September 10, 2010
In a move hailed as ‘historic,’ the Holy Synod yesterday approved the text of a new charter rendering the Church of Cyprus truly autocephalous.
The new charter will be endorsed by the body Monday at the Archbishopric, during a ceremony to be attended by the President, political leaders and VIPs.
An autocephalous church is one that enjoys total canonical and administrative independence and elects its own prelates and bishops. The Cypriot Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly by the Council of Ephesus of 431 and is ruled by the Archbishop of Cyprus, who is not subject to any higher ecclesiastical authority, although his church remains in full communion with the other Eastern Orthodox churches.
Under the new charter, the Holy Synod will comprise of 17 members (16 metropolitans and the Archbishop), a number sufficient to allow it to regulate all internal matters, without the need to call a ‘Greater Synod’ involving the participation of bishops from affiliated Orthodox churches.
It is also empowered to put on trial, and pronounce sentence on, bishops and even the Prelate. Bishops will have the right to appeal such decisions with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
In addition, by a three-quarters majority vote the Synod will have the right to remove the Archbishop or a metropolitan on the grounds of incapacity due to ill health.
In 2006 it took a Greater Synod decision to call for elections to replace the then ailing Prelate, Archbishop Chrysostomos, who for years had been incapacitated from Alzheimer’s disease.
The new charter provides for a new method of electing bishops and the Archbishop. A list of qualified candidates will be drawn up and the public will be asked to vote. The top three candidates will then make it to a short-list, and the winner will be chosen via secret ballot by the Holy Synod.