By Elias Hazou
ARCHBISHOP Chrysostomos has asked the Church’s creditors to back off a little, giving it time to repay its loans.
“We are not about to cheat the banks out of their money. The money shall be returned,” the Prelate said, speaking to the media over the weekend.
“But it is not right…for the banks to grab debtors by the throat and seize their properties for peanuts,” he added.
He was quick to add that banks should exercise similar restraint when dealing with the public at large.
There are unemployed people and those hit by the financial crisis who genuinely cannot meet their debt obligations, Chrysostomos said.
“What are they [the banks] going to seize their property for? There are folks out there who don’t have anything…people have nothing to eat, how will they repay their debts?”
And according to the world-savvy cleric, the laws on property repossessions and bankruptcy, enacted recently by parliament, afford little if any protection to debtors.
It’s understood the Church of Cyprus has taken out loans with commercial banks as well as with cooperatives, and is currently in the process of restructuring its debts. Each bishopric is a separate economic entity and has its own balance sheet.
The ongoing recession has taken its toll on the finances of the Church, believed to be the biggest landowner on the island.
The Archbishopric, long a major shareholder in Hellenic Bank – as well as maintaining minor stakes in the island’s two largest banks – recently announced it would be pulling out of banking investment after taking heavy losses and losing control of Hellenic.
Meanwhile, Chrysostomos sounded upbeat on the prospects of economic recovery, basing his belief on the work ethic of the Cypriot people.
“Very soon we shall exit the recession, there is some growth, however imperceptible it may be. It is only a matter of time before growth resumes and our people get back on their feet,” the top priest affirmed.
As he was in a mood to talk money, reporters asked Chrysostomos how the promised multi-billion investment in Yeroskipou was panning out.
By May 23, he revealed, interested investors would submit their bids.
“If more than one investor takes part, the process will take some more time. If not, then the Hungarian will launch the big investment,” he noted.
The Hungarian entrepreneur alluded to is understood to be Sandor Kenyeres, a property developer.