Destruction of the religious heritage of the Roman Catholic, Maronite and Armenian Church in the occupied part of Cyprus
· The religious heritage of the Roman Catholic, the Maronite and the Armenian Church constitute an integral part of the cultural and religious heritage of Cyprus and provide concrete evidence of the island’s multicultural character and peaceful coexistence between its religious communities.
· The religious monuments and ecclesiastical treasures of the Maronite, the Armenian and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as those of the Orthodox Church situated in the areas of the Republic of Cyprus which remain under Turkish military occupation, have been systematically subjected to the most severe destruction and desecration.
· In particular, since the Turkish invasion of 1974 and the forcible division of the island due to the Turkish military occupation of 36.2% of the northern territory of Cyprus, all the religious monuments and sites in the occupied area of Cyprus were desecrated and/or left unattended, and as a result their contents have been looted and illegally exported to international art markets.
Religious sites of the Roman Catholic Church
· As far as the religious heritage of the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, the following are noted:
- An old Catholic chapel built by the Lapierre family in the village of Kontea needs restoration.
- The chapel of the Latin Catholic cemetery in the buffer zone (near the round about of the old airport of Nicosia) is destroyed, while all the crosses of the tombs are broken.
- The Catholic church at Xeros has been demolished and in its place a round about was constructed.
- In Famagusta, the premises of the Terra Santa school including its chapel, are now used as a Turkish Cypriot school.
- The church of Saint Elizabeth in Kyrenia maintains its religious use and liturgies are still performed there.
Religious sites of the Maronite Church
· As far as the religious heritage of the Maronite Church is concerned, the following are noted:
- In the village of Kormakitis, light intervention works have been conducted on the Cathedral church of Ayios Georgios, the chapel of Ayios Georgios tou Sporou, the church of Panayia and the Sister’s Monastery of Ayios Frangiskos. However, all the said monuments need further restoration work.
- The church of the Timios Stavros in Karpasia, as well as the church of the Archangel Michael in the village of Asomatos are now in good condition, due to recent restoration works.
- In Ayia Marina, the new church of the village, which is being used by the Turkish army as a storehouse is in a very bad condition. The old church of the village is in the same situation. It is noted that in both churches no access is permitted by the occupying forces.
- The chapel of Ayios Ioannis and the chapel of Ayios Georgios, both in Ayia Marina, are in serious danger of collapse and need immediate restoration. Access to the chapels is restricted.
- In Marki, the church and monastery of Panayia are used by the Turkish army as military offices. The buildings are in a very bad condition and no access is permitted to them.
- The church of Panayia in the village of Kambili appears to be in a good condition due to recent basic repair works. However, the monument is in need of further restoration.
- The new monastery of Prophitis Elias (near Ayia Marina), was severely destroyed in 1974 due to the Turkish bombardments. No access is allowed and the monument needs restoration. In the same way, the old monastery of Prophitis Elias and its church are in a bad condition and need to be restored. Access to the said monuments is restricted.
- The church of Ayios Romanos in Vouno is used by the occupying forces as a museum and is in need of restoration. Access to the said monuments is restricted.
- The church of Ayios Antonios in Kythrea is in a very bad condition which makes it unusable. Full restoration is needed.
- In Ammochostos, no access is granted by the occupying forces to the church of Ieras Kardias, which needs immediate restoration.
Religious sites of the Armenian Church
· As far as the religious heritage of the Armenian Church is concerned, the following are noted:
1. The complex of the Church of Sourp Asdvadzadzin in the parish of Arab Ahmet in the occupied part of Nicosia (Victoria st), which was abandoned in 1963 has been severely vandalized. The said complex which came in the possession of the Armenian Church in 1570 under an ottoman order, is constituted by the Armenian Church of Panayia, the Armenian Cyprus Metropolis, two buildings of the elementary school Melikian-Uzunian, a residence on the eastern side of the church, the monument of the Armenian genocide in the frond yard and other auxiliary buildings.
Today, the building of the Metropolis and of the school is inhabited by settlers from Turkey.
It is noted that the Armenian Church has submitted a project to UNDP-ACT for the restoration and preservation of the aforementioned complex.
2. The Monastery of Sourp Magar (Armenomonastero) in the area of Halefka in Pentadaktylos mountain range has been converted into a cafeteria by the occupying authorities. This monastery came in the possession of the Armenian Church in the 15th century and is constituted by the main temple, a chapel, a large number of very old cells and guest rooms and auxiliary spaces. A large area around the monastery (nearly 9 000 acres in the area of Halefka and Hartzias, with small chapels, houses and 30 000 olive and carob trees) also belongs to the Armenian Church.
3. The Church of Sourp Asdavdzadzin “Ganchvor” in the old city of Famagusta is the only preserved building of the “Ganchvor” Monastery. This chapel which was abandoned in 1963 has been used as a study center in the 12th-13th century. It is noted that the said chapel which was declared Ancient Monument by the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus, was granted in 1936 to the Armenian Church for a 90 years period. The doors and windows of the church have been removed and replaced by pieces of zinc, while there is no information regarding the location of its content.
4. The Evangelical Church (formally known as the Armenian Reformed Presbyterian Evangelical Church of Nicosia) in the Arab Ahmet parish in the occupied part of Nicosia (Mahmut Pasha st) was erected in 1946 and abandoned in 1963. Today, the premises of the church are used by a handicraft company, while its ecclesiastical items have disappeared.
· It is evident from the aforementioned that the heritage of the Armenian, the Maronite and the Roman Catholic Church in the occupied part of Cyprus has been severely damaged as a result of the on-going policy of neglect and looting of the occupying forces.
· The Government of the Republic of Cyprus is well aware of the history and contribution of the Armenian, the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Maronite Church to the religious and cultural heritage of Cyprus as a whole. In its effort to protect and prevent any further destruction of religious monuments in the occupied areas, the Government is conducting a systematic campaign to enlight and bring to the attention of governments and international organizations all cases of such destruction and looting.