Cyprus, The Catholic Church in
CYPRUS, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The largest island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, located approximately 60 miles south of the Turkish coastline and west of Syria, Cyprus has a long and important political and cultural history, owing to its geographical position. The island's central treeless plains rise to mountains in the north, with Mt. Olympus dominating the range at over 6,400 feet. Mountains rise in the southern part of the island, worn by heavy winter rains. There are few rivers and no significant inland lakes. The island's name derives from the Latin "cuprum" or copper, and Cyprus was one of the chief sources of that metal in the ancient world. Other natural resources include pyrites, asbestos, timber, salt and marble. Agricultural production, which occurs mainly in the north and which is restricted by the lack of fresh water, includes potatoes, citrus, vegetables, barley, grapes and olives.
Under the political sway of Turkey until the region became part of the British Empire in the late 19th century, Cyprus attained political independence in 1960. Armed rebellion between southern Greeks and northern minority Turkish factions followed a Greek Cypriot effort to take control of the government in 1974, resulting in the intervention of Turkish troops and proclamation of a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. Settlement talks remained underway in 2000. While Cyprus was invited to join the European Union, the political stalemate threatened that opportunity.
Ecclesiastically, the autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church has its archdiocese in Nicosia, as does the Latin vicariate under the patriarch of Jerusalem, which has five parishes. The Maronite archdiocese of Cyprus is also located in Nicosia, and has ten parishes administered by six diocesan and 11 religious priests, while seven brothers and 43 sisters attend to the parishioners' educational and humanitarian needs. Cyprus' Christian churches belong to the Middle East Council of Churches, which meets regularly to promote unity in the conflict-ridden Middle East.
The Early Church
Cyprus was the center of a flourishing culture during the Bronze Age, and relations with Syria and Asia Minor were particularly close and constant. From the city of Salamis, Mycenaean influences spread rapidly from c. 1400 b.c. and coincided with an increasing exploitation of the island's copper deposits. Greek immigration increased due to the influx of refugees from central and southern Greece following the Dorian migration, and Greek culture eventually dominated the island. Kingship was the normal form of government among Cypriot cities.
Beginning c. 1000 b.c., Phoenicians established themselves on the island, establishing the city of Citium (Larnaca). From 709 to 350 b.c. the island fell in turn under the domination of Assyria, Egypt and Persia. In 333 b.c. Cyprus supported Alexander the Great, and in 295 b.c. it became one of the prized possessions of the Ptolemies, kings of Egypt, who exploited its timber, copper and other resources. In 58 b.c. Cyprus, with its ten city kingdoms, was annexed by Rome and became a senatorial province.
Pagan cults flourished on the island from the earliest times. The religious institutions that followed were predominantly Greek, but reflected influences of the eastern Mediterranean from Asia Minor to Egypt. Paphos, associated with the birth of Aphrodite, was the center of one of the most important cults of that goddess in the Greek world. Beginning in the early Ptolemaic period, a steady influx of Jews immigrated to Cyprus. In a.d. 115–116 Jews revolted throughout the island under the rule of Trajan; the destruction of life and property was enormous and the revolt was put down with corresponding severity, culminating in the expulsion of the remaining Jews from Cyprus and their future exclusion.
Cyprus was one of the first regions to hear the Gospel outside of Palestine. Barnabas and Mnason were Cypriots (Acts 4.36; 21.16), and the Gospel was first preached in Antioch by men from Cyrene and Cyprus who had fled from Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen (11.19). Saints paul and barnabas preached throughout the island on Paul's first missionary journey, and evidence of his presence has been uncovered near an ancient Greek temple in the town of Paphos. Barnabas, with Mark as his companion, returned to Cyprus at a later date (15.39). Apart from what is related in Acts there is no reliable information on the Church of Cyprus until the early 4th century.
Under Byzantium and Islam. Following the reorganization of the Roman Empire by Diocletian and Constantine the Great, Cyprus was included in the Diocese of the Orient, under the jurisdiction of the Comes Orientis. Under Justinian the Great, it was placed under the control of the Quaestor Exercitus (quaestor of the army), and from the 7th century it became one of the Byzantine themes.
Cypriot bishops are known to have signed the acts of the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the letter of the Council of Sardica in 343–344, and at least four were present at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The most distinguished representative of the Church of Cyprus in this period was the scholar epiphanius of salamis-Constantia (d. 403). During the 5th century the Church engaged in a heated struggle with the Patriarchate of Antioch, and ultimately secured recognition of its independence on the ground that St. Barnabas founded it. The archbishop of Constantia henceforth had the right to consecrate his suffragans, summon them to council and assume the title of Beatitude.
From the 5th to the 9th century the Church of Cyprus took an active part in religious affairs in the East. Three Cypriot bishops participated in the Council of Chalcedon (451) and at the Second Council of Nicaea (787), which condemned the iconoclasm of the Byzantine emperor; the archbishop of Constantia took a leadership role.
As early as 632, Cyprus had begun to suffer from Arab attacks, and in 647 it was conquered and briefly held by Muslim invaders. In 802 it was occupied by the Arabs, who remained until they were driven out under Nicephorus II Phocas (963–969). The patriarchs of Constantinople seized the opportunity provided by the Islamic incursions to interfere in internal Church affairs, resulting in revolts against the Church under emperors Michael IV (1034–47) and Alexius Comnenus (1081–1118). The brutal reigns of later emperors would prepare the way for Latin domination.
Under the Crusaders and the Venetians. Richard I, of England, called Cœur de Lion, seized Cyprus in 1191, and the island soon found its way to French crusader Guy de Lusignan, titular king of Jerusalem. On Guy's death in 1194 his brother Amaury assumed the title of king of Cyprus and established a dynasty which ruled the island until 1489, when Catarina Cornaro, widow of King James II, abdicated the throne in favor of the Italian trading
state of Venice. Transformed into a Western feudal state by its new Venetian rulers, a Latin Church hierarchy was established beside the Greek. The Latin hierarchy eventually gained dominance, reducing the 15 Greek sees to four. A number of Western monastic orders were also established on the island, and there occurred the confiscation of much Greek ecclesiastical property by the Latin-rite Church. Tension and frequent violence erupted between Greeks and Latins of all ranks during the schism, and papal interventions supported the subordination of the Greek hierarchy to the Latin, although some attempts were made to ameliorate the general situation. The Council of Florence, despite its efforts at reunion, could not reduce tension in Cyprus. The attempt of Helen Palaeologus, wife of King John II, to appoint a Greek archbishop independent of Rome led Pope Nicholas V (1447) to order his legate, Archbishop Andrew of Nicosia, to work actively for the conversion of the Greeks using such civil authority as was necessary. The Venetians treated Greek Cypriots harshly, forcing many to flee to Asia Minor. Those who remained looked forward to the island's imminent conquest by the Ottoman Turks.
Under Turkish Domination (1571–1878). The Turkish conquerors who routed the Venetians in 1571 did little to stabilize the Greek Orthodox Church. Instead, Greeks and Latins alike were massacred, including bishops and heads of monasteries; churches were profaned and turned into mosques, monasteries into stables. After Ottoman rule was firmly established, Greeks were permitted to restore their hierarchy and buy back some of their monasteries, although old sees were not re-erected and the Church was limited to the four the Latins had not abolished. Nicosia became the archepiscopal see, and the three bishops took the title of metropolitans under the jurisdiction of the archbishop.
Under Turkish administration, the members of the Greek hierarchy functioned as civil as well as ecclesiastical heads of their people. Perhaps because of this extended power, a continuous scramble for high ecclesiastical office continued through the early 19th century, and numerous abuses and quarrels arose, particularly between the archbishop and his metropolitans. Revolution was soon in the wind, and on July 9, 1821 a meeting of all Christian religious and lay leaders was convoked at Nicosia. The gates of the city were closed, and the Turkish garrison massacred all who were assembled there, including the archbishop, his three metropolitans and the heads of monasteries. The Turks then requested the Christians to select new bishops. Failing in their appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople, they turned to the Patriarch of Antioch, who sent three archbishops as consecrators. Joachim, the econome of the church of St. Barnabas, was made archbishop of Cyprus, in part because of his knowledge of Turkish. He and his successors worked tirelessly to prevent further persecutions. While they were unable to alleviate the heavy burden of taxation on their flocks, they succeeded to some extent in restoring educational training, which had been suppressed following the massacre.
The Modern Era
Cyprus remained part of the Ottoman Empire until the late 19th century, when it reverted to British control. Since that time the region has suffered from strong social, cultural and religious barriers between Cyprians of Greek and Turkish descent.
Ethnic Violence Characterizes 20th Century. In 1878 Great Britain leased Cyprus from Turkey and took over its administration. It annexed the island in 1914 and 11 years later made it a crown colony. The long agitation by many for union with Greece entered a new stage following World War II, marked by violence, guerilla warfare, terrorism and increasingly bitter relations and strife between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Both Christian and Muslim religious leaders were heavily involved in political affairs, and repressive measures taken by the British, including the exile of bishops, failed to quell the growing violence.
In 1959, following a conference in Zürich, the prime ministers of Great Britain, Greece and Turkey signed an agreement accepted by both the Greek and the Turkish representatives from Cyprus. The agreement, which established Cyprus as an independent republic, went into effect on Aug. 16, 1960, and His Beatitude, Archbishop Makarios III, was elected the country's first president. The treaty precluded both union with Greece and partition, but brought little peace to the island.
Violence continued between Greeks and Turks in the island, resulting in heavy loss of life and destruction of property. In 1963 British troops were sent to Cyprus at the president's request, followed a year later by a U.N. peacekeeping force. Following an attempt by Greek Cypriots to take control of the government, Turkish military invaded the island, and the government temporarily collapsed. Ultimately, Makarios regained the presidency, although the location of a British Air Force base at Akrotiri and the establishment of a Turkish Federated State over more than 30 percent of northern Cyprus engendered political conflicts. Appointing its own president, the Turkish region proclaimed itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983; despite continued negotiations between the two governments there was little movement toward unity by 2000.
Greek Church Gains Independence. Dissension in the Cypriot Greek Orthodox Church reached a crisis following the death of Archbishop Sophronios in 1900, and the quarrel over his successor was ultimately settled by British recognition of one of the candidates in 1909. A charter for the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, containing 138 articles, was adopted in 1914, with some additions made in 1917 and 1918. The independence of the Church of Cyprus was again proclaimed, to be governed by a Holy Synod composed of the archbishop of Nicosia and the metropolis of Kyrenia, Citium and Paphos.
The exile of the bishops in 1931 created a new crisis. With the cooperation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Church of Greece and the British government, the bishoprics were filled and a new archbishop was elected in 1947. The constitution of 1960 extended to the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as to the Muslim Vakf, and the Armenian Orthodox, Maronite and Latin-rite churches, the exclusive right to regulate its affairs and holdings. Both religious groups remained exempt from all state taxes. In the northern, Turkish-controlled area, only the Vakf was recognized by the government.
In 2000 the Greek Orthodox Church had one seminary and some 600 priests, and operated fewer than ten monasteries. The Franciscans of Jerusalem, who despite hazards had reestablished themselves in Cyprus in 1572, conducted the parishes of the Latin Catholics. Catholic sisters operated a hospital and several schools, supplementing the state-sanctioned teaching of the Greek Orthodox religion in all government-controlled schools. Other Catholic churches included Armenian, Byzantine and Maronite. There were several other orthodox groups, all small in the number of their respective adherents. There were also small groups; of Anglicans and Presbyterians as well as three schools under U.S. Protestant missionary control.
The forced emigration of Orthodox faithful and the loss of over 500 churches to the Muslims in the north continued to be a cause for distress among the island's Greek Orthodox community. In a speech before the Middle East Council of Churches convened in Cyprus in 1996, Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos called upon representatives of the assembled churches to "not forget us in your prayers…. pray for us too and … we too will be praying for our brothers going through trials in the Middle Eastern region." In early 2000 borders between the two regions opened on religious holidays to allow the free passage of Greek pilgrims, north to the Apostolos Andreas monastery and Turkish faithful, south to the Hala Sultan mosque.
Bibliography: e. kirsten, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, ed. t. klauser [Stuttgart 1941 (1950)–] 3:481–499. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, eds., f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 3.1:1568–84. r. janin, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 12:791–820. g. hill, A History of Cyprus, 4 v. (Cambridge, Eng. 1940–52). Bilan du Monde. Encyclopédie Catholique du monde Chrétien, 2v. (Tournai 1964).
[m. r. p. mcguire/eds.]