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Cypriot Orthodox Church

From Academic Kids

The ancient Cypriot Orthodox Church is one of the sixteen independent ('autocephalous') Eastern Orthodox churches, which are in communion and in doctrinal agreement with one another but not all subject to one patriarch. The bishop of the capital, Salamis (Constantia), was constituted metropolitan by Emperor Zeno, with the title of archbishop.

This independent position by ancient custom was recognized, against the claims of the Patriarch of Antioch, at the Council of Ephesus (431 CE), and by an edict of the Byzantine emperor Zeno. The church had sent a cogent argument on its own behalf to the Emperor, the alleged body of its reputed founder Barnabas, just then having been most opportunely discovered at Salamis. Zeno confirmed the status of the Church of Cyprus and granted its Archbishop the "three privileges": namely to sign his name in cinnabar, an ink made vermilion by the addition of the mineral cinnabar; to wear purple instead of black robes under his vestments; and to hold an imperial sceptre instead of a normal episcopal crosier.

Cyprus suffered greatly from Arab invasions in the following centuries, and during the reign of Justinian II the cities of Salamis (Constantia), Kourion and Paphos were sacked. At the advice of the Emperor, the Archbishop fled to the Hellespont along with the survivors, and established the city of Nova Justiniana (Greek: Νέα Ιουστινιανή), named after the Emperor, near the city of Cyzicus. In 692 the Quinisext Council (also called "in Trullo") reconfirmed the status and privileges of the exiled Archbishop and in 698, when the Arabs were driven out of Cyprus, the Archbishop returned but retained the title of "Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus": a custom that, along with the "three privileges", continues to this day.

After the establishment of Kingdom of Cyprus the catholic kings gradually reduced the number of orthodox bishops from 14 to 4 and forced those away from their towns. The archbishop was moved from Nicosia to the region of Solia, near Morfou, the bishop of Larnaca was moved to the village of Lefkara etc. Each orthodox bishop was under the catholic bishop of the area. The catholic church tried on occasion to force the orthodox bishops to make concessions on the differences in doctrine and practices between the two churches, sometimes with threats and sometimes using violence and torture, as in the case of the 13 monks in Kantara.

The conquest of Cyprus by the Ottoman Empire led to the recognition of the Orthodox church as the only legal christian church. The church was considered by the ottomans to be the political leadership of the christian population (Rum millet) and was responsible for collecting taxes. Because of the different policies of the ottoman empire towards muslim and non muslim citizens, certain christians converted to Islam. These are known in Cyprus with the name "Linopampakoi".

Attempts were made subsequently by the patriarchs of Antioch to claim authority over the Cypriot Church, the last as recently as 1600, but in vain.

The purchase of Cyprus by the british in 1878 allowed more freedom in religious practices, such as the use of bells in churches (which were forbidden under the ottomans). Some linopampakoi took advantage of the political change to convert back to christianity.

John Hackett published "A history of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus" in 1901. At about the same time the church went through a crisis regarding the succession of the archbishop.The two candidates, Kyrillos II and Kyrillos III had mainly political differences (one was a nationalist whereas the other was a moderate).


See also: List of Archbishops of Cyprus

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