THE process for the return to Cyprus of artefacts linked to the case of antiquities plundered by Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen is expected to be completed this year, according to Bishop of Neapolis Porfyrios, the head of the Office of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the EU.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), Bishop Porfyrios said that an estimated 20,000 artefacts were smuggled out of Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion and noted that as time passed traces of the stolen items were increasingly being lost.
Porfyrios said there were currently two pending cases. The first has to do with the remaining objects in the Dikmen case, and the second concerns icons that were confiscated in Switzerland.
“We hope that within 2014 this [Dikmen] case will be concluded and the artefacts returned,” he said.
Porfyrios added that there were around 80 objects left to repatriate, half of which are antiquities and the remainder Byzantine artefacts mainly icons, frescoes and manuscripts. One is an Armenian bible and the other a manuscript homiliarion belonging to the Trooditissa Monastery – and three pairs of sanctuary gates.
“We hope that within the year the case will be closed and our artefacts will be returned to Cyprus,” he said.
The Bishop noted that “the second case concerned two icons from the church of Saint Iacovos in Trikomo, the 17th century icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary, which were confiscated in Switzerland from a Russian collector. A lawsuit is underway.
“We estimate that around 20,000 objects were exported from the occupied areas after the Turkish invasion. The Church, with the cooperation of government authorities – the Attorney General’s office, the Police, the Department of Antiquities – has achieved the repatriation of a few hundred objects. There are many still missing. Unfortunately, time is not on our side because as the years pass the traces of the stolen artefacts are lost,” said the Bishop.
Sending a message to anyone with information about Cyprus` religious heritage, Porfyrios said everyone’s cooperation was necessary for the return of the looted treasures to their countries of origin, and called on those with information about Cyprus` religious heritage to notify the Synod Committee of Monuments and Art for further investigation.
The Bishop noted that “the results of 2013 have been very encouraging for our struggle, because we had six cases of repatriation of religious artifacts.” (CNA)