The first interview, conducted by Apostolos Tomaras and originally published in the Cypriot edition of I Kathimerini, can be found in Greek here.
Your Beatitude, why did you go ahead at this moment with recognition of the autonomous Church of Ukraine?
I did it for a serious reason. I was invited by His All-Holiness last February. I believed that I would be able to continue my efforts to see all the primates and convince them. Because I was the representative of the Church of Cyprus to pan-Orthodox conferences for thirty whole years, I knew the views of all the autocephalous Churches.
I saw how one Church wanted to intervene within the boundaries of another. And I was the one one who reacted and said to them, “Brothers, we have all wound up as national Churches. First we are the nation and then we are Orthodox. That’s a mistake.”
We must first be Orthodox and then a nation. Orthodoxy must come to the forefront and we must be united. If we exclude the four Apostolic Churches of the Middle East, the remaining Orthodox churches were “begotten” by Constantinople. Indeed, even after the fall.
Among them is also the Russian Church. To its credit, the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted autocephalies and gave its territories to other Churches.
In the case of Ukraine, it was a territory of the Ecumenical [Patriarchate] which it entrusted to the guardianship of the Russian Church, as also happened with the New Lands in Greece.
After the fall of communism, the Ecumenical Patriarchate asked the Russian Church to return to the system of before 1917, something that was rejected by the then-Patriarch of Moscow Alexy.
And they come today and have this attitude. And I asked the Ecumenical Patriarch: Since the codes exist, why does it [sc. the Patriarchate of Moscow] interfere?
I know that today it took two eparhies from Georgia, two eparchies from Ukraine, it took half of Christendom from Poland, it took eparchies from Romania.
Where was it in America to make an autocephalous Church? Who gave it the right? These interventions in the territories of others brought upheaval to all of Orthodoxy.
We as a Church are first Orthodox and then Greeks and we guard this like the apple of our eye.
I know that before proceeding with the recognition of the Ukrainian Church (commemoration of the Metropolitan of Kiev), you informed the Ecumenical Patriarch with a letter.
Because of the problem with my leg, I had some accidents, as a result of which I broke my vertebra and for this reason I went and had surgery.
Having been operated on, I decided to write the letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, that I could no longer continue the efforts at reconciliation.
And because I maintained neutrality on the Ukrainian issue, in order to be of help, on account of the coronavirus and since I’m undergoing chemotherapy, I told him that I could not be active.
In brief, they did not respect the codes that the Ecumenical Patriarchate gave for each local Church. And some countries like Russia interfered in many [places], because it had a population in them.
That is, if tomorrow it encourages a few more Russians, it will want to send a Russian metropolitan to Limassol as well.
Are you worried about such a prospect?
I am not worried because our Church is well-organized. But if it were not well-organized, it could do it. It is a utopia for one to believe that one could do it. We are well-organized.
They may have it in the back of their mind, but they can’t do something like that here. We are in contact with our people. There the despots’ doors are closed to the people.
And in your letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, you informed him that you would commemorate the Metropolitan of Kiev.
Indeed. And I also thought it was a good thing, so that they [sc. the metropolitans of the Church of Cyprus] would not be disturbed and we would quarrel, not to inform them because if I did, they would have said no.
And as my own response, I would have said, “I’m not going to listen to you,” which would have made things worse. I say, “I will commemorate,” and they will protest and when they come to me to protest, I will tell them, “Brothers, because I did not intend to listen to you, I did not tell you. I apologize, but it is my right and I did it.”
When I would go to the pan-Orthodox conferences, His Beatitude Chrysostomos I didn’t ask anyone. Me too. I didn’t ask anyone when the Metropolitan of Paphos was going.
Did the four metropolitans who disagreed with you send a letter to convene the Synod about this issue?
No. Here there is the secretariat of the Holy Synod and anyone who wants can send [a letter]. I said for someone to ask and I would do a Synod, but no one sent [a letter]. And they held a parasynagogue.
They accuse me, but the four met without me. This is called a parasynagogue and it is severely punished, even with them being deposed. But I didn’t say anything. They themselves do those things that they condemn and I remain silent so that I may see where their lawlessness will reach.
And the worst. The [Metropolitan of] Kykkos has seniority. He has the right to say a word and then some. But if, pipsqueak, the [Metropolitan of] Tamassos comes out and insults me, that’s going too far. It is not moral and he is my ordination. Shame on him.
It is wrong for him to insult me. He’s going to mend things now, but they won’t be mended. He said these things. Is it good behavior for him to insult the one who ordained him and who is the primate of the Church?
My doors are open. Why did they not come to protest and I would have explained? But their egotism and their irresponsible character has not departed from them.
The second interview was conducted by Giorgios Chrysanthos on the Cypriot television station Alpha. A Greek transcript was posted to the website of the Church of Cyprus here.
Have you locked down a meeting of the Holy Synod in a few days?
I expected someone to ask. After waiting a long time, I had in mind to go to Greece for my leg, but my doctor advised me to postpone it on account of the pandemic, so I convoked the Synod. I did not wait, since no one requested it. No one sent a letter to the secretariat of the Holy Synod and I decided that since I wasn’t leaving for Greece, I called them so that we can have a Synod on the 23rd of this month.
Do you believe that the issue of the autocephaly of Ukraine and the commemoration of Epiphany will be put to a vote?
No. I will explain to them the reason why I decided to commemorate the new primate of the Church of Ukraine. I studied the whole issue. I saw nine out of thirteen Primates and I know the views of all thirteen. But I visited nine. If anyone attentively studies the letter that I sent to his All-Holiness, if everyone listens to me, then Orthodoxy will not have a problem and will be able to become a model for imitation in other denominations. And the Church of Cyprus will stand very high. Even though I have had a problem with my leg for six years, even though I have had cancer for three years, I have not spared any efforts, any suffering, any sickness and I traveled together with the Archbishop of Albania to Salzburg where His All-Holiness was visiting and I went to see him in order to undertake this campaign and to express my views also to the other Primates as well. And all the Primates who saw me rejoiced. Unfortunately, however, my health no longer permits me to travel because of the coronavirus, since I belong to vulnerable groups.
So I warned His all-Holiness that I am no longer able. After I visited Constantinople, I learned the whole truth about the issue, since until then I only knew the half of it, and His All-Holiness explained to me that belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and it entrusted it to the Patriarchate of Moscow only to administer it, on account of Moscow’s proximity to Ukraine, exactly as it granted the New Lands to the Church of Greece on the condition that they first commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch and then the Patriarch of Moscow.
We should not forget that in the early 17th century it was difficult to move from Constantinople to Ukraine. Starting in 1917, with the beginning of communism in Russia, they stopped commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarchate. When, however, communism fell, the Ecumenical Patriarch wanted to restore the old order, but the Russians refused. There are many other details that I cannot mention to you now.
After I crystallized my view in March, since I did not have time to discuss it at a Synod, I performed the commemoration with an aim to inform them about the issue at the next Synod. I did not, however, believe that they would appear int he media, but rather that they would come to me and know that the door was open and I would justify myself to them, apologize to them for the disturbance that I caused for them and inform them in detail. They attacked me, I believe, without reason. If I killed their parents or their siblings they would not have done such a thing to me. They poured out vinegar and bile. I did not do anything to them to justify this hostility. Nevertheless, I forgive them. I have nothing against them. And I am at their disposal. I have nothing to fear. I have a course of life within the Church where I have given my whole good self. No one can accuse me of coming here to have fun. There is nothing left for me to find in the Archbishopric. I had a much better time in Paphos. I came here to work and to make progress and once again I praise God who made me worthy to make this progress.