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Archbishop Sofronios



Sofronios was born in Phini on the 27th of April 1825. His parents were Panagiotes Antoniou and Christina Michael from Prodromos.

 

He got his first education as a Novice in the Holy Monastery of Trooditissa. In April 1842, at the age of 17, he was ordained a Deacon and in a short period of time (six months) he went to Attalya, ministering in the Christian church there and -at the same time -attended lessons in the city's Greek School. He remained in Attalya for three years (1842-1845) and then went to Smyrna (Izmir). There he ministered in the Church of St Charalambos of the "Graekiko Nosokomeio" (Greek Hospital) and attended lessons in the Evangelical School, also serving as a teacher for the lower classes -a position which he took after contesting with others.

 

He stayed in Smyrna for seven years (1845-1852) and then went to Athens. There he attended the 2nd Gymnasium first and then to the Rizareio Hieratic School and -finally -in the Theological School of the University of Athens, at the same time attending courses of the Philological School (literature). His thirst for learning -as it seems -was unquenchable.

 

A graduate in Theology, he returns to Cyprus in 1861 and is appointed Headmaster of Nicosia's Greek School where, as we can read in the Religious and Ethics Encyclopaedia, " with great zeal he works as a teacher -in the classroom as well as in the pulpit -reviving the study of letters in Cyprus and the preaching of God's Word."

 

Perhaps it is for this reason that when the Archiepiscopal Throne of Apostle Varnavas became vacant, "everyone's eyes turned toward the Deacon Sofronios -who was vigorous and quite active -as the only worthy successor of the deceased." Thus he was -unanimously -elected Archbishop of Cyprus and was ordained on the 28th of October 1865.

 

As Archbishop he showed special care for the moral and religious education of the people, while establishing schools in the villages and in the cities of Cyprus was one of his main regards. It was during his days that the -then -Greek School of Nicosia was upgraded to a Gymnasium (High School), becoming the "Pan-Cyprian Gymnasium" that is known throughout Greece.

 

He went to Constantinople (Istanbul) twice, first in 1870 -as chairman of the Cypriot Embassy -in order to achieve a reduction of taxes and obtain aid from the Sublime Porte and later on, in 1872, to attend the Synod of Orthodox Churches upon the Bulgarian issue. Sofronios impressed the attendants of the synod in Constantinople and when the Ecumenical Throne became vacant he was nominated as Ecumenical Patriarch but was rejected by the Sultan.

 

During his days, Cyprus went under the administration of the British (1878); his address to the British Commissioner, in which he outspokenly construed the national feelings and the desire for union (with Greece) of the Cypriot people, is well known. In 1889 Sofronios travels to London in charge of a quadripartite delegation. There he was greeted by all the officials in a very complimentary manner, even by Queen Victoria (the hand of which he refused to kiss, being an orthodox Bishop), while the University of Oxford gave him the title of honorary lecturer of Theology.

 

Nicos Kranidiotes, in the Universal Biographical Dictionary, characterised him as "one of the prudent and active hierarchs of the 'Megalonesos' (Big Island) that governed the Church of Cyprus with prudence, being appreciated by everyone 'till his time of departure".

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