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The Archbishop of Cyprus Says He's ‘Satisfied’ With a Far-Right Party's Election Success

Chrysostomos II., the Archbishop of Cyprus, at the Horasis Global Russia Business Meeting in April 2013. Photo by Richter Frank-Jurgen. CC BY-SA 2.0

Chrysostomos II., the Archbishop of Cyprus, at the Horasis Global Russia Business Meeting in April 2013. Photo by Richter Frank-Jurgen. CC BY-SA 2.0

An Orthodox archbishop's “satisfaction” with a far-right party's election success in Cyprus has caused a stir on the Greek-speaking web.

Cyprus went to the polls on Sunday, May 22. The country's ruling conservatives won the general elections with about 30% of the vote, while National Popular Front (ELAM) earned its first seats in the legislature. ELAM, which has political links to the notorious Greek neo-Nazi movement of Golden Dawn, describes itself as representing “popular and social nationalism”. It is hostile to immigration and skeptical of the benefits of belonging to the European Union.

What really was the election's scene-stealing moment, however, was the reaction of Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus to the news that two members of ELAM would now sit in Parliament.

Asked to comment, he said:

I didn’t believe they would get in but I can say I’m satisfied. Other voices will be heard now. Many times you need extremists so the others are more careful.

Below is the YouTube video (uploaded by user Reporter) with the archbishop's message in Greek (last 10-15 seconds):

In the past, Chrysostomos had declared in a newspaper interview that “most ELAM views are crystal clear and reflect mine”.

‘You are dangerous. And fascist.’

His remarks sparked much discussion online. There is a long-standing strife over the separation — or lack thereof — of church and state in Greece and by extension Cyprus, so perceived meddling of the Orthodox Church in politics fed the flames of debate even more.

A comment below the above mentioned YouTube video read:

i ekklisia na kamnei tin doulia tis k na men mplekete sta politika dromena…

Church must do her job and not meddle in politics…

In an opinion article titled “Arch-Fascist the II, The End” on news portal Cyprus News, Leontios Filotheou (@leontios_ on Twitter) used harsh language against the religious figure:

Επικίνδυνος είσαι. Και φασίστας.
Δεν είναι εξάλλου η πρώτη φορά. Ήταν οι «κρυστάλλινες τους απόψεις». Ήταν τα «καλά παιδιά». Και ήρθε και το κερασάκι. «Η ικανοποίηση από την είσοδο του ΕΛΑΜ στη Βουλή. Για να ακούγονται κι άλλες φωνές».
Μα γιατί; Άμα θέλαμε να ακούσουμε κανά φασίστα σε ακούγαμε εσένα; Χρειαζόμασταν λες και το ΕΛΑΜ;
Και τι σε ικανοποίησε ακριβώς;
Το ότι είναι ένα παράρτημα της Χρυσής Αυγής;
Σε ικανοποιούν οι απόψεις τους σε ότι έχει να κάνει με τον άνθρωπο; Με το συνάνθρωπο μας;  Με το μετανάστη; Τον πρόσφυγα; Τον κατατρεγμένο;
[…]
Σε ικανοποιεί που δεν καταδικάζουν το ναζισμό; Σε ικανοποιούν οι σβάστικες; Οι αγκυλωτοί σταυροί; Και όλα αυτά που έστειλαν εκατομμύρια ανθρώπους σε φούρνους στο μεγαλύτερο έγκλημα της ανθρωπότητας;
Σε ικανοποιεί το στυλ τους; Τα μαύρα; Η στρατιωτική πειθαρχία;
[…]
Τι στο διάολο σε ικανοποιεί επιτέλους;

You are dangerous. And fascist.
However, it's not the first time. They had their “crystal clear views”. They were the “good fellas”. And then, the best of all. “The satisfaction that ELAM entered the Parliament. So that other voices will be heard now”.
But why? If we wished to listen to a fascist, we would listen to you. We don't need ELAM as well, do we?
What satisfied you exactly?
The fact that it is a Golden Dawn branch?
Are you satisfied by their point of view regarding humans? Our fellow citizens? Migrants? Refugees? The oppressed?
[…]
Are you satisfied that they don't condemn Nazism? Are you satisfied by swastikas? By angled crosses? By all that sent millions of people to be burnt in furnaces, the biggest crime of humanity?
Are you satisfied by their style? Black clothes? Military discipline?
[…]
What the fuck satisfies you, after all?

Others underlined the rise of far-right politics across Europe and the relationship between conservative thinking and austerity measures imposed in recent years in various European Union countries, as Cyprus has itself faced a financial crisis some years ago:

ELAM fascists’ entrance into the Cypriot Parliament ensures that austerity and the Troika [the tripartite committee formed by the European Union Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund] are the largest recruiters of modern fascism!

Big shock by the entrance of far-right ELAM into the Cypriot Parliament. The serpent spreads all over EU. And this is a bigger danger than financial deficits.

“Serpent” refers to the phrase “the serpent's egg”, which is a common expression in Greek meaning the rise of fascism or Nazism. In fact, it's the title of a 1977 movie by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, inspired by a line from Shakespeare, presenting a post-war Germany sunk into poverty and inflation.

‘Archbishop of Cyprus speaks the right things’

Of course, there were messages of support, either from far-right politicians or social media users, that considered ELAM to be guilty only of expressing true and patriotic nationalistic values.

A tweet by Christos Pappas, a Greek Golden Dawn member of parliament, proclaimed:

Long Live ELAM
Long Live Golden Dawn
Two countries, one nation
Two political parties, one struggle

News reports or Facebook posts were full of comments praising the ELAM's win or the archbishop's words:

Γιώργος Χατζηθεοδωρίδης ΣΥΓΧΑΡΗΤΙΡΙΑ ΣΤΟΥΣ ΚΥΠΡΙΟΥΣ ΠΑΤΡΙΩΤΕΣ ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΕΠΙΛΟΓΗ ΤΟΥΣ 

Congratulations to Cypriot patriots for their choice

27/05/2016 02:43
Πολύ σωστά τα λέει ο αρχιεπίσκοπος Κύπρου

Archbishop of Cyprus speaks the right things

«πρέπει να ακούγονται πολλές φωνές και οι ακραίοι, ώστε οι άλλοι να είναι προσεκτικοί και να μην αποφασίζουν κατευθείαν επειδή έχουν τη δύναμη».
Ορθότατη τοποθέτηση, με εξαίρεση το «ακραίοι». «Λαϊκά δεξιά κόμματα», θα ήταν καλύτερο.

“Many voices must be heard, extremist ones as well, so that the others are careful and not decide immediately, just because they have the power”.
Very good stance, except the bit about “extremist ones”. It would be better to say “popular right-wing parties”.

ELAM has taken a nationalist stance in the ongoing negotiations with Turkish Cypriots to reunite the country. Currently, the island is split down ethnic lines between an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, the result of Turkey's invasion in 1974 following a military coup in Cyprus that aimed for Greece to annex it and therefore unify the two.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the division of Cyprus. Many thanks to commenter @CossGeorgiou for pointing out the error.

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