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Cyprus: Much ado about alleged desecration

THE ANGLICAN Diocese of Cyprus, and the Gulf and the European Commission yesterday denied separate allegations made against them by the Kykkos Monastery regarding desecrations in the north.
On Tuesday Greek Open University professor Charalambous C. Chotzakoglou from the Museum of the Kykkos Monastery claimed the Anglican Church exhumed Greek Orthodox graves in the Kyrenia cemetery to bury British residents who no longer fit in the adjacent British cemetery.
He also said the EU was funding a road construction project that damaged an Orthodox church in occupied Nicosia.
Anglican Diocese of Cyprus Bishop Michael Lewis reacted swiftly: “I can assure concerned Cypriots and others that at no time, past or present, has there been any act of the Anglican Church in Cyprus that has affected the graves or bodies of faithful departed Orthodox in Kyrenia or anywhere else, by moving existing graves to bury British residents,” he said in a written statement.
“As Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, I am absolutely committed to promoting respect for the remains and memorials of the dead. They are of utmost sanctity.”
The Municipality of Kyrenia also reacted to the claims, releasing a statement “condemning the unholy act of the Anglican Community of Kyrenia, which not only runs counter to every principle of law and morality, but also aims to erase any indication of Greek presence in the occupied areas.”
But press assistant to the Anglican Bishop, Georgia Katsantonis said the presence of British graves in the Kyrenia cemetery are a result of a 1979 agreement between then-Bishop of Kyrenia Gregoris, the Anglican Church, and the British High Commission permitting the Anglican Church to officiate at the burial of British dead in an unused area at the back of the graveyard.
Despite the alleged 30-year arrangement, the Anglican Church confirmed that due to Chotzakoglou’s allegations, the current Bishop of Kyrenia yesterday withdrew its permission from the Anglicans to continue burying their dead in the Kyrenia cemetery.
Chotzakoglou concluded that Greek Orthodox corpses had been removed from their graves based on a pile of smashed tombstones and crucifixes he observed laying in a corner of the cemetery on a recent visit.
But Katsantonis said the broken tombstones has been scattered all over the cemetery since 1974. In 2005 a group composed of Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, and Cypriot expatriates cleaned up the remnants of the desecration and because the headstone were too heavy to haul away, the group piled them in a corner.
According to Katsantonis, the British Cemeteries Commission, not the Anglican Church, now exercises authority over the British section of the Kyrenia cemetery.
But another group, the Foreign Residents Commission, who “do not have anything to do with the Anglicans” and are composed mainly of German, French, Swiss, and Italian expatriates, won permission from the occupation authorities to bury their dead there.
In a separate allegation Chotzakoglou claimed the European Commission is financing a road construction project running alongside the Panayia tou Trahona church in occupied Nicosia, severely damaging its western entrance.
George Eliopoulos, press officer for the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, countered Chotzakoglou’s claim, saying “the EU is not financing these works from the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community or from any other source of EU funds.”
“An EU visibility sign located 100 metres from the church refers to a different EU funded project for the renewal of the water distribution network through the replacement of water asbestos pipes,” he continued. “This project has no connection with the works being carried out near the church.”
But Chotzakoglou disagress, saying he has “seen the same work team working on both projects,” and “talked with [the work teams] and all the people working there believe them to be the same project.”
EC Representation officer Alessandra Viezzer said it was possible the same company might have won the tender also for this project. We simply do not know and it is not a relevant fact for us as long as no EU funding is involved,” she said. “Dr. Chotzakoglou should have checked facts first before coming up with his allegations.”
“The Commission stands ready to provide any information to any party including the Holy Monastery of Kykkos,” she said.
(source: cyprus-mail)

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