Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, died on Monday at 81 after a four-year fight against cancer.
According to his team of doctors, the outspoken head of the Church died peacefully in his sleep at 6:40 am.
Chrysostomos had suffered liver cancer for the last four years and had his final days at the Church’s headquarters in the capital.
“The Archbishop passed peacefully after facing the trial of his ailment with courage, patience, and Christian endurance.
“All those close to him during the difficult hours of his illness experienced his humility, kindness and deep faith as well as his concern for his flock,” the medical announcement said.
It added that the Archbishop left behind a legacy marked by his “vision, daring, respect for and restoration of the church’s historical tradition and innovative changes that always aimed for the unity of the church”.
The Holy Synod will convene later Monday to make arrangements for the funeral, which other Orthodox Church leaders are expected to attend.
It is also expected to take decisions regarding the succession process.
Archbishop Chrysostomos is to be buried under the cathedral of Apostle Barnabas, recently constructed in Nicosia, next to the Archbishopric.
President Nicos Anastasiades has sent his condolences from Sharm el-Sheikh, in Egypt, where he is attending the COP27 Summit on Coping with Climate Change.
“The people of Cyprus mourn the loss of Archbishop Chrysostomos II. His reforming work for Orthodox Christianity, the Church and his action for the prosperity of our people is enormous.”
“On behalf of the State and myself personally, I express my sincere condolences to the Holy Clergy, our people and the family of the late Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostom II. May his memory live forever.”
House Speaker Annita Demetriou also Twitted: “Until the last moment of his life, Archbishop Chrysostomos cared and worried over the Church of Cyprus and its flock.
“His loss deeply saddens us. May his memory live forever.”
Archbishop Chrysostomos will be remembered for his controversial stance on issues from politics, the Cyprus problem, and the financial crisis in 2013.
Chrysostomos campaigned against a United Nations peace blueprint that Greek Cypriots voted down at a referendum in 2004.
During the financial crisis of 2013, when the country went nearly bankrupt, he criticised the banks and politicians for “stealing people’s” money.
Cypriots endured a “haircut” on their savings in exchange for a 10-billion-euro bailout from international lenders.
In a controversial move, sparking criticism, the Archbishop had endorsed fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low’s bid to be granted Cypriot citizenship through the island’s now-defunct Citizenship for Investment scheme.
Chrysostomos had criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging an “unchristian and nonsensical” war against the people of Ukraine in a bid to put a brewing disagreement over a split within the Russian Orthodox Church.
Just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Archbishop Chrysostomos II decided to extend blessings to the leader of the newly proclaimed Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Epiphanius I.
Despite his sometimes-controversial views, the Archbishop was also an exponent of spreading the inter-faith tolerance message and worked closely with the Turkish Cypriot Muslim mufti and other Christian leaders.
He also chastised priests who encouraged an anti-vaccination message against the coronavirus.
Born in Tala, Paphos, on 10 April 1941, Chrysostomos II became Archbishop on 5 November 2006.
His battle with cancer began in 2018 when he was diagnosed with a colon tumour and metastasis to the liver.
“Archbishop Chrysostomos was a special figure for Cyprus, and today is a day of sadness,” education minister Prodromos Prodromou told state broadcaster CyBC.