Cyril I

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CYRIL I (1570/21638), surnamed Loukaris, known also as Cyril Lucar; Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople. Next to Gennadios Scholarios, the first patriarch after the fall of Constantinople, Cyril was the most brilliant and influential head of the Greek church during the period of Turkish rule. Living at a time of intense conflict, when both Rome and the Protestants were seeking to bring Greek Orthodoxy under their control, Cyril strongly favored the Protestant side.

He was born at Candia (modern-day Heraklion) in Crete, then under Venetian sovereignty, and was given the baptismal name of Constantine. He studied at Venice under the celebrated Greek scholar Maximos Margounios, and then at the University of Padua. At his ordination (c. 1593) to the diaconate in Constantinople by Meletios Pegas, patriarch of Alexandria, who was probably his relative, Loukaris took the new name of Cyril. In 1594 he was sent to Poland to strengthen the Orthodox resistance against Roman Catholic propaganda and to help with education. In 1596, when the Synod of Brest-Litovsk ratified the union of the Orthodox church in Poland with the Roman Catholic church, Cyril took part in the countersynod held in Brest by those Orthodox who opposed the union. He stayed in Poland until 1598 and went for a second visit in 16001601. Returning in 1601 to Constantinople, Cyril was ordained priest, and in Egypt that autumn he was elected patriarch of Alexandria succeeding Pegas, an office he held until 1620, residing much of the time in Constantinople.

While in Poland, although siding with the antiunionist party, Cyril maintained friendly relations with leading Roman Catholics; in his early sermons (15991600) he draws on Catholic apologists such as Roberto Bellarmino and makes use of Latin scholastic categories, accepting among other things the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. As late as 1608 he wrote to Paul V in terms implying a recognition of papal primacy. During his time as patriarch of Alexandria, however, Cyril came to feel increasing sympathy with Protestantism, particularly in its Calvinist form. His Protestant contacts were chiefly Dutch: he formed a close friendship with Cornelius van Haag (or Haga), Dutch ambassador at Constantinople; corresponded with the theologian Jan Uytenbogaert; and met David Le Leu de Wilhem. He also exchanged letters with George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, and in 1617 he sent a young Greek monk, Metrophanes Kritopoulos (15891639), to study at Oxford. Kritopoulos remained in England until 1624, later becoming patriarch of Alexandria (16361639).

In 1620 Cyril was elected patriarch of Constantinople (he had been patriarch briefly in 1612). He remained on the ecumenical throne until his death in 1638, though with some interruptions: he was deposed, reinstated in 1630, deposed a third time and restored in 1633, deposed and again reinstated in 1634, deposed in 1635 and not restored until 1637, thus serving altogether no fewer than seven different periods in office. The frequency with which he was ejected is an indication of the extreme instability of the ecumenical patriarchate at this time, subject as it was to constant interference from the Turkish authorities, and with its bishops deeply divided by internal strife. Throughout his years as patriarch, Cyril was the center of a bitter conflict between the anti-Roman and pro-Roman factions in the holy synod; behind this conflict lay the wider struggle between different states of western Europe for influence within the Ottoman empire. Cyril's opponents in the synod, the chief among them being Cyril (Kontaris) of Beroea, himself on several occasions patriarch, were supported by the Propaganda Fide in Rome and by the Jesuits in Constantinople, as well as by the French and Austrian ambassadors; on his side, Cyril relied upon the assistance of the Dutch and English embassies. He enjoyed the friendship of Thomas Roe, English ambassador during 16211628, through whom he donated the Codex Alexandrinus in 1628 to King Charles I of England. He also became close friends with Antoine Léger, chaplain at the Dutch embassy from 1628.

As patriarch, Cyril struggled to raise standards of education. In particular he opened a printing press at Constantinople in 1627, but this functioned for only a few months before it was closed by the Turks in 1628. He commissioned a translation of the New Testament into modern Greek, which was eventually published at Geneva in 1638. But he is chiefly remembered for his Confession of Faith, first published at Geneva in 1629. This work is openly Calvinist in its teaching, and many have denied its authenticity; yet, even if it was drafted by one of Cyril's Protestant friends, such as Léger, Cyril himself appended his signature to it and accepted it as his own.

Cyril's life came to a tragic end on June 27, 1638. He was arrested on an accusation of inciting the Don Cossacks to attack the Ottoman domains. After a few days in prison he was taken out to sea in a small boat and strangled. A man of vision and energy, and endowed with an able intellect, in calmer times Cyril might have succeeded in effecting a theological rapprochement between East and West, as well as in raising cultural and educational standards within the ecumenical patriarchate. As it was, his great gifts of leadership were largely wasted in an unremitting and futile struggle for power.

Cyril's Confession of Faith expresses to a considerable degree a reformed rather than an Orthodox viewpoint. He states that "the authority of scripture is higher than that of the church," since scripture alone, being divinely inspired, cannot err (sec. 2); and he denies the infallibility of the church (sec. 12). He adopts the standard Calvinist teaching on predestination and election (sec. 3) and insists on justification by faith alone, without works (sec. 13). He holds that there are only two "sacraments of the gospel," baptism and the Eucharist (sec. 15), and he dismisses "the vainly invented doctrine of transubstantiation," arguing that the faithful receive the body of Christ "not by crushing it with their physical teeth, but by perceiving it through the sense and feeling of the soul" (sec. 17). He rejects the doctrine of purgatory, denying that there can be change or progress after death (sec. 18), and he repudiates the veneration of icons (answer 4).

Cyril's Confession is the most far-reaching attempt ever made by an Eastern church leader to bring Orthodox teaching into line with Protestantism. It is hard to determine whether he was seeking merely to please his Calvinist supporters, or whether he was expressing his own deepest convictions in the hope of inspiring some sort of reformation within the Orthodox church. In fact the Confession found little favor and was condemned by no fewer than six Orthodox councils in the half century following Cyril's death (Constantinople, 1638, 1642; Jassy, 1642; Constantinople, 1672; Jerusalem, 1672; and Constantinople, 1691). The most significant of these condemnations was at the Jerusalem Council of 1672; this council ratified the Confession composed by Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem, which rebutted Cyril's Confession point by point. Even though Dositheos was influenced by Latin theology, his deviation from mainstream Orthodoxy was far less radical than Cyril's. The influence of Cyril's Confession was in this way largely negative, serving to push the Greek church in an anti-Protestant direction; but, if only by way of reaction, it also served to clarify seventeenth-century Orthodox thinking about the church, the sacraments, and the state of the departed.


The Greek text of The Eastern Confession of the Christian Faith may be found in part 1 of Ernest Julius Kimmel's Monumenta fidei ecclesiae orientalis (Jena, 1850), pp. 2444. It has been translated into English and edited by James N. W. B. Robertson in The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem (London, 1899), pp. 185215; another translation is George A. Hadjiantoniou's Protestant Patriarch: The Life of Cyril Lucaris, 15721638, Patriarch of Constantinople (Richmond, Va., 1961), pp. 141145. Some of Cyril's earlier sermons have been edited by Keetje Rozemond in Sermons, 15981602 (Leiden, 1974). Cyril's correspondence may be found in Monumens authentiques de la religion des Grecs, et de la fausseté de plusieurs confessions de foi des chrétiens orientaux, edited by Jean Aymon (The Hague, 1708), pp. 1200; also, in Émile Legrand's Bibliographie hellénique, ou Description raisonnée des ouvrages publiés par des Grecs au dix-septieme siècle, vol. 4, Notices bibliographiques (Paris, 1896), pp. 175521.

Source material on Cyril's career is to be found in Thomas Smith's Collectanea de Cyrillo Lucario, patriarcha Constantinopolitano (London, 1707) and in The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe (London, 1740). Among modern studies, the most scholarly are in Greek: see especially Chrysostom Papadopoulos's Kurillos Loukaris, rev. ed. (Athens, 1939) and Ioannis N. Karmiris's Orthodoxia kai Protestantismos (Athens, 1937), pp. 177275. The work of Hadjiantoniou, cited above, is a readable but partisan account by a Greek evangelical. There is a briefer but more balanced treatment in Steven Runciman's The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence (Cambridge, U.K. 1968), pp. 259288. On the political background, see Gunnar Hering's Ökumenisches Patriarchat und europäische Politik, 16201638 (Wiesbaden, 1968).

Kallistos Ware (1987)