Cyprus Orthodox Church to suspend priests over COVID vaccination

Archbishop Chrysostomos II stands next to a pair of ornate, gilded doors that guard the altar of a church
Chrysostomos II issued strong guidelines to priests and theologians to get vaccinated [File: Philippos Christou/AP]

The leader of the Cyprus Orthodox Church has warned he would suspend a dozen unvaccinated priests from Tuesday if they continue to defy church rules on COVID-19.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II told state broadcaster CyBC on Sunday he would send the priests home, as they refused to get vaccinated while also advocating against coronavirus jabs.

He said that 27 of 123 priests in his diocese remained unvaccinated, including 15 who have exemptions for medical reasons.

The remaining 12 would be suspended for three months as of Tuesday, and if they continued to defy the archbishop, the suspension would be extended to six months and could lead to defrocking, Chrysostomos said.

He said it was “unprecedented” to have priests and even theologians disobey their chief bishop.

‘Selfish motives’

Chrysostomos, a cancer survivor, said some priests defied him due to his frail health.

He argued that the priests and theologians refuse to get jabbed, act out of “selfish motives”, and influence churchgoers.

Bishops of Cyprus Orthodox Church reading
Bishops prepare for a meeting with Archbishop Chrysostomos II in Nicosia [File: Petros Karadjias/AP]

Despite vaccination remaining optional in Cyprus, the archbishop issued strong guidelines to priests and theologians to get vaccinated.

He backed the government’s campaign to vaccinate the population from the start, being one of the first people to get jabbed in December 2020.

Last year, Chrysostomos warned he would not tolerate employees who refuse to get vaccinated and priests who do not wear masks and incite their congregation to reject the jab.

COVID-19 infections have declined in recent weeks after peaking at 5,457 on January 4.

January also recorded 93 deaths, the highest since the pandemic.

The Republic of Cyprus has officially recorded 253,350 coronavirus cases and 731 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

About 74.7 percent of the country’s one million population has received a first jab, while 71.1 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

Source: News Agencies