Previous // Contents // Next






3. Cyril V, Patriarch of Constantinople (Sept. 1748-June 1751; and Sept. 1752-Jan. 1757)

            Patriarch Cyril V, who lived in very troubled times, occupies a prominent place in the history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Born in the Peloponnesian city of Dimitsana toward the end of the seventeenth century, he lived for a time on the Holy Mountain and on Patmos where he studied and was tonsured a monk. In 1737 he was elected Metropolitan of Melenoikon in Macedonia, and in 1745 was transferred to the diocese of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. In 1748 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch but was dethroned in 1751 because of disturbances. Already in his first term as patriarch he came into conflict with the Westerners and Latin propaganda. The French ambassador was his chief opponent, given that France was the protectress of the Latins within the Ottoman Empire.

            During his two terms as patriarch, Cyril confronted two fundamental issues, on account of which he acquired many friends, but also many enemies. In order to confront the factionalism of the bishops residing in Constantinople and the continual change of patriarchs which the foreign propaganda took advantage of, he dismissed the residing bishops in 1751 (a measure repeated in 1755), and obliged them to return to their dioceses. Thus he incurred the hatred of many hierarchs and their permanent opposition. This will become apparent primarily over the question of the (re)baptism of Latins. He likewise devoted attention to the finances of the Great Church, conducting collections of funds and, in 1755, forming a mixed committee composed of lay officials and bishops. He also sought to organize education, and to this end founded the Athonias school in 1749.

            The question of the (re)baptism of converts from the West is connected with Cyril’s efforts, beginning in 1749, to guard Orthodoxy from her increasingly closer embrace with the Latin Church, and to repulse the Pope’s proselytistic activities as well as his encroachment on the Shrines in the Holy Lands and on the Patriarchate of Alexandria. He commenced his antipapal campaign, having as he did the trust and cooperation of a major portion of the monks and populace. It was met with indifference from the educated and higher clergy, however, and with opposition from the synodal bishops for the aforementioned reasons.

            On 28 April 1755, the synodal bishops convoked a Council which they censured the book, A Denunciation of Sprinkling, and denounced the (re)baptism of Westerners. This counter-effort was spearheaded by Cyril’s chief opponent and successor, Callinicus IV. Cyril, for his part, being guided by his patristic mind, and furthermore in order to check Western propaganda which had become overbold, did not hesitate to oppose the body of hierarchs and to condemn their uncanonical action. Thus, in June 1755 he published a response, known by the title ‘’Anathema of those who accept papal sacraments,’’ that was read aloud in the churches and was received with enthusiasm by the pious Orthodox populace. Cyril exposed the pressures he was experiencing to sign the pro-West decision of the hierarchs, and he thus placed in danger not only his throne, but also his life. Yet Cyril also reacted in a more affirmative manner. He dissolved the anti-patriarchal synod and sent the bishops to their dioceses. Then, together with Matthew and Parthenios, the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem respectively, he signed the notorious ‘’Oros of the Holy Great Church of Christ,’’ which decree recommended ‘’the God-given holy baptism,’’ and scorned ‘’the baptisms otherwise administered by heretics.’’ His Oros constitutes the authorized practice of the Great Church on this question officially in force to this day.

            The traditionalist Patriarch had as an ardent partner in his struggles, among others, the well-known, outstanding theologian of the time, Eustratios Argentis. His enemies did not succeed in reversing the Oros, despite their organized opposition, which even included satire and libel. The counteractions against Cyril ultimately led to his dethronement, despite the reactions of the populace which remained loyal to the hesychast Patriarch. Two synodal unfrockings were pronounced against him (Jan. 1757, and 1763), which display his enemies’ hatred for him, and which constitute real libel. On 27 July 1775, he died on the Holy Mountain, where he was in quiet retirement.


(Bibliography, see n. 2 above.)


Previous // Contents // Next

Article published in English on: 14-9-2007.

Last Update: 15-9-2007.