Dear Archbishop: God is not your central banker!
Two years ago, amid the growing flames of a punishing economic crisis in Greece, Bartholomew I, archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, advised the Greeks that “the solution to the punishing economic crisis is a return to God and Christian values,” inspiring “His All Holiness: God is not your central banker,” (this column, Oct. 11, 2011). Since then, apparently, the Greeks have refused to return to God and Christian values. And their Hellenic brothers in Cyprus must have abandoned God and Christian values altogether, as evinced by the near financial collapse on the island of bitter lemons.
Well, that’s not exactly a financial crisis. It is a spiritual crisis, as the leader of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, puts it. Oh, but Chrysostomos II is not just the leader of the church. He is the energy minister: After a deadly munitions blast in 2011 knocked out a key power station in (Greek) Cyprus, the archbishop called on Greek Cypriots not to use the electricity the Turks in the island’s north proposed to provide. “He’d rather get by with a lantern and a flashlight.” He is the agriculture minister: He once declared the consumption of halloumi cheese produced by Turkish Cypriots as “religiously not permissible.”
He is the foreign minister: He recently had a scheduled meeting with the ambassador of Russia. He is the foreign trade minister: He had a scheduled meeting with Russian businessmen operating in Cyprus. He is the social works minister: He said that the church’s property belonged to the people, but “dignity” prevented Cypriots from asking for help. He is the EU minister: “Unfortunately, our European partners are against us and they want to punish us.” He is the president of the republic: He has called on the finance minister and central bank president to resign. And he is a business conglomerate: His church is one of Cyprus’s biggest landowners.
Esteemed Archbishop; you say that your parish is so dignified that they do not ask their church for help, i.e., they refuse to ask for their own money! But their elected leaders have been in cutthroat bargaining with those Cypriot-hating Europeans for help. Does the Cypriot dignity disappear when it comes to asking for foreign help?
If the ecumenical leader of Orthodoxy, Bartholomew I, is right about the panacea for the Greek crisis (and I know it is out of the question that you could disagree with His All Holiness), that is “a return to God and Christian values, why do you think the Cypriot “spiritual crisis” erupted? And, if this spiritual crisis is the result of Cypriots’ abandoning of Christian values, what do the (non-Hellenic) Europeans have to do with this? Does God’s hand manipulate the Europeans to punish Cypriots for having abandoned Christian values? Why should the Europeans help a nation that has abandoned Christian values? And if this is a spiritual crisis, why do you call on the finance minister and the central bank president to resign? Do you not think that it is you who should resign if this is a spiritual crisis, not an economic one?
If you really want to help your nation overcome this unpleasant situation, you can always tell your parish priests to offer major discounts on their matrimonial, funeral and baptism services. And it would not be too bad if you gave up some of the huge plots of precious land your holy empire owns. I know the Cypriots are so dignified that they would refuse to ask for the help of your church, but since this is a spiritual crisis, perhaps they might accept a spiritual hand to help, instead of a helping hand from your ungrateful European partners.
Good luck, archbishop-energy minister-agriculture minister-foreign minister-foreign trade minister-social works minister-EU minister-and-president!