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Greek Cypriot archbishop makes first visit to Turkish Cyprus

NICOSIA — Agence France-Presse | 3/22/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Greek Cypriot Archbishop Chrysostomos II crossed the island's divide on Monday for the first time since 1974 in a mission to restore the ancient Apostolos Andreas monastery in Turkish Cyprus.

Greek Cypriot Archbishop Chrysostomos II crossed the island's divide on Monday for the first time since 1974 in a mission to restore the ancient Apostolos Andreas monastery in Turkish Cyprus.

The visit aims to draw attention to the plight of the crumbling monastery and gain support for restoration work, which the Orthodox archbishop wants to begin soon after Easter and without hindrance.

Apostolos Andreas, on the island's northeastern tip, is one of the most important religious monuments for Greek Cypriot pilgrims.

Chrysostomos had earlier sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asking for his consent to allow restoration work on the monastery and a number of other dilapidated churches.

Before traveling up the Karpas peninsula, Chrysostomos visited the Apostolos Varnavas monastery, also in northern Cyprus, where he was welcomed by the Turkish Cypriot tourism minister, Ersan Caner.

"I wish to return to the days when were all happy and friends," Chrysostomos told him, according to reporters accompanying him on the trip.

The archbishop plans to visit Turkey on April 16-19, where he is due to meet Erdoğan and hand over a list of churches that have been destroyed or vandalized since 1974.

A total of 520 churches, chapels, monasteries and places of pilgrimage are alleged by Greek Cypriots to have been pillaged and desecrated, and many are in urgent need of repair.

Cyprus has been split since Turkish troops intervened in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

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