Historic mass in Turkish-held north Cyprus 'like a miracle'

Historic mass in Turkish-held north Cyprus ‘like a miracle’

Famagusta (Cyprus) (AFP) - With a nighttime procession lit by the glimmer of devotional candles and the flash of smartphone cameras, a church in Turkish-held northern Cyprus hosted its first Easter mass in nearly 60 years.

Hundreds of Greek Cypriots crossed the Green Line to attend the ceremony at Famagusta’s church of St George Exorinos, in the part of the Mediterranean island occupied by Turkish forces since 1974.

Bishop Vassilis, wearing robes embroidered with gold and white and accompanied by a top Muslim cleric from the Turkish Cypriot community, led a tearful ceremony around the gardens of the 14th century church in Famagusta’s mediaeval walled city.

Crowds of worshippers who had crossed for the historic service pressed around as the bishop delivered a mass urging reconciliation on the divided island.

Turkish Cypriot returns key of occupied church to the Church of Cyprus

…Bishop Vasilios said the “massive presence of so many faithful is a clear message of promoting the conviction that religion is a powerful tool for reconciliation and not for division.”

He said today`s service was a “divine act” that surpassed all expectations and praised the presence of the representative of the Turkish Cypriot religious leader. Events like these, he said, contribute to solidifying good relations between the two communities.
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The representative of the Turkish Cypriot religious leader said the two religious leaders can make great efforts to find a solution and the leaders of the two sides have good hearts and can contribute positively towards a solution to the Cyprus issue.

A representative of the Eastern University gave Bishop Vasilios the key to the church of Agios Georgios, which is part of a University programme.

“This is not a present, this is something that is handed back to its owner”, he added, as he returned the key to the Bishop.

(Note that the church is used by the Turkish occupation authorities for university activities. Many churches are being used for even more undignified things, such as stables).

Greek Christians hold rare Good Friday liturgy in Turkish north Cyprus

The traditional procession of an icon of Jesus, which would normally be openly paraded through the streets of a Greek neighborhood, was limited to the church grounds for security reasons and guarded by a strong police presence.

[quote=Reuters]The church building is now used by a local Turkish Cypriot university as an arts workshop. Many other churches have been converted into mosques after the island was split into Muslim Turkish and Christian Greek parts.
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[quote=Famagusta Gazette]A representative of the Eastern University gave Bishop Vasilios the key to the church of Agios Georgios, which is part of a University programme.

“This is not a present, this is something that is handed back to its owner”, he added, as he returned the key to the Bishop.
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Is the return of the key permanent or temporary? Has possession of the church been regained?

[quote=AFP]The worshippers crowded onto pews in the dimly lit church were joined by a clutch of Turkish and Greek Cypriot politicians, as well as several foreign dignitaries, including the US ambassador and a representative of the UN.

Among those inside the church were the mayor-in-exile of Famagusta Alexis Galanos and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Oktay Kayalp, who worked together to set up the mass.
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Mass today celebrates the resurrection of Christ, and our hope of salvation. The Mass in the church of Agios Georgios the Exiler seems to also celebrate hopes of a solution to the painful division of their country. Thank you God, for Christ and the hope he brings.

Well, it is more symbolic than anything.
The church still is used by the Turkish-Cypriot university as an arts/cultural center, and Famagusta is under control of the occupation troops. The Orthodox have not really taken possession of the church. They will still have to get permission for any services they may have in the future.

Mass today celebrates the resurrection of Christ, and our hope of salvation. The Mass in the church of Agios Georgios the Exiler seems to also celebrate hopes of a solution to the painful division of their country. Thank you God, for Christ and the hope he brings.

Yes. This has shown that religion can bring reconciliation when there is good will on both sides. The Orthodox Archbishop Chrystostomos II and the Grand Mufti Atalay have been working quietly for the last three years for such things; they, and grass-roots citizen initiatives, are doing better than the politicians. However, such events have detractors on both sides, hence the 450 police guarding the church and worshipers.

This one-minute video shows the giving of the key. It’s in Greek and Turkish, but you don’t need to understand either to understand how emotional the gesture was.

Giving of the Key

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