x

Society

Biggest haul of looted church icons back in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The largest haul of looted, centuries-old church icons, frescoes and mosaics ever repatriated to Cyprus were officially welcomed Tuesday after a nearly four-decade journey.

A ceremony marked the return of the 173 items that were stolen from Orthodox and Maronite Christian churches in the Turkish Cypriot northern part Cyprus. The island was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

“The Church of Cyprus is joyous that after 40 years, the largest number of stolen treasures is coming back home, to their homeland,” said Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the head of the island’s Orthodox Christian Church. Chrysostomos also thanked retired Pope Benedict XVI for his assistance in the repatriation.

The religious treasures will be put on display and undergo restoration at the Byzantine Museum flanking the Archbishopric in the capital Nicosia. Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said many items were severely damaged when looters removed them from churches and cut them into more easily transportable pieces.

Chrysostomos said the aim is that all treasures can be returned to places of worship in the north once a hoped-for political solution to the island’s division is reached.

Museum Director Ioannis Eliades said no monetary value can be put on the items including fragments of a 1,500-year-old mosaic depicting a clean-shaven St. Thomas and 1,100 year-old frescoes of unidentified saints.

The frescoes, from the church of Saint Solomone in the village of Komi tou Yialou, are the oldest of their kind in Cyprus which traces its roots in Christianity to the 1st century.

The Apostle Paul is said to have preached the gospel in A.D. 45 and converted the island’s Roman governor Sergius Paulus, the first head of a Roman territory to undergo conversion.

Other important works include the 14th century icons of the Virgin Mary the Merciful from the monastery of Saint John Chrysostom in the village of Koutsoventis and a 16th century icon of Saint Mark from Saint Andronikos Church in Kythrea village.

Police discovered the religious treasures in a 1997 raid on the apartment of Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen in Munich, Germany. The treasures remained in the custody of German authorities until a protracted court battle could prove the Cyprus Church’s ownership.

“I’m touched that such a large quantity of religious treasures have been returned,” German Ambassador to Cyprus Gabriela Guellil told The Associated Press.

The church says hundreds of religious artifacts were looted from churches in the island’s north and many have appeared on the black market in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

RELATED

NICOSIA — The governments of eight European Union member states said Friday the situation in Syria should be re-evaluated to allow for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees back to their homeland.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Luka Doncic had 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Dallas Mavericks to a 108-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will campaign in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation Thursday, holding a rally in the South Bronx to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran on Thursday prepared to inter its late president at the holiest site for Shiite Muslims in the Islamic Republic, a final sign of respect for a protégé of Iran's supreme leader killed in a helicopter crash earlier this week.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Diminished but not deterred, Hamas is still putting up a fight after seven brutal months of war with Israel, regrouping in some of the hardest-hit areas in northern Gaza and resuming rocket attacks into nearby Israeli communities.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.