NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cyprus on Saturday buried Archbishop Chrysostomos II, a trailblazer who butted heads with his peers to keep Russian influence in the Orthodox Church at bay and led the biggest ecclesiastical reforms in centuries.
Chrysostomos died on Nov. 7 from cancer aged 81.
He had led the Church of Cyprus, one of the world's oldest churches which traces its lineage to one of Christ's earliest followers, since 2006.
As church bells tolled, Chrysostomos' open casket was led away in weak autumnal sun to a crypt beneath a Nicosia cathedral. Before being entombed, clerics carefully removed his outer golden vestments, covered him in muslin and doused the shroud with oil in the sign of the cross, chanting Byzantine hymns.
Four of the world's 15 Eastern Orthodox self-governing or autocephalous churches have recognised the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, away from the sphere of Moscow's influence.
The Church of Cyprus recognised it in 2020, with Chrysostomos standing firm against senior clerics in his church ruling body, the Holy Synod, seen as pro-Moscow.
He also opposed Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"He preserved the standing of the Church of Cyprus as autocephalous, away from any external influence or dependence," Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told a funeral congregation which included Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of the world's 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Bartholomew recognised the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine in 2019, triggering a split with Moscow. "He was an ardent supporter of the views of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in times of turmoil and obstacles," Bartholomew said.
Chrysostomos led a church with diverse business interests from a beer brewery to real estate. He also acknowledged using his clout to help secure a Cypriot passport for a Malaysian fugitive businessman, Jho Low, though he said he acted in good faith and did not know the investor was on the run.
When he was elected in 2006, he reinstated bishoprics and dioceses abolished in medieval times, expanded the Synod to its former size and restored the church's full decision-making capability. Previously, the Cypriot church would have to summon bishops from other churches to handle major issues.
Elections for a new archbishop are expected at the end of the year.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)