Joint Statement of the Religious Leaders of Cyprus -14 February 2019
Historic Church of Saint James in the Buffer Zone
We, the Religious Leaders of Cyprus, received the news of the collapse of part of the St. James Church with deep pain, profoundly disappointed, for our continuous joint efforts since 2014 did not avail this tragedy. We, welcome the news that immediate attention has taken place by UNFICYP, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage together with the Nicosia Master Plan. We reiterate the principle that the rightful owners of all religious monuments in Cyprus should be directly involved and consulted and appreciate the dialogue with the United Nations in this regard.
With faith in God, we renew our joint plea since 2014 for the urgent need to appropriately reinforce and restore not only the historic monument of St James but also St George, both found in the green line of the Buffer Zone. The significance of a place of worship reaches far beyond the stones it is built of and its destruction disrespects our shared religious and cultural heritage.
As leaders of the five main religious communities of Cyprus, we stand together as brothers committed to ensure that all sacred places for our faithful, all places of worship that are part of Cyprus religious and cultural heritage are respected as such, cared for, protected and restored.
We are grateful for the full support of the Swedish Embassy as the auspices of the dialogue of the religious leaders for peace, known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (RTCYPP), for their sincere accompaniment of our cooperation and joint efforts for religious freedom.
In front of this tragedy, we ask once again for the full cooperation of all those involved and pray that the efforts of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, that has agreed to take over the responsibility of these two Byzantine monuments since March 2017, are renewed with urgency with the support of all stakeholders including the rightful owner.
We hope that the upcoming meeting of the two political leaders on 26 February will provide an opportunity for them to discuss and resolve all obstacles to reinforce and restore both these historic monuments. Expressing our hope for a constructive and proactive way forward in protecting the historic monuments in the Buffer Zone, we pray to be spared from witnessing another place of worship in Cyprus fall to ruins.
H.B. Chrysostomos II
Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus
H.E. Dr Talip Atalay
Mufti of Cyprus
H.E. Yousef Soueif
Archbishop of the Maronite Church of Cyprus
H.E. Khoren Doghramadjian
Archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of Cyprus
Rev. Father Jerzy Kraj
Latin Patriarchal Vicar