NICOSIA – Hit hard by the country’s financial crisis, The Church of Cyprus is being forced to sell its assets to pay 100 million euros ($109.69 million) owed banks.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II told state radio: “We made deals with the banks, and we are ready to give them some property, so that we can repay our debts and… start investing,” Agence France Press reported.
He did not say what banks were involved, nor did he explain whether the assets he referred to were collateral against loans or property that would be sold in order to pay them off.
The church is the largest landowner on the eastern Mediterranean island, and it has business interests that range from the hotel industry to beer and wine-making but was caught up short with heavy holdings in Cypriot banks after the government ordered the confiscation of 47.5 percent of accounts over 100,000 euros ($109,690).
That was to keep the economy and banks from collapsing and pay for the mistakes of bankers who had big portfolios in devalued Greek bonds and made bad loans to Greek businesses but were never held accountable.
“We believed in the banks. We invested in banks continuously, and in the end they collapsed,” the Archbishop said and now the church ironically has, in effect, to pay them twice and reward them for bad management decisions and seizing large chunks of the church’s money.
The church’s businesses have also suffered from a three-year recession, with an official saying it has lost income from various sources such as rent and dividends, making it harder to fulfil its loan obligations.