June 28, 2016

Life of the Holy Hieromartyr Cyril Loukaris (1 of 5)

By Metropolitan Cyril of Rhodes

The Hieromartyr Patriarch Cyril Loukaris (or Lucaris) was born in Handaka (modern Heraklion) of then Venetian occupied Crete on 13 November 1572 "from notable and free parents, admired in the State and the Church,"1 and at Holy Baptism took the name Constantine. His father was a Priest named Stephen.2 His teacher was the virtuous scholar Hieromonk Meletios Vlastos,3 by whom were taught other illustrious ecclesiastical personalities of the time, such as Saint Meletios Pegas the Patriarch of Alexandria and Meletios Syrigos.

After he received a well-rounded education in his homeland, Cyril was sent in 1584 by his parents to Venice for a broader education. There he met the Cretan scholar and hierarch Bishop Maximos Margounios of Kythera, who took him under his protection and became his professor. From Margounios he learned the Greek, Latin and Italian languages. In 1588 he was forced to return to Crete, due to economic problems facing his family, but a year later, in 1589, he returned to Italy to complete his studies and enrolled at the famous University of Padua, where he learned philosophy and theology close to teachers renowned for their wisdom, such as Cesare Cremonini, Francesco Piccolomini, and the mighty fighter of the Jesuits James Sharpe.

After completing his studies in 1592, he returned to Crete and became a Monk in the very famous Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos of Agarathos, where later his brother according to the flesh Maximos Loukaris served as the Abbot. He remained in the Monastery of his repentance for a very short time, because the next year he was called to Egypt by his relative Saint Meletios Pegas, the Patriarch of Alexandria, to serve near the Throne of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark. That same year he was ordained Deacon and Presbyter by Meletios, placing on the young cleric many and good hopes.4

In 1593 Meletios was accompanied by his Chancellor Cyril Loukaris, after an invitation from Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II, to Constantinople to solve various ecclesiastical matters. During his stay in the Queen City he was informed of the proselytizing activities of the Latins in Russia and Poland,5 because of which the Orthodox suffered badly and were in danger of extinction. Meletios thought to go there in person to support the Orthodox, but not being able to he sent as his Patriarchal Exarch his Chancellor Cyril. Patriarch Jeremiah II sent as his Patriarchal Exarch his relative Archimandrite Nikephoros Paraschis the Kantakouzenos.

Cyril, obeying Patriarch Meletios and the mandate of the Church, arrived in Poland and worked first as Director of the School of Vilnius, the city where he established a print shop for issuing Orthodox books and pamphlets in order to catechize and inform the people. In early October 1596 he received a letter from the Christians describing the grim situations and riots caused by the Uniates, and decided together with Archimandrite Nikephoros to attend the Synod of Brest. The Synod divided when the Orthodox withdrew and formed their own Synod, which condemned the Unia and the Uniates. But King Sigismund of Poland upheld the decisions of the Synod of the Uniates and unleashed a persecution against the Orthodox. Nikephoros was arrested as a supposed spy of the Turks and imprisoned in the fort of Mariembourg, where he died of starvation. Cyril managed to escape arrest, he left Poland, and after a short time in Leontopolis he returned to Alexandria.

In 1559, as "Grand Archimandrite and Exarch," he was sent again by Meletios Pegas, who was the Supervisor of the Ecumenical Throne, to Poland to carry letters of reply to King Sigismund, who had suggested to Meletios to join the Churches. Along with this he had the mandate to go from Crete to Chios to deal with the propaganda of the Jesuits. After completing his mission in Poland, he departed for the countries of the Danube (1601) to support the Orthodox there. While in Iasi he received a letter from Meletios, calling him to return to Alexandria for an urgent matter, to give him his final instructions and hand over the Throne. Cyril arrived in Alexandria two days before the repose of Meletios, which took place on 13 September 1601.

With the repose of Meletios, Cyril was elected Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria at the age of 29. As soon as he ascended the Throne he called for a Local Synod in Cairo and condemned the Latins, who had won over the Copts in order to destroy the Orthodox Patriarchate. In early 1605 he arrived in Cyprus, at the invitation of Christians, to help the local Church torn by internal disputes and battles, which took place after the deposition of Archbishop Athanasios of Cyprus, and he managed to pacify things. In 1608 he traveled to Jerusalem, for the consecration of Patriarch Theophanos of Jerusalem, and from there went to Damascus. He returned to Alexandria and served with zeal in preaching the divine word. He proceeded to have maintenance work done on the patriarchal buildings and churches and built new ones, while at the same time taking care to relieve the Patriarchate of its debts.


1. Cyril himself referred to his origins when he wrote to his accusers: "ὑμεῖς οἴδατε ὅσον περίφημος κατὰ γῆν καὶ θάλασσαν ἡ ἐμὴ πατρὶς καὶ ὅτι οὐ στάνος καὶ φραντζήλα, γένος μικτὸν καὶ ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι, νόθοι καὶ δοῦλοι καὶ ἄδηλοι οἱ ἐμοὶ γονεῖς, ἀλλ̉ ἕλληνες εὐσχήμονες, ἐλεύθεροι ἔν τε τῇ πολιτείᾳ καὶ τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ περίβλεπτοι." E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellenigue [XVII siècle] IV, 279.

2. We are informed of the name of his father "παπᾶ Στεφανῆς" from an abusive epigram of the Catholic Archbishop Nikephoros Melissenos of Naxos who was from Crete. E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellenigue [XVII siècle] IV, 475-476.

3. Cyril always remembered his teacher Meletios Vlastos gratefully. In one of his letters he wrote to him: "Σὲ μόνον οἶδα πηγὴν τῶν σολομοντείων φρεάτων, δαψιλῶς δυνάμενον τοῖς διψῶσι παρέχειν ὕδωρ ζῶν καὶ ἁλόμενον εἰς ὠφέλειαν ψυχικήν... Ἄξιος εἶ τῆς τῶν πάντων ἀγάπης, Μελέτιε λογιώτατε, τῆς ἡμετέρας μάλιστα καὶ διὰ τὸ παιδαγωγῆσαί ποτε ἡμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἡμετέραν νεότητα." E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellenigue [XVII siècle] IV, 267.

4. Patriarch Meletios of Alexandria wrote to Cyril: "Μεγάλας ἐγὼ τὰς ἐλπίδας περὶ σοῦ κέκτημαι, τὸ μὲν ὅτι κατ̉ ἴχνος τοῖς πατράσιν ἀκολουθήσεις, βίῳ καὶ θεωρίᾳ κοσμηθείσῃ, συναγωνιζόμενος τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ χάριτι... Τί γὰρ οὐκ ἐλπιστέον παρ̉ ἀνδρὸς τηλικούτου; Περιφανῶν γονέων σε παῖδα οὐχ ἡ τύχη, ἀλλ̉ ὁ Θεὸς ἔφυσε, θρέμμα δὲ Ἀρχιερέων ἐπ̉ ἀρετῇ καὶ βίου λαμπρότητι καὶ σπουδῇ πάσῃ καὶ λόγων ἰδέαις βεβοημένων· ἐνεκέντρισε δὲ θρόνῳ ἀποστολικῷ, τῷ τῶν Ἀλεξανδρέων δηλαδή, καὶ διὰ χειρῶν τῶν ἐμῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν καιροῖς πᾶσαν γλῶσσαν ὑπερβαίνουσιν τῆς ἀνάγκης καὶ χρείας ἀφθονίᾳ... Ἐμὲ δέ τὰ κατὰ σὲ σκοποῦντα ἐπιμελέστερον εὐέλπιδα τίθησιν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἐκείνοις τὸ ἤδη σε ἄρξασθαι περιφανῶς ἀρετῆς ἀντιποιεῖσθαι καὶ βίον καὶ λόγον διαφερόντως λαμπρῶς. Ταῦτά μοι αἴσιος γίνεται οἰωνὸς τὴς ἀρχῆς ἔσεσθαι κατάλληλον τὸ τέλος... Μὴ ἀποκάμῃς τρέχων καὶ πυκτεύων καὶ ἀγωνιζόμενος ἕως τῶν βραβείων εὐμοιρήσεις». E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellenigue [XVII siècle] IV, 215.

5. In southwestern Russia and Poland, the Jesuits led by Piotr Skarga succeeded in attracting the Russian Bishops to the idea of the Unia, in which the Orthodox would recognize the primacy of the Pope while keeping undistorted the dogmas, morals and customs of their Church. This move of the apostate Bishops caused great unrest and there was immediately requested from the Orthodox Patriarchs of the East to help prevent the people from being mislead into apostasy.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.