The Mutual Roles of Religion and State in Cyprus

The Mutual Roles of Religion and State in Cyprus
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  The Mutual Roles of Religion and State Cyprus A. Emilianides 1. The State’s Understanding of the Role and Value of Religion: Political Perspectives During the Turkish and British rule of Cyprus, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus constituted the nation - leading political organization of the Greeks under foreign sovereignty; thus, the Archbishop of Cyprus was also the leader of the ‘Ethnarchy’, acting as both the spiritual and political leader of Greek Cypriots. Makarios, the first  president of the Republic of Cyprus, was also the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. Contrary to the importance of the Orthodox Church in Greek Cypriot political affairs, the role of religion in Turkish Cypriot politics was relatively limited; this was a direct result of the secularisation of Turkey following the reforms of Kemalism. From 1960 until his death in 1977 Makarios was not only the President of the Republic,  but also the most notable and influential political figure of the island. In the ‘Times’ editorial on the day following his death, Makarios was described as ‘one of the most instantly recognisable figures of international politics’ . All parliamentary political parties supported, at least nominally, the policy of Makarios; while AKEL, the communist party of Cyprus had initially opposed to Makarios, following 1960 Makarios enjoyed their continued and overwhelming support of AKEL as well. The only major political coalition  besides AKEL, from 1960  –   1969 was the Patriotic Front, which was a coalition of all  politicians who supported Makarios. When the first political parties were formed in 1969, Makarios’ prior approval and blessing was provided; prominent political figures of the island’s history, including the centrist Presidents Spyros Kyprianou and Tassos Papadopoulos, and the socialist President of the House of Representatives Vasos Lyssarides, considered themselves as the political successors of Makarios. Ever since the death of Archbishop Makarios in 1977 the political system of Cyprus has  been completely secularised, since religious functionaries in principle refrain from  participating actively in elections and are not appointed in public offices. The Archbishop and other religious ministers restrict themselves in general to the exercise of their spiritual role, without interfering in the exercise of the executive powers of the Republic. Consequently, religious influence in political life has diminished substantially; no  political party claims that it is guided by spiritual truths, or that it has the support of the Orthodox Church. In addition the fact that the Archbishop or Metropolitans of the Church support a particular political party is of little significance to voters. The Archbishop or other Metropolitans, or members of the clergy might support or express their preference towards a particular presidential candidate, without this dictating the results of any Presidential, parliamentary or municipal elections; the political parties exercise much more influence over their supporters with respect to the outcome of any political elections, when compared to the Church. Almost all political parties and many politicians receive funding from the Church during elections, or with respect to their political activities; not only the Archdiocese, but also  the Monastery of Kykkos have funded many political activities of diverse political orientation. AKEL, the communist party of Cyprus, has also received funding from the Church in many occasions. In addition many politicians regularly ask from the Church to assist their voters and arrange meetings with the Archbishop, or the Bishop of Kykkos, or other Metropolitans, in order to enable their voters to receive grants from the Church, or other donations. While in such cases the Church is exercising its role in helping the poor, or people in need, or in general providing for their members, the politicians also satisfy their voters through arranging the meetings with religious functionaries, or through vouching for their voters who need assistance. In view of the fact that the Orthodox Church engages in many economic activities in Cyprus and is a principal shareholder in various enterprises, the political role of the Church in funding political activities may also be exercised indirectly through its related commercial compani es. However, it is not the case that the Church’s funding political activities is necessarily associated with the political beliefs of its Archbishop or of  particular Bishops. The policy of the Church has been to support political activities of different political parties; accordingly, many politicians who express political views different than those of the Archbishop with respect to the Cyprus problem regularly receive funding or support from the Church. Ever since the inter - communal conflict of 1963 and the self - dissolution of the Greek Communal Chamber, the Ministry of Education has been considered to function as the successor of the Greek Communal Chamber. Since the death of Makarios, the practice of all Presidents of the Republic has been to consult the Greek Orthodox Church before appointing a new Minister of Education and Culture. While the President of the Republic has the power to appoint a new Minister of Education and Culture without consulting the Church, it has been considered that the Church ought to have the opportunity to express its opinion before appointing a new Minister of Education and Culture; this was due to the fact that education has been a matter of particular interest for the Church. However, after the Church expresses its opinions, the President may well appoint a Minister of Education and Culture who does not enjoy the support of the Church. Therefore, consulting the Church has been a practice aiming at the President taking an informed decision after consulting all interested parties, rather than a procedure aiming to bind the President. Consequently many Ministers of Education and Culture have not enjoyed the support of the Church and have been political appointees. Dimitris Christofias was the first President of the Republic who appointed a Minister of Education without previously consulting the Orthodox Church; this might have been due to the fact that Christofias does not enjoy a good personal relationship with Archbishop Chrysostomos I. While there is no political influence in religious canon law, political parties have always shown particular interest in the elections of a new Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. After the death of Makarios, the nomination of Chrysostomos I was initially supported by AKEL, DIKO and EDEK; however, eventually no elections were held and Chrysostomos I was unanimously elected as Archbishop. The involvement of political  parties in the elections for a new Archbishop was more intense during the 2006 elections. AKEL, the communist party of Cyprus, officially supported the nomination of Bishop of  Kykkos Nikiphoros; many of the laypersons elected as General Representatives in the Electoral Assembly on behalf of the Bishop of Kykkos were officials of AKEL; outside the polling stations, members of AKEL attempted to convince the voters to support the nomination of the Bishop of Kykkos. The Secretary - General of AKEL and subsequently President of the Republic, Dimitris Christofias, had called upon all members of his party to support the candidacy of the Bishop of Kykkos as signifying a new prosperous era for the Church of Cyprus; such views were also expressed by other superior officials of AKEL. Although AKEL was the only political party to officially support a candidate, the nomination of the Bishop of Kykkos was also supported by various politicians from all other political parties; a meeting organised by the Bishop of Kykkos prior to the elections, was attended by the right wing former President of the Republic Glafkos Clerides, members of the House of Representatives representing DISI, DIKO and EDEK, as well as other politicians and well - known businessmen; all expressed their support towards the nomination of the Bishop of Kykkos and called upon all members of the Orthodox Church to vote for him. While Athanasios, the Metropolitan of Limassol, never enjoyed the extent of political support enjoyed by the Bishop of Kykkos, he was also supported by a few members of the House of Representatives who hailed from Limassol; however, the main supporters of the Metropolitan of Limassol were Greek Orthodox Christians who attended Church more regularly and considered that the Church ought to focus on its spiritual role, rather than participation in political and financial activities. Consequently, the Bishop of Kykkos was considered as the representative of a Church  participating in political and financial activities, while the Metropolitan of Limassol was considered as the representative of a more spiritual - oriented Church. The third major candidate, the then Metropolitan of Paphos and current Archbishop Chrysostomos II, was the one eventually elected, despite not enjoying the support of major political parties or  politicians, by taking advantage of the peculiarities of the system of election. There is little doubt that the Archbishop of Cyprus is considered as a prominent figure in the island. The official Cypriot Protocol ranks the Archbishop second in rank, following only the President of the Republic. The fact that the Orthodox Church represented the great majority of the population and further enjoyed significant economic power, enabled the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church to discuss their concerns with the President of the Republic as equals. The representation of the three religious groups of the Republic in the House of Representatives, albeit in a limited manner, also enabled religious minorities to discuss their main concerns with the members of the House of Representatives and the Government. From 1998 until 2003, the state had appointed a Presidential Commissioner for Religious Groups, Overseas Cypriots and Repatriates who represented the state in this dialogue with the representatives of the three religious groups. Subsequent governments have not so far appointed a new Presidential Commissioner, arguing that since most of the issues of concern fall within the competence of the Ministry of Interior, a Co  –   Ordinator within the Ministry of Interior would be more capable of handling issues of concern of the religious groups, even if those issues fall within the competence of other ministries.    2. The State’s Understanding of the Role and Value of Religion: Legal Perspectives Article 2 of the Constitution explicitly provides that Orthodox Christians were to automatically be considered as members of the Greek Community of the island, whereas Muslims were to be considered as members of the Turkish Community of the island. the Orthodox Christian and the Islamic religion thus constitute one of the criteria of the bi - communal character of the Republic of Cyprus, since article 2 of the Constitution  provides that the Greek Community comprises, inter alia , all citizens of the Republic who are members of the Greek Orthodox Church, while the Turkish Community comprises, inter alia , all citizens of the Republic who are Moslems. The three communities with constitutionally stipulated minority status were all defined as ‘religious groups’ (Armenians, Maronites and Roman Catholics). Article 110 of the Constitution further provides for the rights and privileges of the Orthodox Church, the vakf and the three religious groups, thereby recognising their unique legal status, whereas Article 18 of the Constitution safeguards religious freedom. The Republic of Cyprus has adopted a system of co-ordination between the State and the major religions and Christian creeds. 1  The State has recognised broad discretionary  powers with regard to the main religions’ internal affairs, administration of their property, family matters, and in general matters of communal character. The model prevailing in Cyprus is essentially a pluralistic model, which recognises and embraces the public dimension to religion, while at the same time attempting co - operation with all religions. The significance of faith in people’s lives is therefo re considered as worthy of protection  by the state and where the function of the state overlaps with religious concerns, the state seeks to accommodate religious views, in so far as they are not inconsistent with state’s interests. In consequence, pluralism is achieved through the recognition that the state and the various religions occupy in principle different societal structures; religious neutrality is not, however, achieved simply because there is religious autonomy, but also through  positive measures on behalf of the state, which aim at the protection of religions. Other religions and rites, such as the Jews, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Buddhists, or the Protestants, or the Orthodox Christians who follow the Old Calendar, enjoy religious freedom according to article 18 of the Constitution, and are equal before the law, so that no legislative, executive or administrative act should discriminate against them. However, such religions are not considered as religious groups in the constitutional sense and therefore, do not enjoy the special constitutional status of the five main religions of the island; difference in treatment between the five constitutionally recognised religions and other religions of the island principally occur with respect to religious education, direct financing and family law matters. The Supreme Court has acknowledged the significance of religious faith and religious liberty for people’s lives. It was held that: 1  In general, see A. Emilianides,  Religion and Law in Cyprus  (Kluwer: The Hague, 2011).  ‘ Tolerance as a legal concept is premised on the assumption that the State has ultimate control over religion and the churches, and whether and to what extent religious freedom will be granted and protected is a matter of state policy. The right of religious liberty is a  fundamental right. The days that oppressive measures were adopted and cruelties and  punishments inflicted by Governments in Europe and elsewhere for many ages, to compel  parties to conform in their religious beliefs and modes of worship to the views of the most numerous sect, and the folly of attempting in that way to control the mental operations of  persons and enforce an outward conformity to a prescribed standard, have gone.  Mankind has advanced and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is now a fundamental right  ’. 2  Whereas, the Republic of Cyprus does not provide funding to religions  per se , significant religious assistance is, however, provided to religious communities with regard to the construction, or repair of their churches, monasteries and cemeteries, and for other religious purposes, in the form of state aid. It should be observed that such state aid is  provided by the Central Government and is in practice provided only to the five major religious communities and not to other religious organizations. Religious education is another field where the positive role of religion is emphasized. Article 20 of the Constitution provides that every person has the right to receive, and every person or institution has the right to give instruction or education subject to such formalities, conditions or restrictions as are in accordance with the relevant communal law and are necessary only in the interests of the security of the Republic or the constitutional order or the public safety or the public order or the public health or the  public morals or the standard and quality of education or for the protection of the rights and liberties of others including the right of the parents to secure for their children such education as is in conformity with their religious convictions. Religious lessons given in  primary and secondary schools follow the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In secondary education, the courses are given by graduates of university schools of divinity, while in primary education they are given by the class teacher. Attendance is compulsory for Orthodox pupils; atheists or members of other religions, however, may be excused. Furthermore, the right of religious groups to set up and operate their own schools is safeguarded, and such schools are financially assisted by the State. 2    Pitsillides  v. The Republic  [1983] 2 CLR 374.


Apr 16, 2018

Aluno 1

Apr 16, 2018
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