of Limassol, or me as metropolitan of Limassol, or the Church of Cyprus.
The Church of Cyprus is expressed by the Synod of the Church of Cyprus through her holy archbishop, His Eminence Chrysostomos alone, and as for me, I am expressed through what I say only, and I remain in what I expressed in writing, which was published on many pages and webpages, that for me, the metropolitan of Kiev is only Onoufrios and his accompanying holy and sacred synod. That is my own position. I respect the primates of our Church, I respect their holy synods, and their views, but we must have our own views, and I believe that a Pan-Orthodox gathering or synod or conference of the primates of the Church must give a solution and an end to this thorny problem, which, with a little good will and prayer and patience, I believe the right solution can be found. And I am certain that the primates of our Orthodox Church and our Ecumenical Patriarch, whom we love and respect, and all the primates have worry about the church and have love for the church and have the good concern and are occupied by this issue, and I personally know that both alone and amongst themselves they assemble and they discuss the whole situation in Orthodoxy.
And we must pray, my brothers, that God gives a good end and a good solution to this problem, which, fortunately, is not a dogmatic problem or a problem of faith, but is primarily an issue of order and governance in our Church. Despite that, I stick to what I declared publicly and the commemoration of Epifanios as the metropolitan of Kiev by his Holiness the Patriarch of Alexandria neither represents nor binds me to anything at all. Whom [i.e., the Patriarch of Alexandria], may I reiterate, I love and respect and honor as an old classmate, and second-in-honor patriarch of the Orthodox Church. This, I believe, is what I have to say about the subject.