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Cyprus Church appeals to UN over stolen icons
2002-09-05 11:19:14

Nicosia, Sep 5 (CNA) -- The Cyprus Church has called on UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan to "use his influence and take all necessary action" in finding five icons stolen recently from the Church of St. John in the Turkish- occupied town of Famagusta, on the island's eastern coast.

The same letter was sent to UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Konrad Raiser, acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNFICYP Chief of Mission Zbigniew Wlosowicz and the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council.|

The letter to Annan signed by Salamis Bishop Varnavas denounces the "abhorrent action of the Turkish troops", adding that the UN chief's condemnation would constitute a "useful contribution to the great effort to preserve unique and priceless religious heritage."

Bishop Varnavas refers to the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the island's third, and the forceful uprooting of 200.000 inhabitants from their towns and villages, adding that in the last 28 years, "the Turkish occupation forces have tried to uproot and destroy everything Greek and Christian..."

He explains that part of their "malicious work includes the desecration and the destruction of our holy churches" and their transformation into Muslim temples or animal mangers or places of entertainment while a great number of icons and holy implements have either been stolen or sold abroad.

"We denounce this abhorrent action of the Turkish occupation troops and fervently request you to use your influence and take all necessary action to ensure finding the said icons and their return to the Church of Cyprus to which they belong", the Bishop added.

The Church of Ayios Ioannis, located in the closed town of Famagusta, was turned into a museum in 1995.

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