Work to restore the Monastery of Apostle Andreas in the Karpas will begin in September, Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II has said, ‘Famagusta Gazete’ reports.
Following a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot Mufti Talip Atalay, which took place in the residence of the Swedish Ambassador in Nicosia, the Archbishop said that the Church of Cyprus aims to achieve the restoration of all churches.
The Turkish “occupied” monastery, on the eastern tip of the Karpas peninsula, is in urgent need of repair. Past efforts to agree on restoration by all interested parties had failed. The monastery is a very important religious site for the Greek Orthodox Church.
Asked how long the restoration works of the Apostle Andreas Monastery will last, he said that what is important is not the time, but the result, adding that the Monastery must be restored well.
“Our goal is to preserve all our churches as we want to preserve all mosques all over Cyprus,” he said.
He also thanked the Mufti for demonstrating good will and facilitates visits of Christians to the Turkish “occupied” churches and monasteries.
The Archbishop said that Muslims are welcome to cross over to the government controlled areas of the Republic of Cyprus to pray.
He described the meeting with the Mufti as a very good one, and expressed his gratitude to the Ambassador of Sweden.
“He is always willing to contribute in the enhancement of our good relations so that we can serve the people, Christians and Muslims”.
In his statements, the Mufti said that their meeting was a very successful one, adding that “as the religious leaders of Cyprus and using the pure language of religion we are doing our best and we will be doing our best to support the peace process in Cyprus”.
He also thanked the Archbishop for his support.
“We are also very grateful to his majesty the Archbishop for our latest visit to Nicosia, for his support. Using all within our capacity and being very sensitive towards each other we will do our best to improve religious freedom towards people`s religious places of worship and towards their faith”, he went on to add.
Concluding, he thanked the government and the Ambassador of Sweden “for taking the initiative to help us come together and talk and improve things”.
The newspaper goes on to say that after the 1974 military intervention which it describes as an “invasion” and refers to the “continuous occupation” of 37% of Cyprus’ territory, churches in the Turkish occupied areas have been vandalised; religious icons and vessels stolen, church frescoes and mosaics removed and have frequently been found in Europe’s illegal antiquities trade markets and international auctions.
The most serious and large-scale damage has been noted on the islands’ “occupied” churches. Some of the churches have even been demolished, others pillaged and some are currently being used as stables, mosques or as part of military camps.