Cyprus church seeks to silence critics of Pope tour

Tue May 25, 2010 1:46pm EDT
 
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NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) - The leader of Cyprus's ancient Orthodox Church lashed out on Tuesday at criticism of Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to the island on June 4-6.

Some members of the Holy Synod, the Cypriot Church's governing body, have expressed opposition to the Catholic Pope's visit to the Mediterranean island, calling him a "heretic."

At least five members of the Synod were planning to boycott the welcoming ceremony for the Pope, the daily Phileleftheros reported.

But seeking to quell dissent, the leader of the Cypriot Orthodox Church on Tuesday told critics they must toe the line and avoid offending a guest of the church and state.

"There is democracy in the Church, freedom of speech and expression. But people cannot just do the first thing that comes into their heads," said Archbishop Chrysostomos, leader of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

Benedict's visit follows a formal invitation from Chrysostomos and Cypriot President, Demetris Christofias.

Chrysostomos, a skillful if often blunt speaker, added: "People can believe what they like, but that does not mean offending a guest."

Cyprus's Greek Cypriot population are predominantly members of the Orthodox Christian faith. There is a small community of Catholics, and religious differences or disputes have rarely, if ever, been a problem in recent times.

A key difference between Orthodox and Catholicism is the Catholic doctrine that the Popes of Rome have absolute authority over all other bishops. Orthodoxy and Catholicism formally divided in the 11th century in what is known as the Great Schism.   Continued...

 
<p>Pope Benedict XVI and the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II (L), meet at the Vatican June 16, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>