By Staff Reporter
THE Good Friday service at the Ayios Giorgos Exoronis church in Famagusta, the first since 1957, should be seen as a message of reconciliation, Famagusta Mayor Alexis Galanos said yesterday.
Around 3,000 people, including foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the service tomorrow.
“It is indeed a grand event, much bigger than us,” Galanos told a news conference.
“It is not just the emotional side of the issue and the fact that it has been embraced by thousands of the faithful, and the church, but there is also a symbolism and a message of reconciliation that will be sent with this liturgy, with this pilgrimage, and the procession of the Epitaph.”
The event ran into a small glitch however after some reactions on the Turkish Cypriot side about the ‘Epitaphios’ procession walking through the town. Instead, the procession will now take place in the church courtyard on a smaller scale.
Galanos said the length of the procession was not as important as the event itself and its success.
Asked about security issues, he said his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Otkay Kayalp, with whom he cooperates closely, had taken measures, and the event was being held with the approval of the Turkish Cypriot religious leader.
Galanos said several officials had expressed an interest in attending, including former President George Vassiliou, political party leaders and ambassadors.
“It is very important to send the right messages and for the international community and especially the European community and the US to realise that this drama for the Cypriot people cannot continue,” he said.
Archimandrite Avgoustinos Kkaras of the Metropolis of Constantia and Famagusta stressed the event was first and foremost a religious one, but it would also contribute to rapprochement between the two communities.
Pavlos Iacovou from the bicommunal Famagusta Initiative said there had been great interest in the event and that so far there were bookings to fill up to 25 coaches, and that was excluding those who had made their own arrangements to travel in private buses and cars.
He said the organising committee would be at the church tomorrow morning to make the final arrangements and the church would be open for prayers a few hours before the liturgy begins at 5pm. It will end around 8.30pm.
The church of Saint George the Exiler lies within the walled city of Famagusta, which is at very close proximity to the fenced off area of Famagusta, known as Varosha. Diplomatic initiatives are currently underway to have Varosha returned to Greek Cypriots as a confidence building measure.