The continuous destruction of Cyprus’ culture heritage in the northern Turkish military controlled and occupied areas is the focus of two articles in prestigious reviews, one presenting news from the Roman Catholic Church and the other issued by the Onassis Foundation.
In the monthly “30Days in the church and in the world” journal, of former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti published in six languages, Italian journalist Giovanni Ricciardi presents a chronicle of the 1974 Turkish military invasion in the Republic of Cyprus and its repercussions up to the recent past.
The largest part of the report describes the condition of Christian churches in occupied Cyprus and the destruction of other important cultural heritage sites. The article refers to a registration programme underway at the Museum of the Holy Monastery of Kykkos under Charalambos Chotzakoglou, Professor of History of Byzantine Art at the University of Athens, to illegal trafficking of antiquities and efforts to repatriate Cypriot treasures.
Ricciardi also notes the destruction of non-Orthodox churches in the occupied areas, belonging to Maronites, Armenians and Catholics and stresses that if Turkey wants to join the European Union, it has to allow the repair and restoration of holy sites as a gesture of goodwill.
The Scholarship Association of the Onassis Foundation magazine “Alpha Omega - ΑΩ”, distributed to thousands of academics worldwide, refers to a lecture by Chotzakoglou, at the Foundation.
The Greek professor presented the results of the registration programme of Christian churches in the occupied areas and using photographic material, it chronicles the registration of the Christian monuments, the improper use of the churches and their conversion into barns, mosques and hotels.
It stresses the religious dimension of the issue, saying that the victims of this cultural destruction are not only Greek Orthodox churches in Cyprus but also churches at the Jerusalem Partiarchate, Mount Sinai and the Roman Catholic church, as well as churches belonging to Maronites and Armenians. Furthermore, he refers to efforts to make the issue known worldwide, organise photo exhibitions and publish a special edition with the help of Cyprus government departments and Euro MPs.
According to church records, about 500 churches have been destroyed or pillaged. The Church has already recovered, through a lengthy legal battle in the USA, priceless frescoes that were stolen from the occupied areas. Other efforts are underway to repatriate various religious relics.
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