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"The Apostles Paul, Barnabas and Mark (Barnabas’ nephew) came to Cyprus in 45 AD to spread Christianity. Arriving at Salamis, they travelled across the island to Paphos, where Sergius Paulus was the first Roman official to convert to Christianity. In 50 AD St Barnabas returned to Cyprus accompanied by St Mark and set up his base in Salamis. He is considered to be the first Archbishop of Cyprus. In 57 AD, St Barnabas was stoned to death by the Jews on the outskirts of Salamis, where he was also buried. He thus became one of the first martyrs of Christianity.
A few of the Bishops who helped spread Christianity on the island were Lazarus, the Bishop of Kiti, Herakleidios the Bishop of Tamasos, Avxivios the Bishop of Soloi, and Theodotos the Bishop of Kyrenia.
Towards the end of the 4th century, Christianity had spread throughout the island. During this time St Epiphanios was Archbishop. His seat was in Salamis, which was renamed Constantia.
The Church of Cyprus is one of the oldest autocephalous churches. When the Archbishop of Antioch, to whose diocese Cyprus belonged, tried to abolish the Cyprus church’s autocephaly, the Cypriot clergy denounced this before the Third Ecumenical Synod, which convened in 434 AD in Ephesos. The Synod ratified the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus by its 8th canon.
In 478 AD, Archbishop Anthemios of Cyprus, following a vision, found the grave of St Barnabas and his remains. On St Barnabas’s chest rested a copy of St Mathew’s Gospel. The Archbishop offered this Gospel to the Byzantine Emperor Zenon, who in turn gave the Archbishop of Cyprus the right to sign in red ink, to wear a red cloak during religious ceremonies and to hold an imperial sceptre instead of an Episcopal staff.
During the Arab raids in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries, the Church of Cyprus went through many trials and tribulations. Constantia, Curium and Paphos were destroyed. In order to save his flock from slaughter, the Archbishop of Cyprus transferred all survivors to the Greek mainland, a region that was named Nea Ioustiani after him.
In 698 AD after the Arab raids ended, the Archbishop returned with his flock to Cyprus, bearing the title ”Archbishop of Nea Ioustiniani and All Cyprus”
The Frankish - Venetian Period
During the Frankish Period of Cyprus (1192 – 1489), the Church of Cyprus was persecuted and oppressed by the Latin Church. The 14 Orthodox bishoprics were reduced to four, as many as the Roman Catholic ones. Moreover the properties of many monasteries were confiscated. It is characteristic that in 1231, 13 Orthodox monks from the Kantara Monastery became martyrs.
The Franks were succeeded by the Venetians in 1489, who reigned in Cyprus until its occupation by the Ottomans in 1571 AD.
The persecutions, especially during the Frankish period, did not succeed in uprooting the faith of the Orthodox Greek Cypriots.
In 1571, the Franks were succeeded by the Ottomans, who gave back to the Church of Cyprus all the privileges they previously had. They also recognised the Archbishop not only as Head of the Church but as ethnic leader of all Cypriots. The first officially recognised Archbishop was Nikiforos in 1660 AD.
Nevertheless, during the Ottoman period (1571-1878) Cyprus went through hard times. People lived in insecurity and their life and property was constantly at the disposal of the Ottomans.
The role of the Church in the preservation of faith, national identity and traditions was particularly important. The churches were not mere places of worship but were transformed to schools and places of ethnic inspiration.
The revolution in Greece in 1821, together with information of a revolutionary movement in Cyprus, resulted in the death of Archbishop Kyprianos on 9th July 1821 and Bishops Chrysanthos of Paphos, Meletios of Kitium, Lavrentios of Kyrenia, of the Abbot Josef of the Kykko Monastery and other notables, clergymen and common people.
British rule until today
During the period of British rule 1878-1960, the people on the island had a greater sense of security and more freedom to develop a variety of activities.
However, the then British Administration interfered, in certain cases, using restrictive laws on the management of the Church and other areas of national and cultural activity. This led to the October 1931 uprise organised by the Church against the British. As a consequence of this uprise, the Bishops Nikodemos of Kitium, and Makarios of Kyrenia were expelled and restrictions were imposed on the election of the Archbishop. As a result the filling of the Archbishop’s throne was pending from 1933 (death of Archbishop Kyrillos the 3rd) to 1946, when the Bishop of Paphos Leontios was elected as the new Archbishop.
In 1950, Makarios III was elected Archbishop. The newly elected Archbishop demonstrated intensive intellectual and national activity. In 1949 he founded the Seminary «Apostle Varnavas» and in 1950 he organised the referendum on the Union between Cyprus and Greece. He was the political leader of the EOKA liberation struggle in the years 1955-1959. The British exiled him to the Seychelles because of his activities.
In 1960, Archbishop Makarios III was elected President of the newly established Republic of Cyprus. During his term as Archbishop, following the dethronement of the Bishops of Paphos, Kitium and Kyrenia for conspiring against him, two new Bishoprics were created: the Bishopric of Limassol which was detached from the Bishopric of Kitium, and the Bishopric of Morfou which was detached from the Bishopric of Kyrenia.
Unfortunately, the coup d’ etat of 15 July 1974 forced Archbishop Makarios III to abandon the island for a short period and to return in December 1974.
The coup was followed by the Turkish invasion of 20th July 1974 with the known results: 35% of Cyprus’ territory came under Turkish occupation, 20,000 people were enclaved in their occupied villages living under conditions of oppression, harassment and deprivation. Now only 421 Greek Cypriots and 155 Maronites remain (May 2001 figures). In addition the ascertainment of the fate of about 1500 missing is still pending.
The destruction of our cultural heritage consistitutes one of the most tragic consequences of the 1974 Turkish invasion. Churches containing Byzantine icons, frescoes and mosaics of incalculable value have been pillaged by antiquities dealers and sold on the black market. One of the most characteristic cases of pillage has been the case of the mosaics of Panayia of Kanakaria of the 6th century AC, which were finally returned to the Church of Cyprus, following a ruling by the Indianapolis Court. In the occupied areas of Cyprus there are 514 churches, chapels and monasteries.
On 3 August 1977, Archbishop Makarios passed away and was succeeded by Chrysostomos, the current Archbishop. In 1979, the new Statutory Map of the Church of Cyprus was drawn up and approved replacing the old one of 1914.
The Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus is the highest Church Authority in Cyprus. Its task is to examine and provide solutions on all issues concerning the Church of Cyprus. It consists of his Beatitude the Archbishop of Cyprus as the Head of the Holy Synod, the Bishops of Paphos, Kitium, Kyrenia, Limassol and Morphou, the Suffragan Bishops of Salamis, Trimithous and Arsinoe and the Bishop of Kykko Nikiforos, as regular members.
The Holy Synod meets regularly in the first week after Easter and in the first fortnight of the months of February and September. It meets in ad hoc sessions when it is deemed necessary or when two of its members put forward a request.
Archbishopric and Bishoprics
Archbishop: His Beatitude Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus Chrysostomos
Assistant Bishops: Suffragan Bishops of Salamis, Varnavas and of Trimithous Vassilios.
Address: Arch. Kyprianos Str., 1016 Nicosia, Tel.: 22-430696, Fax: 22-432470
Bishopric of Paphos
Metropolitan of Paphos: Bishop Chrysostomos
Assistant Bishop: Suffragan Bishop of Arsinoe Georgios
Address: Saint Theodoros Str., 8047 Paphos, Tel.: 26-932092, Fax: 26-943130
Bishopric of Kitium
Metropolitan of Kitium: Bishop Chrysostomos
Address: Athanasias Nikomedias Ave., 6050 Larnaca, Tel.: 24-652269, Fax: 24-655588
Bishopric of Kyrenia
Metropolitan of Kyrenia: Bishop Pavlos
Seat: Nicosia. Due to the Turkish invasion of the district and city of Kyrenia, the seat has been temporarily transferred to Nicosia.
Address: 3 Achilleos Str., 2112 Nicosia, Tel.: 22-338308/9, Fax: 22-338464
Bishopric of Limassol
Metropolitan of Limassol: Bishop Athanasios
Address: 306 Saint Andreas Str., 3304 Limassol, Tel.: 25-362603, Fax:25-371548
Bishopric of Morphou
Metropolitan of Morphou: Bishop Neophytos
Seat: Evrychou. The seat has been transferred to the village of Evrychou due to the Turkish occupation of Morphou
Tel.: 22-932401, Fax: 22-933092
Royal Monastery of Kykkos founded with a Cross
Abbot: The Bishop of Kykkos Nikiforos
Monastery Address: POBox 24850 Nicosia.
Tel: 22-942435. Fax: 22-942384.
Nicosia Metochion Address: Ayiou Prokopiou street, Engomi
Tel.: 22-453450. Fax: 22-351852."
All photographs Copyright © Robin Harrison 2005
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