The environment department has objected to the creation of a new church in the grounds of Paphos town hall and has called on the municipal council to reconsider as last year the majority voted in favour of the construction.
The proposal by the Bishop of Paphos has split the community.
The news was welcomed by the Paphos Greens. “This is important for us and a good lesson to those council members that changed their minds, first voting against the church and then for it. What do they believe now,” Andreas Evlavis told the Cyprus Mail.
Although Paphos municipal council initially rejected a proposal to build a new church in the gardens of the town hall by a majority vote, following a request by Edek councillors, the matter was raised again.
In addition, Etek, the scientific and technical chamber, came out against the proposal and urged seven of its members who are also Paphos councillors, to vote against it last year, according to Paphos councillor and engineer, Andreas Chrysanthou.
However, the Paphos councillors and engineers voted in favour.
“I may be a member of Etek but I can be critical of them. The majority, including me, voted in favour of the new church, and ultimately, the council of ministers will have the final say,” he said, adding that he believes the president would step in to ensure the church gets the go-ahead.
Last year, 11 councillors voted in favour, nine against and one abstention, he said.
The environment department has said that reasonable alternatives should be included in the environmental impact assessment study, and also asks whether the needs of churchgoers in the area can be met by other churches nearby,
The disagreement began after the public gardens were returned to the owners, the Church of Cyprus, 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 church on the grounds instead.
“We are not against a church being built, but against anything being built here,” Evlavis added.
The land surrounding Paphos town hall is 14,000m2 and the church would cover an area of around 750m2, leaving a lot of land free, said Chrysanthou. The town hall garden is the property of the Diocese of Paphos, Chrysanthou noted, apart from an area surrounding the town hall of around 300m2.
“Basically, the Bishop can do what he likes as the land belongs to the Church. However, by allowing the new church, the rest of the land will be given back to us and we have plans to make some projects there and breathe life back into the area,” he said.
At present, the garden is ‘nothing’, and no-one uses it, apart from foreign workers on a Sunday, he said, lamenting that back in the early 1990s’, the garden was a hub for local families and the community.
“We would create a nice cafe and restaurant here, a playground for children, a tennis court and other ideas, all created from scratch.”
The Paphos Bishopric said that a Church inside the garden is essential as numerous rituals are carried out in processions from the Bishopric to the church area, and they are close to each other.
“The Bishop informed me that architecturally, the church would be a scaled down design of the Parthenon which will be in line with the Neo Classical buildings of the area, It won’t be too high or too wide and will blend in well with the environment around it,” said Chrysanthou.
Last year, angry residents against the idea formed an opposition group, ‘Initiative in support of the preservation and protection of Paphos Municipal Garden,’ and protested. “We need to bring this area back to life and if it requires a church being there, then that’s OK,” said the councillor.
However, Evlavis said that the Greens will fight on. “We will never never give up,” he said.