Holy Cross church in Karpasha returned to the Maronite community

In a simple, yet inspiring ceremony, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, the European Commission and the United Nations Development Programme delivered on Thursday afternoon the oldest Maronite church on the island to the community of Karpasha in the Turkish occupied Kyrenia district.

The total cost of the project was approximately 48,500 EUR funded by the European Union with a contribution from the Holy See.

Takis Hadjidemetriou of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage said that for him the visit to Karpasha and the Holy Cross church was a revelation.

He said we should listen to the voice of our land and the many voices of the people and the single voice of our homeland and urged all, “Maronites, Latins, Armenians, Turkish-Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, embrace them all with love to build the Cyprus of the future”.

Turkish Cypriot Ali Tuncay said that the many nations, which guided the history of civilizations and contrubuted to the progress of humanity, left numerous monuments and Maronites are a significant part of this process.

Cultural heritage and different cultures, he said, should no longer be factors that cause conflicts, but factors that contribute to cooperation, peace and prosperous living of both communities. If we can learn to respect cultural differences and tolerate, we can achieve lasting peace. He underlined the need for elimination of all obstacles and restrictions that apply on cultural heritage to ensure that cultural heritage is no longer part of the Cyprus problem. “We still have a lot to do and they cannot wait for the solution of the Cyprus problem”, Tuncay added.

Ioannis Karis, chairman of the committee for the ancient churches of Maronites and member of the Technical Committee said that about a year ago the Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage decided to repair and restore this Maronite monument on the basis of plans submitted by the Karpasia Ecclesiastical Committee. The historical importance of this monument is reflected in the book “The History of the Maronites of Cyprus” by the late archbishop Ioannis Foradaris where it is noted that the church is a work of the 14th century and was probably built in 1445 during the time of Elias, Archepach of the Maronites of Cyprus.

Tiziana Zennaro, UNDP Cyprus Programme Manager said that the completion of conservation of the Holy Cross church was a result of joint work that brought citizens, technical experts and religious communities together and was achieved thanks to the EU funding. The first one was the old St. George church in Kormakitis and in one month from now in Agia Marina, will be the completion of conservation works in the local church.

She said that all residents of Karpasha have been part of this project, monitoring the works daily, and praised the effort of community leader Yiannoula Orfanou. When we are able to integrate Maronite heritage in our programme, the message becomes even stronger as respect, harmony and trust are extended to all communities of Cyprus.

Speaking on behalf of the EU, Michela Foresti, head of the Programme Team at the European Commission, Structural Reform Support Service, said that it is very inspiring to be able to “witness this latest example of open cooperation and mutual trust between the Cypriot communities represented in the Technical Committee, adding that Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Maronites have worked tirelessly together to bring this project and many others to a successful completion.

The members of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage not only talk about peace but also believe in peace and work at it and the results are in front of us. The EU, she added, is the largest contributor to the work of the Technical Committee and since 2012 it has provided approximately 11.7 million to implement the priorities of the committee and “we will want to make sure that EU funds continue to support this invaluable work going forward.”

Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus Youssef Soueif thanked all organisations for their effort and for working together in the spirit of a family and collaboration. He said conserving and restoring a church “its not a question of stones but it is a question of souls and minds and hearts and its a wish that Cyprus will be celebrating the renovation of its history” which will be a “beautiful island gift from the almighty God to the Cypriots and to the whole world”.

He thanked the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, noting that this week he was at the Vatican for a meeting with the Pope and that he praised the peace building that many in Cyprus believe in it. He also praised the work of the UNDP and the EU. “We are here in Cyprus and together with our beloved Cypriots we are building the history of our island”…and we will continue making sacrifices because without sacrifices we will not have Cyprus for our children and the new generation.

The church, he said, houses the oldest cross throughout Cyprus as well as other significant artefacts which are on display.

After the ceremony, the Archbishop performed a reconsecration service in the presence of the pilgrims.

Conservation works to the Holy Cross church included general cleaning of the church, replacement of metal gutters and downpipes, removal of existing plaster and repainting of stonewalls surfaces, repair of the stone belfry, replacing of damaged stones and conservation of frescoes.

Source: Cyprus News Agency