The latest press statements made by Chrisostomos II., the Archbishop of the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church, are being followed by our Ministry in apprehension.
In his statements Chrisostomos alleged that the granting of permission to hold a liturgy at the Agios Georgios Xorinos Church in the Old City of Gazimağusa on 18 April 2014 was a “part of the Turkish propaganda”; and was “aimed at creating a false image that that Turks were respectful of the holy sites”. Moreover, Chrisostomos claimed that all of the mosques situated in Southern Cyprus were renovated by the Greek Cypriot government and that he was ready to demonstrate this to Prof. Dr. Talip Atalay, the Head of Religious Affairs of the TRNC.
At a time when it is most crucial for both sides to refrain from making incriminating and defamatory statements in order to ensure a positive outcome to the ongoing negotiation process, such a statement made by Chirsostomos is jeopardizing the positive atmosphere that is being sought. This statement of Chrisostomos also does not correlate with the statement of the two leaders on the Island dated 26 February 2014 in which the two leaders expressed their support to the resumed negotiation process.
It is amply clear that the Turkish Cypriot side has long been sensitive to the requests to conduct liturgies at the sites situated in Northern Cyprus and has shown the utmost effort to promote religious freedom.
Chrisostomos’ allegations pertaining to our mosques in the South are completely groundless. While several international reports have acknowledged that there are more than 30 derelict mosques in the South and the Greek Cypriot administration is refraining from conducting the restoration of mosques, cemeteries and other religious sites in the South, the fact that Chrisostomos is making claims to the contrary is far from comprehensible.
It is our expectation from the religious leadership in the Greek Cypriot side to contribute to the positive atmosphere which has emerged from the resumed negotiation process and to refrain from making detrimental statements on this sensitive matter with the acknowledgement that the cultural heritage on the Island belongs to all inhabitants of the Island.
30 April 2014,