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Events

Commemorating the 48th Grim Anniversary of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus

WHITESTONE, NY – On July 17 at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone, the Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations (FCAO), in cooperation with the International Organizing Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and the Consulate General of Cyprus in New York, held the commemoration of the 48th grim anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey. The event began with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and the memorial service honoring those who lost their lives during the July 20, 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Following the services, a makaria and short program took place in the community’s Vasilios and Athanasia Kartsonis Hall.

In his homily, His Eminence said: “We come together this morning – in this Church of the Holy Cross – to remind ourselves of the sacrifice of others, of the lives that were lost, and the struggle that continues. I speak, of course, of our memorial and commemoration of the illegal invasion of Cyprus by Turkey that happened forty-eight years ago this coming week.”

Archbishop Elpidophoros continued: “To observe this solemn remembrance in a Church dedicated to the Holy and Precious Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is a profoundly moving symbol. For the crucifixion and division of this noble Island Nation has been one in which we must look deeply for meaning, and indeed, salvation.

Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras at the podium on July 17 at the Holy Cross community hall in Whitestone during the commemoration of the 48th grim anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

“The Cross of our Lord is a heavy one to bear, especially for the families of those who perished, and for those whose way of life was destroyed. But it is a Cross that God carried first for the sake of all. It is a Cross that leads to redemption, to healing, to forgiveness, and to love. That is why we must never lose faith in justice for Cyprus, and to the return of righteousness and unity to this divided land.”

“We pray for the souls of our lost brothers and sisters who perished in the invasion of Cyprus forty-eight years ago,” His Eminence said. “We will never forget them, and we will never allow the world to forget. Our prayers for their souls are also cries unto heaven for justice.”

“We remember the wrecked churches and icons of Cyprus, the sacred objects and the sacred stones that disappeared as a result of the unjust division of this island bedrock of civilization that reaches back more than nine thousand years,” he noted. “And in this same week, we remember how our precious Aghia Sophia was seized and converted to an alien purpose. It is as if the same forces that seek to dominate others by force seek the erasure of our very souls. But we will not give up and we will not give in. We will remember.”

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros presided over the services at Holy Cross Church in Whitestone on July 17 which included a memorial service those who lost their lives during the July 20, 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

“In today’s Gospel, the Lord told us that we are the light of the world. Therefore, let us commit to never allowing the cause of Cyprus to retreat into the shadows. Let us always shine the light of truth and justice upon this precious Island Nation, until every dark and gloomy sadness vanishes from sight, and the Sun of Righteousness is manifest to all,” His Eminence concluded.

The complete remarks are available online: https://bit.ly/3RGxBhG.

FCAO President Kyriacos Papastylianou gave the welcoming remarks for the commemoration program, thanking all those present for their continued support for the ongoing struggle for justice for Cyprus, and introduced an emotionally stirring video which included eyewitness accounts of the devastating toll of the invasion in 1974.

PSEKA President Philip Christopher also thanked all those present for their support of various events and fundraisers and shared an update on the recent efforts including the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of the amendment blocking the sale of F-16s to Turkey. He noted that “we have to work together to continue as American citizens to bring a change in our foreign policy” and “we have to be a thorn in the side of Turkey.”

Consul General of Cyprus in New York Michalis Firillas in his remarks referred to the dark days of the invasion and the chaos that followed. He shared personal recollections, including how the family’s large lemon tree survived the invasion and continues to thrive, and this lemon tree is symbolic of the Hellenism of Cyprus that thrives in spite of the odds.

The Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations, in cooperation with PSEKA and the Consulate General of Cyprus in New York, commemorated the 48th grim anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus with a memorial service followed by a makaria and short program at Holy Cross Church in Whitestone. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras thanked and congratulated the organizers of the event, specifically the FCAO and its worthy President Kyriacos Papastylianou and PSEKA and its tireless President Philip Christopher, as well as everyone in attendance for taking the time to participate, wishing for even better outcomes than what has already been achieved. He pointed out that every summer during these days, Hellenism’s memory returns to the invasion that took place 48 years ago, no one forgets and nothing is forgotten, even as Ankara continues its daily threats. Koutras thanked everyone again for the ongoing struggle for Cyprus, for Greece, and our national rights noting that this is our historic debt to those who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, this is our debt to the younger generations who have “the right to live in a modern, European country, a free Cyprus, without roadblocks, without barbed wire, and without occupying forces.” He concluded by saying may their memory be eternal to the heroes, Greek and Cypriot, who fought for freedom.

Among those present were Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN Ambassador Maria Theofili and her Cypriot counterpart Ambassador Andreas Hadjichrysanthou, New York State Assemblyman Michael Tannousis, and FCAO Board member Despina Axiotakis.

FCAO President Papastylianou gave the closing remarks, thanking the Holy Cross community, its presiding priest Fr. George Anastasiou, the Parish Council and President Dimitris Antonakis, church secretary Niovi Philippou and all those who helped make the event possible.

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