Let me extend my sincere gratitude towards the Gymnastic Centre of Strovolos, ‘Keravnos’ and all of you here today, for giving me the honor to be here. It is an especially moving day today, the 9th of July, since Nicosia and its surrounding areas have been acknowledged as the place where the martyrs of faith and country have shed their blood during the Ottoman rule. The region of Strovolos, where the hieromartyr Kyprianos was born, has been especially blessed and honored with his martyrdom as well as the monastery of Mahairas, where Kyprianos is regarded as its true child. read more…
In accepting the invitation to speak on hieromartyr and Archbishop Kyprianos, I felt that it was inappropriate for me to speak about historical events and persons of his might, especially these days which they so resemble those times. It is a grave duty for me indeed, since we will not just cite historical events which took place during the lifetime of a person, of a bishop, of a true ‘romio’, who sacrificed his life for his people, but we must also leave events and people speak into our hearts and our times. We must hear about Kyprianos’ words in order to be able to continue our own struggle, if we would like this struggle to end in a favorable way for the island, our country, our Church and for the whole of Romiosini.
I will cite some events in his life so that we get acquainted with him and subsequently I will emphasize some points which in my opinion have something to say to us today.
Archbishop Kyprianos was born here in Strovolos in 1756. His parents were George and Maria. Burning with the strong desire to meet God and serve the Church, he went to Mahairas monastery, were he became a monk. At the same monastery, his uncle, hieromonk and oikonomos Charalambos, was also residing. It is at this monastery that Kyprianos started experiencing the ascetic trials of the tradition of the Church, and all the pure seeds of Orthodox tradition were being sown inside him. It is here that he began drawing his future path. Later on, he came down to Strovolos where he studied at the Greek museum of the Archbishopric. At the age of 27, he was ordained deacon at Mahairas. The monastery, appreciating his rare charismas, ordered him to accompany his uncle Charalambos to Moldovlahia in order to assist in the collection of funds in favor of the monastery, which together with the rest of the Cypriots were facing extreme poverty.
In Vlahia, Kyprianos was called to the priesthood and was asked by the ruler Michael Soutso, to head the hegemonic church of Iasio. He remained there for 19 years, while attending lessons at the Greek School. He devoted himself to learning the correct teachings of the history and the theology of the Church. Later upon his return to Cyprus, his heart was filled with spiritual knowledge and spiritual virtues. Afterwards he headed the Mahaira metohion in Strovolos, which is most probably today the Church of Panayia Chryseleousa. At this post, Kyprianos served with exemplary personal attention. His virtues and his personality was the reason why he was soon to be regarded as an important person in the whole of Nicosia. He was in touch with Archbishop Chrysanthos and the dragoman ( translator),Cornesios Hatjigeorgakis.
In March 1804, when the Turks imposed heavy taxes on the Christians, the latter rebelled and the Turks moved against them and the Archbishop. Kyprianos’ presence was immensely felt those days in Nicosia and the Church as a whole. The Turks grabbed the opportunity to steal money and anything of value which belonged to the Church and the notaries.
There was a rebellion in Nicosia so widespread that the Ottoman Palace had to send two thousand soldiers to surround the town and reinstate order. Those were truly difficult times for the country. Kyprianos, even though he was Εconomos (stewart) at the Archbishopric, hieromonk and head of the metohi of Mahaira in Nicosia, managed to play a crucial role in pacifying things. He played the intermediary between the besieging Turks and the besieged inside the walls of Nicosia. He managed to bring forth peace on the island and safeguard not only the remaining Christians but also the Turkish rebels.
Those days a lot of Turkish blood was shed despite Kyprianos’ intervention. This was something which the Turks were waiting to avenge when he rose to the Archbishopric throne.
Inside the Church however, times were also hard since Archbishop Chrysanthos was very old and the Church was left without a head. Two of the metropolitans, bishop Chrysanthos of Paphos and Chrysanthos of Kitium were cousins and nephews of the Archbishop. Therefore, there seems to have been some form of anarchy inside the Church as well. It was not administered properly. This led some Christians to appeal to the Ottoman Palace, expressing distress at the difficulties the Church of Cyprus had found itself in. The aging Archbishop was not relinquishing the throne so that the Church could be ruled properly.
The Ottomans sent Archbishop Chrysanthos to exile in Evvoia together with the metropolitan of Kitium, his nephew. An Ottoman high official then ordered Kyprianos to be ordained as Archbishop and Meletios as metropolitan of Kitium. This was an act against the Ecclesiastical rules, even though it was approved by the secular rulers. Therefore,
Kyprianos did not accept the command but was waiting for the Patriarchate of Konstantinopole to make a decision.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Chrysanthos died in exile and after a favorable decision by the Patriarchate, Kyprianos was ordained Archbishop of Cyprus by the Archbishop of Sina, Konstantios, the metropolitan of Kyrenia, Evgenios and the bishop of Trimithounda, Spyridon, assuming both the administration and the spiritual guidance of the Church and its people.
Needless to say, that the whole of the Church and the Archbishopric of Cyprus had been through trying times. Historians point out that the finances of the Archbishopric were dismal. Kyprianos assumed on his shoulders a debt of three million, two hundred eighty five thousand grosia which the Archbishopric owned here and there. In the Archbishopric code right next to this huge debt, the new Archbishop expressed his pain and agony, noting in his own handwriting the following: “Lord have mercy on me on this issue as well”.
These details regarding his life are very important. On one hand, we recognize the stature of the man and on the other, we see that these events become true pointers which may guide us though the difficult times of our days.
On the 30th of October, Kyprianos becomes an Archbishop and begins his spiritual task with many difficulties. He knows exactly what his flock needs. As a good shepherd and a good father, he knows how to console his flock and how to protect it in every way, e.g. from various heresies, which had just started showing their ugly head. That’s the reason why he aphorized the masons in Larnaca. Afterwards, seeing the country being overwhelmed by the plague and various other illnesses and having witnessed the onslaught of locusts, he issued many decrees with which he was advising people how to deal with such disasters. He also distributed the icons of Saints Charalambos and Tryfon to most churches, directing the flock to preserve its faith towards God and the Saints and to expect together with the help of science, the absolution from the calamities which had been pestering them.
During those days, he managed to build the Greek School, (today’s ‘Pancyprian Gymnasium’), next to the Archbishopric in a garden belonging to Mahaira monastery. The school was completed in 1812. He undertook this project with a lot of difficulty and despite the huge debts, in order to educate the Greeks of Cyprus in the Greek letters and cultivate in them the Greek civilization.
Times were tragic for Kyprianos, since 1821 was steadily approaching. The Greek revolution begins in the Greek mainland. Filiki Etairia had paved the way for this revolt. Some of its representatives also arrived in Cyprus, approached Kyprianos and told him about the revolution, inciting him to participate so that Cyprus would also take up the arms. Kyprianos, in his infinite wisdom, experience and prudence realized that this would have been very dangerous and it would unquestionably end in failure. Therefore, he explained to the representatives that it was not possible for Cyprus to join in the revolution at that point. He promised however, financial aid, which he promptly delivered and remained steadfast in his position, waiting to see what the outcome would be in Greece.
During 1820, the Ottoman Palace appointed Kioutsuk Mehmet as the ruler of Cyprus. He especially despised Christians and had an insatiable thirst to assume for himself the powers of the dignitaries, the heads of the villages and of the Church. Under various pretexts he was trying to convince the Palace that the situation in Cyprus was also deteriorating. At first he was unsuccessful, since as the sultan wrote in a letter, the Cypriots had not given any indication of their intention to take up the arms. Despite this, the Palace changed its stance as soon as it became known that in 1821, an archimandrite, Theofylaktos Theseas, had been distributing documents referring to the revolution against the Turks. Kyprianos sent a circular on 21st April 1821, with which he prompted the Christians to hand over to the Turks all the weapons in their possession. A month later, he published another circular with which he advised people to be very careful in their behavior, even in such detail as their dress code in order not to be seen as provocative. He also prompted them to be prudent and wise since even the smallest carelessness would have resulted in a difficult situation for the country and its people.
On the 9th of July 1921, Kioutsouk Mehmet after presiding at his own council, and with the consent of the Palace, he decided to kill 486 dignitaries, all the metropolitans, abbots, priest monks, priests, teachers and the rich, whom he regarded as dangerous.
Thus he began his vicious piece of work by hanging Archbishop Kyprianos first, then cutting the heads off or slaying the metropolitans of Paphos, Chrysanthos, of Kitium, Meletios, Kyrenias, Lavrentios, the abbot of Kykkos, Joseph and many others from the clergy and laymen. The massacre of all these people lasted three days in Nicosia.
This is in a nutshell the life of the ethnomartyr Kyprianos. I think everybody knows it; we heard about it or have read about it in school. What I would like to say, as my own opinion on the life of the ethnomartyr, is that he was the spirit of this place. He was hiding inside him the mystery of Cyprus, the mystery of Romiosini. He was a person intertwined with the ascetic tradition of the Church. He was a person who learnt how to give, to serve in the wider sense of the word. He was a true ‘romios’, who could even love his enemies. He did not allow himself to be scared of death, because he rose above it while still living the teachings of the Church. He was impassioned and knew how not to be impulsive, but he prudently sacrificed his enthusiasm and feelings to the altar of his duty towards his flock. He also knew very well how to set up a revolution in order to set this place free.
That’s why today, he can speak freely and become an example for us because he was not emotional, careless or impulsive. Many people criticize him for the circular he had sent with which he was asking the Christians to give up their weapons. Some people may regard this circular as treacherous and very submissive towards the Turks. If we read however, St Paul’s epistles we will see that the apostle was schooling the Christians and telling them that “if you are a servant do not mind, be free in Christ instead”. Kyprianos knew that freedom is not won with weapons. He said: “Give up your
weapons to the Turks and do not be scared. You are not a servant if you do not have weapons. You become servants if you do not become free persons”.
That’s why he was not interested in weapons. He was interested in education. He was acting in accordance with the tradition of Saint Kosmas Aitolos and other fathers of the Church, who recognized that to achieve a national dream, one must not just arm people, but to set them free first.
Saint Kosmas Aitolos was building schools all over Greece and was saying: “Schools build up churches”. He was prompting the Greeks to send their children to school because :“Children who do not go to school become like animals”. This is also what Kyprianos did despite the immense difficulties he was facing. One of the first things he did was to build a school to educate the people of his time.
I think this is a very crucial point which shows his philosophy and his stance against the national problem. Kyprianos wanted to educate people to become free and then live in a free country. Since he believed that an unliberated man, even if he lived in a free country, he would still manage to enslave it. He also thought that ‘freedom’ does not just refer to a geographical term but to an event which takes place inside a person towards which the knowledge of history and theology contribute. This is what Romiosini means and the romaico spirit. …
Another crucial point which reveals the spiritual stature of the man and his great intellectual power is the following: When the time of the rising approached, he was not won over by his emotions or behaved emotionally and enthusiastically, but rationally and
He foresaw Kioutsouk ‘s bloodthirsty intentions and that he wanted to put all the Christians of the island to the sword. As a good shepherd and father, he knew that it is not possible to start a revolution at this point of time, in this place. This is something which the representatives of the Filiki Etairia appreciated, respected and praised. He helped the Greek revolution in another way. On the contrary, Theophylaktos’ action unfortunately resulted in bloodshed without any tangible result.
Going further down the path of history, we are seeing this man, this Archbishop, refusing to save himself, when the hour of his execution came. It is not surprising that it was a Turk who offered to take him to the embassies in Larnaca in order to save him. Kyprianos was not a man who wished to live. Someone said: “A romios does not only learn how to live but also how to die”. Kypiranos knew how to die because his entire life was a remembrance of death; it was immersed in the overcoming of death; it was his path towards eternity. That’s the reason why he refused to leave; he remained steadfast in his own place, with dignity and respect, without fear or any thought about anything which would have been held against him.
In front of Kioutsouk, who was accusing him of all those terrible things in order to make him uncomfortable, Kyprianos explained with a lot of dignity, that this act was unjust and that the Cypriots, the ‘romioi’, did not deserve such a behavior. “Look”, he said to him. “We are quiet people, we are not who you think we are, but if you want to kill us, do as you please. But know that Romiosini is as old as the world and will not end here, not because it has weapons,( we have given you all the weapons), but because it has a different kind of power and other aspirations which you can never each. You can kill our body. But you cannot kill our soul”.
When he was led to the place where he was going to be hanged, Kyprianos, as a bishop, as a true follower of Christ who was already tasting eternal life, was not scared but blessed the rope, as we bless the arc hieratical robes we wear, and told his executioner with dignity:
“Go ahead and carry out the order of your master”.
This attitude can tell us a lot. It can teach us how to stand prudently and sensibly against the terrible national difficulty, which our country is facing nowadays. It is telling us how to fight and where. It teaches us not to be afraid, not to back down and not to be ready to lay down the arms thoughtlessly, while running here and there and creating problems for our country and our cause. Romiosini is a child of the Orthodox Church and of Greek tradition. Romios and our fathers had a lot of patience. Because of their patience, they did not make mistakes and were not in a hurry. They had patience because they had faith. He who has faith is not in a hurry, neither does he panic nor does he become anxious. On the contrary, he who has no faith, becomes anxious and panics and makes a lot of mistakes.
I believe that today is not just a day to commemorate the national martyrs but a day to study them. It is a day where we become acquainted with the martyrdom of the bishops and the dignitaries. We must hear the bishop’s voice and learn from his example, since he was a man whose presence has marked the history of our country and our Church.