Cyril Lucaris

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Cyrillos Lukaris or Cyril Lucaris or Cyril Lucar (November 13, 1572 - June 27, 1638) was a Greek prelate and theologian and a native of Crete. He later became the Patriarch of Alexandria as Cyril III and Patriarch of Constantinople as Cyril I. He was the first great name in the Orthodox Church since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and dominated its history in the 17th century.

Patriarch Cyril was born Konstantinos Loukaris in Heraklion, Crete in 1572. In his youth, he travelled throughout Europe, studying at Venice, Padua and Geneva where he came under the influence of the reformed faith of John Calvin. He was ordained a deacon in 1583, a little later priest and, in 1601, was elected Patriarch of Alexandria at age 29, succeeding his uncle Meletius Pegas. In 1612, he served as caretaker Patriarch of Constantinople and, on November 4, 1620, was elected to the post.

Due to Turkish oppression combined with the proselytism of the Orthodox faithful by Jesuit missionaries, there was a shortage of schools which taught the Orthodox faith and Greek language. Catholic schools were set up and Catholic churches built next to Orthodox ones; Orthodox priests were in short demand. Lucaris fought the influence of Roman Catholicism among his flock. He had a printing press established in Constantinople to publish books and enlighten the believers and also had the Bible translated into modern Greek by Maximus Kallipolitis.

It is alleged that the great aim of Loukaris' life was to reform the Orthodox Church on Calvinistic lines, and to this end he sent many young Greek theologians to the universities of Switzerland, the northern Netherlands and England. In 1629, he published his famous Confession which was basically Calvinistic in doctrine but, as far as possible, accommodated to the language and creeds of the Orthodox Church. It appeared the same year in two Latin editions, four French, one German and one English. This started a controversy in the Orthodox Church which culminated, in 1691, in a convocation of a synod, by Dositheos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, which condemned the Confession and Calvinist doctrines.

Cyril was also particularly well disposed towards the Anglican Church, and his correspondence with the Archbishops of Canterbury is extremely interesting. It was in his time that Mitrophanis Kritopoulos — later to become Patriarch of Alexandria (1636-1639) — was sent to England to study. Both Lucaris and Kritopoulos were lovers of books and manuscripts, and acquired manuscripts that today adorn the Patriarchal Library.

Lucaris was five times deposed and banished at the instigation of his Orthodox opponents and of the Jesuits, who were his bitter enemies. However, each time he was restored. Finally, when the Ottoman Sultan Murad III was about to set out for war against the Persians, the patriarch was accused of designing to stir up the Cossacks. To avoid trouble during his absence, the sultan had him killed by the Janissaries on June 27, 1638. His body was thrown into the sea, recovered and buried at a distance from the capital by his friends, only brought back to Constantinople after many years.

The orthodoxy of Lucaris himself continued to be a matter of debate in the Eastern Church, even Dositheos, in view of the reputation of the great patriarch, thinking it expedient to gloss over his heterodoxy in the interests of the Church.


This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which is in the public domain (see also entry in the latest online edition of Encyclopædia Britannica [1]).

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