Articles focus on destruction of cultural heritage in occupied Cyprus
Nicosia, May 24 – The continuous destruction of Cyprus’ culture heritage in the Turkish occupied area of Cyprus 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 “30 Days in the church and in the world”, a publication by former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, Italian journalist Giovanni Ricciardi presents a chronicle of the 1974 Turkish military invasion 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 program underway at the Museum of the Holy Monastery of Kykkos under Dr. Charalambos Chotzakoglou, Professor of History of Byzantine Art at the University of Athens, to illegal trafficking of antiquities and efforts to repatriate Cypriot treasures.
Mr. Ricciardi also notes the destruction of non-orthodox churches in the occupied area, 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 good will.
The Scholarship Association of the Onassis Foundation magazine “ΑΩ”, distributed to thousands of academics worldwide, refers to a lecture by Dr. Chotzakoglou at the Foundation.
The Greek professor presented the results of the registration program of Christian churches in the occupied area 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.
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.