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Our View: Paphos already has more churches than green spaces  

The contentious Paphos town hall gardens

THE MEMBERS of the Church hierarchy have been accustomed to getting their way. The politicians always defer to them while ordinary people rarely go against wishes of the bishops in numbers. Explanations for this phenomenon are the remit of sociologists, but it suffices to say that high-ranking priests invariably get their way when they are confronted by opposition to their plans.

When Archbishop Chrysostomos decided that a big cathedral should be built in the old part of Nicosia, next to the Archbishopric, there was opposition from citizens’ groups, that argued there was no justification for a grandiose religious edifice inside the walls. It would be completely out of place, incompatible with the modest surroundings and architectural aesthetics of old Nicosia. It was even unjustified from a town planning perspective as well as there were half a dozen beautiful, old churches within five minutes’ walking distance from the site of the new cathedral.

These arguments were completely ignored because the Archbishop had set his mind on building a big cathedral next to the Archbishopric, perhaps in the misguided belief that he could create a mini-Vatican. The politicians avoided taking a stand, their silence construed as support for Chrysostomos’ grandiose plans and the new cathedral is now under construction. We can only express the hope that its architecture would not follow the architectural blueprint of all other big modern churches that are aesthetically appalling.

A similar dispute is now unfolding Paphos, with Bishop Georgios having decided a cathedral must be built in the gardens of the town hall that belong to the Church. The gardens had been rented to the municipality, but when the lease expired in 2005 the idea of building a cathedral was put forward. The municipality did not approve of the idea. In 2016 the mayor announced that Paphos bishopric would give the gardens to the municipality in exchange for state land in Larnaca. The agreement never went through and now the Bishop has proposed a cathedral is built on a third of the gardens while two thirds would be given to the municipality.

The municipal council last week rejected the bishop’s proposal, which will now go before a special committee; the same happened in 2010 and the special committee rejected the proposal. If there is another rejection, the matter would be referred to the council of ministers that cannot be relied on to go against the Church’s wishes. This is why Paphos citizens that care about preserving the gardens must organise themselves into a pressure group and start lobbying politicians and campaigning against the construction of the cathedral. The gardens may have been neglected because of the ongoing dispute, but they could be turned into green sanctuary for the people of the town which has many more churches than green areas.

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