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25 July, 2024
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Religious treasures rescued from Occupied Territory

Documenting miracles and hidden heroism



By Panayiotis Kapparis

Meet the "Super Patriot" who refuses to hear a word about coexistence with Turkish Cypriots or a federal solution. He is tormented and deeply pained, but he finds solace in worshipping Apostle Andreas and Apostle Varnavas. There, he encounters miracles that touch the hearts of even the Turkish Cypriots, who secretly seek connection with the "silent" God.

Recently, a remarkable three-volume work titled "Religious Icons of Karpasia" was presented. It was curated by the Byzantinologist Dr. Christodoulos Hatzichristodoulou, the archaeologist Thekla Kalli, and others, with the blessings of Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia. This incredible publication documents the countless miracles that were whispered from mouth to mouth for decades, but never shared publicly due to fear of our enemies. It recounts the perilous and extremely dangerous transport of church treasures from Karpasia's churches and monasteries to the free areas. Ancient miraculous icons, chalices, vestments, and many other portable ecclesiastical treasures were carried with heartfelt prayers, always under the protection of the Virgin Mary, Apostle Andreas, and all the saints of Karpasia. Miracles always triumphed over logic and fear.

Many years ago, I witnessed numerous stories of brave people who risked their lives to transport icons and sacred artifacts to the free areas shortly after 1974. One challenging and dangerous task was collecting treasures from churches and monasteries. People would take their animals to graze near the places of worship during quiet hours. They would gather the treasures, conceal them in their chests, and transport them to their homes. For larger items like icons, the operation was even more difficult, often requiring coordinated group efforts during the night to achieve success.

Transporting the ecclesiastical treasures was not always successful, as the occupying forces, including soldiers and Turkish Cypriots, were on the lookout for valuables to enrich themselves. The story of the elder monks of Apostle Varnavas and the testimonies of the three brothers on RIK's camera still haunt us. They loaded the treasures onto a truck, trusting the assurances of UN personnel. However, the truck never followed the monks' path, leaving them with only the clothes on their backs and immense pain.

In the three-volume work, Christodoulos Hatzichristodoulou records heart-wrenching testimonies of transporting sacred relics and icons to the free areas. Among them: "Father Elias Papaileia of Ayia Marina and Zoopigi of Ayia Marina, along with Dora Sergidou, risked their lives to rescue icons and sacred vessels from the churches. They also saved icons from the churches of Agios Thyrso and Agios Polychronios Melanarka. The icons were wrapped in fabrics and quilts before being transported... Father Elias, along with trapped priests Loizos, Michalis Papaloizou, and his son Averkios, went to the church of Agios Polychronios in Melanarka to save its treasures. The church was ransacked, and the icons and iconostasis were damaged by gunfire. After loading the icons onto their truck, they hid them under branches and successfully rescued them... In Agia Triada, Mrs. Melitsa had a vision of Saint Nicholas telling her not to leave him behind. She informed Father Loizos from Yialousa, and with his blessing, she wrapped the icon of Saint Nicholas in bed sheets and transported it to the village of Klavdia..."

Let us honor the saints, humble priests, and other trapped individuals who risked their lives to save the "living" icons and other ecclesiastical treasures, which continue to inspire miracles. All of this while we await the great miracle of returning to the sanctified lands of occupied Cyprus.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Turkey  |  Christianity  |  miracles  |  Saints

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