eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • November 2014 : Archbishopric of Cyprus to invest in a € 7bn project

According to the Archbishop of Cyprus, a Hungarian businessman expressed interest in a € 7billion leisure investment in the area of Yeroskipou, which will include four hotels, a marina and an artificial reef. Plots which are earmarked for this investment will be provided both by the Church and the State. The Council of Ministers (on 05/11/2014) decided in favor of a land license/lease agreement of Yeroskipou state property as part of the state’s policy for the revival of the economy.

The decision of the Council of Ministers caused the reaction of the public, unhappy both for the convenience that was given to the Archbishopric regarding the states land, as well as for its intentions. Local newspaper Phileleftheros (in Greek), claimed the government had already negotiated the lease directly with the Archbishop Chrysostomos, and through him, with his Hungarian partner, without announcing tenders, as required by EU laws. The Minister of Interior was called to give explanations, and stated that many media reports are misleading and that the Republic of Cyprus will announce an open tender procedure for the privatization of state land, as required by the law (see ant1news, in Greek).

  • May 2014 : Church of Cyprus against homosexuality

Accept-LGBT Cyprus, an NGO that protects and promotes the rights of the LGBT community, organized the first Gay Pride Festival, which was held in Nicosia on 31 May 2014. Participation exceeded all expectations as many thousands, among them MPs, ambassadors and public figures from the cultural scene, showed up and marched for the right to equal treatment. The festival managed to attract international publicity as many famous artists, such as the stars of Hollywood Whoopi Goldberg and Olympia Doukakis, publicly supported the Pride parade.

The festival also sparked many angry reactions from the Orthodox Christian Church of Cyprus. The Holy Synod stated in an announcement (in Greek) made prior to the festival that “Church and science consider homosexuality a disease of the humankind and an abnormal and unnatural way of life. Therefore they recommend proper treatment and therapy, as well as they object institutional and social support and acceptance”. This gave rise to a public controversy concerning legislation for further gay rights, including a civil partnership law. The Pancyprian Orthodox Christian Movement organized a protest against the Pride parade, and announced its "strong indignation and opposition to the incident". Local and international press made special references to the Church’s opposition, especially after the Bishop of Tamasos and Orinis, Isaiah, petitioned the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to oppose any legislation that would allow gay couples to adopt children (see Philenews).

  • Spring 2014 : the Fiasco of the Epitaph Procession

In the spring of 2014, a major announcement brought religion into the heart of the Cyprus issue. It was announced that for the very first time since 1974 (when Turkey invaded Cyprus), Greek Orthodox clergymen and pilgrims would be allowed to celebrate the procession of the Epitaph (an important part of the Orthodox liturgy of Good Friday) through the city of Famagusta (or more precisely, in the Greek part of that city, usually referred to as “varosha” [suburbs]). The “ghost city” of Famagusta remains empty of its former citizens since 1974, and access is controlled by the Turkish army. Its Greek Cypriot inhabitants harbor to this day the dream (or delusion) that they will one day be able to return to their former place of residence.

The announcement about the Epitaph procession was made after meetings held between the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, and the Muslim mufti of the Turkish Cypriot community. This announcement was soon followed by a publicity campaign that promptly announced that 3,000 people would participate in the procession – an interesting figure, given that the event had not even taken place. International media and journalists were involved in the publicity drive for the event, and the event itself was presented as part of efforts for confidence-building measures between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides. The event of April 18th 2014 was promptly reported by the international press (see for instance in Reuters). The stories circulated left much to be desired – as they failed to report the negative publicity caused by the whole affair as well as the politically irrelevant nature of the religious ritual.
In fact, in spite of the show of good intentions between the island’s religious leaders, the Cyprus’ issue has never been a conflict based on religion as such. Moreover, the two religious leaders are not the leaders of the respective political communities, nor do they participate or are otherwise involved in the ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus’ issue. Third, liturgies have been held in churches in the northern part of Cyprus for several years, and strictly speaking, this was not a completely novel event.

According to news’ reports, the event was promptly attended by representatives of the major political parties of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as many high dignitaries. The impression left by the event was not however uniformly positive : shortly afterwards, the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus made public statements that condemned this effort at religious diplomacy (see Philenews in Greek). The Archbishop considered the event an action that served Turkish interests, and while he declared to remain hopeful of a future “fair” settlement to the Cyprus’ issue, he could not endorse these actions. A few days later, it was announced that additional liturgies – due to be performed in churches in the northern part of the island on April 23rd and May 4th – were postponed.

D 8 décembre 2014    AEleonora Kyriakou AVictor Roudometof

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