Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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20 July 2007
Cyprus prelate calls for help to preserve churches in occupied north
Using his recent visit to Rome, the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II, called on world support for pressure to be put on Turkey and its troops in the occupied north of the island to permit the Church of Cyprus to restore its Churches at its own expense and to permit the return five elderly monks.

London--Using his recent visit to Rome, the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II, called on world support for pressure to be put on Turkey and its troops in the occupied north of the island to permit the Church of Cyprus to restore its Churches at its own expense and to permit the return five elderly monks to the Monastery of St. Barnabas, Lobby for Cyprus has announced.

In supporting the Archbishop's call, Lobby spokesman, Theo Theodorou, reported that there are about 520 Christian sacred sites in the northern occupied areas. "These include churches, chapels, monasteries, and, among them, are also Roman Catholic, Armenian and Maronite Christian churches," he said. "Of the 133 churches, chapels and monasteries that have been desecrated, 78 have been converted into mosques, 28 are used for military purposes and for hospital facilities, and 13 as storage depots, and we know that some have even been converted into discos," he added.

"In addition," Theodorou said, "about 15,000 sacred icons have been removed illegally and are now to be found on the international art black market. The lost cultural heritage includes frescoes which date as early as 500 AD. The major part of these date from the period of the Byzantine Empire."

The Archbishop's appeal said, “We want to stop the degradation, to inform the international community, to recover the stolen art crafts and use them for restoration and conservation. We want our works of civilization to be respected. On our part, if the Turks consider that there are here mosques which are in a bad state, we are ready to restore them, but I do not believe that there would be any, for they have all been well conserved."

His hope, the Archbishop added, "is that the money which the European Union has allocated to the Turkish Cypriot community, 286-million euros, should be used for the restoration of the churches, at least for those churches which are most in need of restoration, for many churches, if they have not already fallen, are about to fall."

What the Turks are doing in the illegally-occupied north, Theodorou explained, "is what they have done throughout their history. First," he said, "they ethnically cleanse an area of its original inhabitants, then they destroy the evidence of their heritage, and, finally, deny the fact of the existence of the removed peoples."

The Archbishop also requested the Turkish authorities to allow the return to the Monastery of St. Barnabas, the Apostle who evangelized the island of Cyprus together with St. Paul, of five very elderly monks, all of them 80 years or older, who had been violently expelled during the Turkish invasion and occupation of the island, in 1974. They desire to die there, he explained. The Archbishop has as yet received no answer, and the issue has also been brought up to the Security Council of the United Nations.

The Vatican has expressed support of the Archbishop's appeal, and has assured him that it would do everything to reach a solution to the problem.

Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political organisation that seeks the reunification of the island through the removal of the 43,000-man Turkish Army, the repatriation of the 160,000 Anatolian colonists imported into the north to change its demographics, and the return of all refugees to their homes.