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Cyprus

Archbishop threatens tit-for-tat if Christians banned from north

Grand Mufti Dr Talip Atalay (right) with Archbishop Chrysostomos

THE head of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos, said on Wednesday that Muslims living in the occupied north should forget pilgrimages to the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca, if Christians in the breakaway state were not allowed to operate churches.

He was commenting on new rules introduced by the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state regarding the process of granting permissions for services in Greek Orthodox churches.

“The first aim we have as the Church of Cyprus is not whether to hold services on a daily basis,” the archbishop said. “We want to be allowed to repair our churches, our monuments, so that they don’t collapse.”

Chrysostomos said it did not matter if Greek Cypriots were only allowed to visit each church once a year instead of two or three times.

“It matters only where I have Christians,” he said.

He noted that in Karpasia they could not prohibit services in the two, or three villages and Apostolos Andreas where there are Christians.

The archbishop said he made it clear to Turkish Cypriots that “if you do not allow us to hold services in places where there are Christians, then forget Tekke. You will never go again.”

Turkish Cypriot authorities sought to curb services in the north because of a “serious and deliberate increase” in the demands made by Greek Cypriots.

The new criteria specify that the religious services should coincide with an important religious day, and for the condition of the church to be good so that people’s lives were not at risk.

Furthermore, a permission will be granted if the church is not already being used for any other purpose and if it is not located in a military zone.

Some churches, they said, had been turned into political symbols and that as long as the current status quo exists, the need emerges “to take measures” on these issues.

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