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Media Watch 2003

16 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 16 May 2003
Bishop expelled from Morphou church during service

The government yesterday protested to the UN against Morphou Bishop Neophytos and his flock being unceremoniously kicked out of their own Ayios Mamas church by occupation “police” in the middle of prayers.

Witnesses said that mid-way through chants of “Christ is risen”, five Turkish Cypriot “security officers” stormed the church and broke up the service telling the Bishop and three other priests in Greek to stop the “forbidden" service and to “get out". 

Greek Cypriot camera crews were manhandled out of the church first, but not before filming the police raid on the place of worship that has been turned into an "icon museum" for foreign tourists to visit.

One visibly upset woman emerging from the church bitterly complained that Greek Cypriots would not treat Turkish Cypriot faithful the same way if they visited Muslim places of worship in the government-controlled south. 

Worshippers said they were told by Turkish Cypriot “police” that the Bishop needed a “permit” to conduct Orthodox Christian services, which are only allowed at the Apostolos Andreas monastery on the tip of the island's northern Karpass Peninsula.

The Bishop also briefly toured the Morphou Bishopric next to the Ayios Mamas church, but was ordered to leave by more “security officers”.

Commenting on the fiasco, President Tassos Papadopoulos called the expulsion a “provocative act” with the sole aim of preventing the flood of communication between the two communities.

“Free movement of all Cypriot citizens is the cornerstone of the our policy for a settlement and such provocations will not stop us from allowing both sides to travel freely,” Papadopoulos told reporters. 

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides told reporters the expulsion was an illegal act and that the Cyprus Republic will take the necessary steps with the UN.

He said the government would also protest against the high number of "petty arrests" of Greek Cypriots crossing to the north on day-trips. (see related story pg 5)

Chrysostomides said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash resorted to such measures, because he couldn't believe that the two communities once isolated from each other were now embracing.

"The occupation regime is in a state of confusion in light of the fact that the easing of travel restrictions has smashed Denktash's core argument that Cyprus should be separated in two," he said.

There have been more than 350,000 crossings from both communities since travel restrictions were partially lifted April 23.

The move by Denktash’s minions sparked a wave of condemnation from all quarters, starting off with Morphou Mayor Charalambos Pittas, who said the incident is more proof of Denktash’s intransigence.

“It’s indicative of the true motivations behind the easing of travel restrictions,” said Pittas.

In remonstrations to the European Socialist Party, Kisos leader Yiannakis Omirou accused the occupation regime of “sacrilege and barbarity” in interrupting a religious ceremony in a place of worship.

“Yiannakis Omirou requests the immediate and effective intervention by European Socialist Party officials, as well as socialist government heads,” said a written Kisos statement.
The expulsion came days after the Holy Synod called for an international effort to return the churches in the occupied north to their true owner, the Cyprus Church.

They also urged global action against the desecration and looting of priceless religious treasures in the places of worship."