Makarios III (Mouskos) of Cyprus
His Beatitude Makarios III of Cyprus was the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus and the first president of the Republic of Cyprus during the decades following World War II. He championed freeing Cyprus from British rule and stroved for the unification of Cyprus with the nation of Greece. He became a symbol for those looking to ending colonial rule in sub-saharan Africa.
The future Abp. Makarios III was born Michael Chritodoulou Mouskos on August 13, 1913, into a family of a goatherd in the village of Ano Panayia in western Cyprus. Michael entered the Monastery of Kykko as a novice in 1926 at the age of thirteen after he completed his primary education. He proved to be an excellent student. In 1933, Michael entered the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia, completing his secondary education in 1936. Returning to Kykko monastery, he made his monastic vows, and received the name Makarios. In August 1938, he was ordained a deacon. The next month, he left Cyprus and traveled to Greece to continue his education that was paid through a small grant from Kykko monastery.
Dn. Makarios continued his studies in theology and law at the University of Athens through the difficult years of World War II. In 1946, he was ordained a priest. In 1946, Fr. Makarios was awarded a scholarship by the World Council of Churches for further study in the United States. In the United States, he studied religion and sociology at the theological school of Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.
In June 1950, the Archbishop of Cyprus, Makarios II, reposed. On September 18, 1950, Bp. Makarios, at the age of 37, was elected to succeed to the see of Archbishop and Ethnarch of Cyprus as Makarios III. As ethnarch, Abp. Makarios became the de facto national leader of the Greek community of Cyprus in British controlled Cyprus, placing him at the center of Cypriot politics.
Abp. Makarios quickly became involved in the movement for “enosis”, the desire of the Greek Cypriots for an end to British rule and union of Cyprus with Greece. Through the next nine years Abp. Makarios was in the forefront of the Cypriot efforts to gain independence, while the British resistance and Turkish concerns increased. During these confrontations, the Archbishop was exiled from the Cyprus to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean in 1956. Later, in 1957, he was released and allowed to live in Athens but was forbidden to return to Cyprus. Although so restricted, his diplomacy efforts continued.
In February 1959, Abp. Makarios, met with the prime ministers of Great Britain, Turkey, and Greece and finally came to a compromise agreement for an independent Cypriot republic. In triumph, Abp. Makarios returned to Cyprus. In the election in December 1959 he was elected the first president of the Republic of Cyprus. He was reelected in 1968 and 1973, with overwhelming majorities. Friction continued between the Greek and Turkish populations, creating a precarious state in the republic. This situation convinced Abp. Makarios that an immediate move for “enosis” was not opportune and should be postponed. This shift angered extremist Greek Cypriots as well as the military junta in Athens resulting in assassination attempts on him, as well as attempts within the Cypriot Church to depose him. He finally was removed as president and was exiled in July 1974. His return to Cyprus in December 1974 was interpreted by Turkey as a prelude to “enosis”. This resulted in an invasion of Cyprus by Turkish forces from Turkey that occupied forty percent of the island. The division of the island created two hostile states, the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, that still exists.
Three years later, on August 3, 1977, Abp. Makarios III reposed due to a heart attack, bringing an end to his personal influence on the “Cyprus Question” that remains open. He was buried in a tomb on a mountain peak above the Kykko monastery that he had designed. His memory lives among the nations of east Africa for his stand against colonialism. This is reflected in the use his name in the Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus Patriarchal Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya.