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11 April, 2021
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Turkish Cypriot religious leader supports return of icons held in Kyrenia castle to Church of Cyprus

Mufti Talip Atalay supports the return of religious artifacts

Newsroom / CNA

Turkish Cypriot Mufti of Cyprus supports the return of icons and religious artifacts to the Church of Cyprus, stating that “ the icons in the Kyrenia Castle belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and we will support their return to them”, according to a press release issued by the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process.

Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis, head of the Synodical Committee on Monuments and Religious Artifacts of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus warmly welcomed the investigation, the publications by Turkish Cypriot Havadis newspaper and the Mufti’s statements but expressed sadness and concern about the status of the icons.

“We deeply regret to learn from the results of the investigation published by the Turkish Cypriot paper Havadis that our priceless religious heirlooms have been kept under improper and insecure conditions in the warehouses of the Castle," said Bishop Porfyrios.

Mufti Talip Atalay reiterated his belief that their “proper storage, maintenance and protection are not only a must but a duty. Religious beliefs and religious places should be protected irrespective of where they are.”

“Just like we expect the assets that belong to the Muftiate/Evqaf to be properly maintained, protected and preserved by the Greek Cypriot authorities, Turkish Cypriot authorities should do the same to the assets of the Christians of Cyprus”, he said.

Atalay expressed the belief that “we should all preserve our religious and cultural heritage in the most proper way without ignoring the needs and sensitivities of the rightful owners”.

“Respecting, safeguarding and preserving cultural property is an obligation outlined clearly in international humanitarian law”, Salpy Eskidjian, Executive Director of the RTCYPP said.

The Religious Leaders of Cyprus had agreed to create an inventory of all stored religious heirlooms of Cyprus as a confidence building measure. “This proposal was one of the first items discussed within the RTCYPP seven years ago,” added Eskidjian, “unfortunately the agreement never materialized but has remained alive on the table of dialogue.”

“We pray that this investigation and publicity will help remove the obstacles we have faced for the creation of a joint committee with representatives of the religious leaders of Cyprus to record the missing religious heirlooms of all faith communities of Cyprus and ensure their proper protection, maintenance and preservation”, Bishop Porfyrios said.

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