Cyprus’ Orthodox Church leader has said he will suspend unvaccinated priests if they continue to refuse the jab and advocate for others to do the same.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II told Cyprus’ state broadcaster CyBC on Sunday that 27 of 123 priests in his diocese were still unvaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, including 15 who have been granted medical exemptions.
For the 12 unvaccinated priests without exemptions, the Orthodox leader said a three-month suspension would begin on Tuesday. Should they continue to defy church rules, the suspension would be extended to six months and may even lead to eventual defrocking.
The Cyprus Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous (meaning it appoints its own head of Church) Greek Orthodox churches. Along with other Eastern Orthodox churches, it is part of the Eastern Orthodox Church communion.
Chrysostomos, a cancer survivor, suggested that the unjabbed priests’ rebellion was due to his frail health.
On Sunday, the Archbishop described priests and theologians disobeying their chief bishop as an “unprecedented”. Chrysostomos, a cancer survivor, suggested that the unjabbed priests’ rebellion was due to his frail health. He said priests and theologians who did not get vaccinated and advocated for their congregations to do the same were acting out of selfish motives.
While vaccination is not compulsory in Cyprus, the Church has issued strong guidelines to priests and theologians to get vaccinated. Chrysostomos has supported the country’s government’s campaign to vaccinate the population from the start, getting vaccinated early in December 2020. Last year, Chrysostomos warned priests that he would not tolerate employees who refused to get vaccinated, encouraged their congregations not to get vaccinated, or who did not wear masks.
Cyprus has reported 259,784 Covid-19 cases and 734 since the pandemic began. Around 70 per cent of the country’s population is double-vaxxed at this stage.