June 27, 2018

Cyril Loukaris Versus the World

Cyril Loukaris was elected Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 1620, at a critical time in Europe. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) between Catholics and Protestants was raging, exporting its hatred and violence to the East. Jesuits and Capuchins were attempting to induce mass conversions to Catholicism from among the Orthodox population, while Catholic powers and Protestant ambassadors were both applying pressure on the Sublime Porte.

As patriarch, Cyril Loukaris found himself at the center of this rivalry. During the eighteen years of his patriarchate he was deposed and recalled five times. According to Professor Christos Patrinellis:

"The Catholic Church used all its religious and political influence to destroy this 'son of darkness': the Jesuits and Capuchins of Constantinople, the French and Austrian ambassadors, the newly constituted Propaganda Fidei, Pope Urban VIII himself and even Louis XIII and the powerful Cardinal Richelieu. Almost any means of attacking Loukaris were regarded as legitimate because the motive was 'sacred': these included threats and violence, bribing Turkish officials and pro-Catholic clerics in the circle of his successor Cyril Kontares, forging texts incriminating Loukaris, and claiming that the patriarch was inciting foreign powers against the Ottoman Empire. The Austrian Embassy planned Loukaris' assasination or his abduction to Italy and delivered to the Holy Inquisition. Eventually the Austrian ambassador and Kontares persuaded the Sublime Porte to eliminate the patriarch and he was strangled on June 27, 1638."*

The Confession which was forged in his name caused much confusion and condemnation among the Orthodox, while it was used for propaganda by both Protestants and Catholics. Protestants urged the Orthodox and Roman Catholics to identify the Reformation with the Orthodox apostolic tradition, while Catholics tried to attract the Orthodox to papism, which they claimed preserved the purity of the Christian faith. The campaign spread to the Orthodox Slavs using the same arguments mingled with anti-Hellenism.

Despite this, Hieromartyr Cyril Loukaris was honored as a Saint and Martyr shortly after his martyric death by those aware of the falsehoods being circulated, and Saint Eugenios of Aitolia († 1682, Aug. 5) compiled a Divine Office to celebrate his memory. The official glorification of the Holy Hieromartyr Cyril Loukaris finally took place by decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on October 6, 2009, and he is annually celebrated on June 27th.


* Patrinelis, Christos. "Antagonismos ton ideon Metarrythmiseos kai Antimetarrythmiseos" [Conflict between the Ideas of Reform and Counter-reform]. In: Istoria tou Ellinikou Ethnous. 1, 130. Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon (1975).