Cypriot officials argue over old monastery’s preservation
Chrysostomos urged Greek Cypriot pilgrims Feb. 20 not to travel to the Apostolos Andreas, or Saint Andrew, Monastery in Turkish Cyprus for fear it could collapse.Turkish Cyprus has slammed Greek Cyprus’ top religious leader for encouraging his countrymen to not visit a holy monastery in northern Cyprus and suggesting the structure is about to collapse.
“[Archbishop] Chrysostomos [II] has made remarks not appropriate for a religious figure,” Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün said Feb. 22, according to Anatolia news agency.
“Chrysostomos has constantly told the world that the Apostolos Andreas Monastery faces ruin. The fact that he preferred to see the monastery get ruined instead of getting renovated by the Turkish Cypriots and [subsequent] comments that the monastery was not facing the possibility of getting ruined shows his insincerity,” added Özgürgün.
Chrysostomos urged Greek Cypriot pilgrims Feb. 20 not to travel to the Apostolos Andreas, or Saint Andrew, Monastery in Turkish Cyprus for fear it could collapse.
He said that if Turkish Cypriot authorities did not act fast, he would dispatch restoration crews to prop up the monastery’s crumbling central archway, possibly stoking tensions on the divided island.
“I believe the time has come for Apostolos Andreas to be restored. There will be no forum where we won’t denounce these actions by Turks who are obstructing the restoration,” the archbishop said.
Chrysostomos’ account was immediately disputed by Turkish Cypriot officials, who said authorities were eager to protect the island’s cultural heritage and a restoration program was already underway.
“[The monastery] is vital for us. We see this as part of the common cultural heritage of Cyprus,” official Kudret Özersay said, adding that protecting such monuments was important for Turkish Cypriots to generate tourism revenue.
“[The archbishop] has said he will assume the full duty of renovating the Apostolos Andreas Monastery without obtaining a permit,” Özgürgün said. “He has called on the Greek Cypriots not to visit the monastery until renovations take place.”
Noting that Chrysostomos argued religious works in northern Cyprus were at risk of deterioration, Özgürgün said, “Chrysostomos has said they will never permit the destruction of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery.”
According to Özgürgün, Archbishop Chrysostomos’ remarks do not represent reality. The only individual responsible for not renovating the Apostolos Andreas Monastery was the archbishop himself, who made great efforts to block all projects designed to renovate the monastery in the past, he said.
According to Özgürgün, Chrysostomos has used the issue of cultural heritage as a political tool.
Chrysostomos, an outspoken critic of Turkey who some criticize for what they say are his unabashed right-wing views and meddling in politics, said Turkish Cypriots were deliberately delaying restoration efforts in a bid to “erase” any trace of Christianity or Greekness in the north.
Joint renovation project
Özgürgün said they were doing their best to preserve common cultural heritage in the north, but cultural sites in the south faced ruin. “The Muslim-Turkish cultural heritage in southern Cyprus faces ruin. It is thought-provoking to see that Archbishop Chrysostomos, a person who supposedly wants to preserve cultural heritage in the island, is not sensitive on protecting the Muslim-Turkish cultural heritage in southern Cyprus.”
Özgürgün said they were doing their utmost to preserve common cultural heritage despite Greek Cypriot efforts to block such attempts, according to Anatolia news agency.
Özgürgün said despite the “provocations” by Chrysostomos, the Turkish Cypriot side would make all efforts possible to preserve common cultural heritage.
“Turkish and Greek Cypriots have agreed to launch a joint renovation project for the Apostolos Andreas Monastery and the Cultural Heritage Technical Committee of Turkish and Greek Cypriot members has been authorized to renovate the monastery,” Özgürgün said.
The 12th century monastery, at which an apostle of Christ reportedly performed miracles, is located at the northeastern-most point of Cyprus on the Karpaz Peninsula. The monastery is an important site to Orthodox Christians.
Compiled from Anatolia News Agency and Agence France-Presse stories by the Daily News staff in Istanbul