Greek Orthodox Cypriots Vote for First New Archbishop in 29 Years

Greek Orthodox Cypriots vote Sunday in the initial stage of a complex process to choose the first new leader of the influential church in 29 years.

Archbishop Chrysostomos, 78, is reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's disease and has not been able to carry out his duties on the Mediterranean island for several years.

Cyprus' Orthodox Church maintains a powerful influence among the 750,000 Greek Cypriots and plays a strong role in political issues. It is the biggest landowner on the island and has investments in banking, hotels and even wine and beer production.

Chrysostomos has held the church's senior position since 1977, when he succeeded Archbishop Makarios, the first post-independence president of Cyprus.

In May, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, chaired a broader meeting of church elders which called for Chrysostomos' "honorary removal."

The four candidates to succeed him are three Metropolitans — Athanasios of Limassol, Chrysostomos of Kition and Chrysostomos of Paphos — and Bishop Nikiforos of Kykkos.

At the start of a process that could last a month, Orthodox citizens vote Sunday for 1,400 special representatives — including laymen. The result of the vote Sunday is expected early Monday.

The representatives will vote for 100 electors 22 days later.

These electors will then be joined by 33 clerics voting directly for the archbishop in separate ballots.