Metropolitan of Limassol Athanasius separates his
position from that of the official position of the
Church of Cyprus on the matter of Pope Benedict's
visit to Cyprus. He boldly declares that he is
opposed, with the argument that Papism is a heresy
and that the visit here of the Primate of the
Catholic Church will scandalize the souls of
innocent pious Christians. At the same time, he
stresses that there should be no displays of
unseemliness, no rudeness, no bad behaviour.
He has personally stated that he will not
participate in the reception schedule.
Q: Why would the Church and her flock be scandalized
by the impending visit to the island by Pope
Benedict XVI ?
I believe that the Pope's visit to Cyprus will cause
several problems to the conscience of many pious
Christians. It would be better if he did not come,
because I believe that it will not benefit us in any
way, given that I have not seen any positive
intervention by the Vatican until now, with regard
to our national issues. Enough unrest has already
been caused, which was not something we needed at
this point in time.
Q: Are we in danger from something?
not saying that we are in danger with the arrival of
the Pope, or that we will betray our Faith or that
the Orthodox Church will be subdued. It has merely
given rise to various circles of
(schismatic) Old Calendarists to accuse us of
being compliant, of having lapsed from the
principles of the Orthodox Faith and quite a number
of questions have been raised in many people.
Of course the Pope was invited by the President of
the Republic and the Archbishop gave his consent.
Q: Did you discuss this with the Holy Synod?
the last Synod, the matter of our presence -or not-
in events with the Pope was brought up. I had
refused to participate and said that we knew
nothing. We learnt about the Pope's arrival from the
Q: Do you usually learn the news from the
The Archbishop of Cyprus has increased privileges
and we definitely do not want him to interfere in
our affairs. We do however preserve our personal
right to say that we did not know that the Pope was
coming, and that if asked, I would personally have
declared "no", because it would have caused a
scandal in the souls of innocent pious Christian
Orthodox, the way we are seeing it happening.
Q: Shouldn't there be any communication between the
Churches? We are living in the 21st century; we are
in the European Union.
We can have dialogues with any person, even more so
with the heterodox and those of other religions.
But it is one thing for a
dialogue to take place, and another to receive the
Pope as a canonical Bishop, who,
us Orthodox, is a
heretic, outside of the Church, and, hence, not even
Q: On account of the Schism?
[the Pope] has been outside of the Church for
ten centuries now, he is not a canonical bishop, he
has no relation whatsoever to the reality of the
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ.
It is one thing to receive him as a canonical bishop
and quite another to speak to him as [being]
a heterodox in order to reveal to him the truth of
the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.
Q: The Ecumenical Patriarch has met with the Pope
and a dialogue has already begun between the
As I said,
dialogue is not a bad thing when it is carried out
based on correct presuppositions. However, it is
wrong to say to these people that we recognize them
as a Church, that we recognize the Pope as a Bishop,
as our brother in Christ in the priesthood and in [the]
faith. I cannot accept this, because we are lying [when
we say this], since all of the Holy Fathers teach
exactly the opposite. Papism is a heresy and the
source of many other heresies which trouble the
entire world today. A contemporary Saint of the
Church, Saint Justin Popovich, said that in the
history of the human race there have been three
tragic falls: of the first-formed Adam, of the
disciple of Christ, Judas, and of the Pope, who,
when he was the first Bishop of the Church, fell
from the apostolic faith, was cut off from the
canonical Church and lured away a host of people
with him until today.
Q: What does the Pope say about the Orthodox?
Pope said that we Orthodox are a deficient Church...
Q: God is One...
God is One and the Church of God is one, and that
is why we say in the Symbol of Faith [that we
believe] "in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church." This is the Orthodox Church, there do not
exist many Churches.
Q: Isn't it egotistic, to regard that it is "only us"?
It is not egotistic. When, for example, you say
that "Italians aren't Greek" - which is a truth -
you do not offend the other.
saying to the other that it doesn't matter that
you are Catholic and that we all belong to the same
Church, I am playing with him [or mocking him] since
all of the Holy Fathers teach that the Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ is one.
Q: Why is that one Church ours, and not the
Orthodox Church preserves the faith of the Apostles
and the experience of the prophets unshakeable up
until our own days. The Papists, unfortunately, from
the time when they were cut off from the Church
added many heretic dogmas to their [confession of]
faith, changed the Symbol of Faith [the Nicene
Creed] and above all elevated the Pope to the level
of being the eminent and unique representative of
God on earth.
They claim that the Pope is infallible, and
that whoever has no communion with the Pope has no
communion with God. They teach these things
officially, from within their Synods.
you add things to the Symbol of Faith that the Holy
Fathers did not write, and many other false
teachings, this is heresy. This is the reality of
Q: How does the Orthodox Church
encounter/deal with heretics?
We love the Pope, we love the papists just as we
love every person; we do not despise them, we do not
reject them as persons, but we do not accept [their]
heresy, we do not accept the false teachings, we do
not accept [their] delusions. It is because we love
them that we must tell them the truth.
Q: Of course each one has his own truth...
is why the dialogue takes place - to prove on the
basis of historical sources which Church has
preserved the apostolic faith and the apostolic
experience of the Saints.
Q: Do you think that the Dialogue
can produce results?
It can, if it is done properly and based on the
right presuppositions. Unfortunately, as it is
carried out today, it does not produce results, and
that is why they have carried on discussions for so
many years without coming to any conclusions.
Q: Each one listens only to himself?
They should have embarked on the dialogue by
securing themselves behind the Holy Bible with
humility and love, and with the aim to prove
Christ's Truth. That way, things would be much
Q: Isn't the dialogue taking place with humility and
don't know, I am not participating in the dialogues,
but I haven't seen any significant results coming
out of the decisions being reached. There is a
movement which circulates books opposing the Pope
and they are preparing protests.
None of these things
finds me in agreement.
should be no displays of unseemliness, no rudeness,
no bad behaviour; it is another thing to express our
opinion - after all, we are living in a democratic
polity - and another thing to resort to ugly
Frankly, and before all, I disagree with the coming
of the Pope to Cyprus and I say with my whole soul
that the Pope is a heretic, he is not a bishop, he
is not an Orthodox Christian and this is what the
Holy Fathers say. If I am wrong, I am ready to be
corrected, but on the basis of the Holy Fathers, not
based on the mindset of globalization. Just because
I disagree does not mean that I am being disorderly
and am outside the Church [as some have claimed].
Q: With these statements of yours, aren't you
kindling a flame in those who are already being
scandalized by the Pope's visit?
Whatever we have to say, we say it with every
responsibility and sincerity; we are not setting
fires, because I do not wish to otherwise be
presented as agreeing and lightheartedly accepting
the Papal presence in Cyprus. The Archbishop
confronted our differences in a very democratic
manner during the Synod.
Q: Did you agree to the Archbishop's visit to
weren't asked, but neither is he obliged to ask us.
We were informed by the newspapers. What did his
visit to the Vatican result in?
Q: I don't know. Didn't he inform you?
He informed us, but I personally didn't have any
special interest. The Pope always speaks in a formal manner, says
things which are customary [to his position], as he
will say now that he will come to Cyprus, but he
will do nothing of essence, because he is not the
leader of the Church but a political person who
cannot come into conflict with the political
establishment and system. Did the Pope ever speak
up for the Orthodox Church? We have had so many
conquerors - when did he ever defend us? Not to
mention that during the Frankish rule we suffered
under the Popes and the Papal Bulls that wanted to
exterminate us. This evening we had celebrated the
13 holy martyrs of Kantara, who were killed by order
of the Vatican. We spent 400 years in cruel slavery
during the Frankish reign...
But I will not go back [to the past]. The reasons I
am reacting today are purely theological. When I was
consecrated a bishop I pledged to preserve the
Q: Aren't the priests who will be receiving the Pope
preserving the Orthodox Faith?
Apostle Paul said that those who eat idol-offerings
should not censure those who do not. So do I not
judge those who will participate, but I likewise do
not want to be censured because of my
Q: Last Sunday an encyclical by the Holy Synod
was read in the churches and it made an impression
on the people, when the names of the Conciliar
hierarchs were cited, one by one.
of us decided to issue an encyclical addressed to
the people exhorting them to remain joined to their
Church, to not listen to the
(schismatic) Old Calendarists who want to break
them away from the canonical Church. What was not
clarified in the encyclical was that not all of us
were informed and in agreement with the invitation
towards the Pope.
Q: Why do you think that the Pope is coming to
you can understand, the Papists are going through a
serious crisis with all the scandals that have seen
the light of publicity.
Pederasty (child molesting)?
don't wish to name them, but every day the Press
does publish very sorrowful things... I am not
censuring, but the Pope is under the impression that
he is the first and only Vicar of Christ on Earth,
and that is why he is on such missions.
Q: The Pope said that he wants to
make a pilgrimage following the steps of the Apostle
Except that the Apostle Paul didn't move about in a bulletproof car which cost 500,000
euros, which, I read, was to be purchased by the Cypriot government for the Pope to travel around Cyprus for the
two days he will be here. I was personally quite
scandalized by this news and said that a bulletproof
car does not befit a Vicar of Christ.... And for the people
to have to bear such a cost, in the midst of an
The announcement from the
representatives of the Pope says that he is coming
to Cyprus in order to promote human and Christian
values and principles, and that he wants to walk in
the steps of the Apostle Paul and in a spirit of the
brotherhood meet the Orthodox Church with a good
We do not doubt his good
intention - may it be that this
is the case. May it be that he resembles the Apostle
Paul and acquaints himself with the wealth of the
Orthodox Church. We pray that he returns to the
Orthodox Church and becomes once again an Orthodox
Bishop as he was before the Schism. This alone is
the proper path to unity.
What do you think is the hidden
The Vatican does not perform
random actions or make
Every tour of each Pope has as its aim to present
him as the worldwide leader of
Christianity. At the moment, however, he is
neither a canonical Bishop, nor Orthodox, so that he
is not in a position to present himself as having
first place as a Bishop.
Q: Could there be hidden political interests here?
don't know; I believe that we [the Cypriot people]
have nothing to gain politically from the visit
of the Pope - only a lot of expenses and an
immense upheaval in the conscience of the faithful.
Q: The Archbishop said that all
those who disagree will be placing themselves outside
am not aware of the Archbishop's statements, but
I don't think that whoever disagrees with the
coming of the Pope places himself outside the
Church. I disagree, and
I am stating it boldly, and I am not outside the Church.
Church, like the Archbishop himself stresses, has a
democratic polity; it is a different thing to argue
in a dignified manner and another, to resort to
Translation: P.H. & A.N.