A protest against the creation of a new Cathedral to be built in Paphos town hall gardens was held Thursday evening. The contentious issue was the first item slated to be discussed at Thursday night’s council meeting, according to authorities.
“We will discuss this matter this evening and apparently, even though we had information that the state had found a solution to exchange the municipal garden, which belongs to the Church, with land in Larnaca and we understood that this had been settled, apparently now the agreement has been overturned,” Paphos councillor, Andreas Chrysanthou told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday afternoon.
The protest against a new cathedral being built on the central garden was organised by concerned citizens and supported by the Paphos Green Party outside the town hall.
Andreas Evlavis, secretary of the Paphos Greens said that they are opposed to the idea of building anything on this space, which should be available for use by the public.
“This argument has been going on for far too long and the space is run down and not cared for. It needs to be looked after and made possible for people to visit and not run down as it is now,” he said.
He added that as the only green space in the middle of Paphos, the gardens should remain as such, noting that as the Church owns many other plots around Paphos, they are able to build a new place of worship ‘anywhere.’
Evlavis added that the Greens were calling for a referendum as that the public may decide if they wish a Cathedral to built on the space or not, as this is the democratic way.
This view is being supported by some of the town’s councillors, he added.
Chrysanthou confirmed this, although he said that the subject was now rather more complicated.
“It’s a complex issue. Some of the councillors favour a local referendum, and others have opposing views, it’s a real mixture,” he said.
The disagreement began after the public gardens were returned to the owners, the Church, when a long-term agreement expired in 2005. The church had rented it to the municipality on a long lease and instead of continuing the agreement, as the municipality had hoped, the Church expressed a desire to build a cathedral on the grounds instead.
It was thought that the matter had been resolved and in October 2016, Mayor of Paphos, Phedonas Phedonos, posted on his personal Facebook page: “Good news! A big story of the city is resolved permanently. In agreement with the church and the state, the public garden becomes public property with an exchange. With respect and without fanfare, we managed to understand each other.”
However, this is all now up in the air, said Chrysathou, following the Bishop of Paphos expressing his desire to use one third of the space to create a new cathedral (of around 730 square metres) in exchange for giving the municipality two thirds of the garden.
The councillor added that the municipality was also facing a civil court case, the first hearing of which is scheduled for June 1, as the Church is claiming that the garden area is valued at €26.1m but that this has been slashed by stipulations put in place by the municipality.
“They are saying that as we limited the building co-efficient to one per cent in this area, it has devalued the land,” he said.
Chryasanthou noted that ten years ago, the municipality also had an evaluation undertaken which valued the grounds at €16.8m.
“Even if the parties met in the middle, who would pay the colossal amount of money, how could the municipality manage that.”
Evlavis added that the Church was not a business and is supposed to be there to serve the citizens.