Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches

19/2/2011

Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches held at Cyprus on 17-18th.

ADDRESS BY HIS BEATITUDE
ARCHBISHOP CHRYSOSTOMOS OF CYPRUS
AT THE EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
OF THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

Translated Using google Translate

It is with feelings of great joy that we address ourselves today to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches.

The Church of Cyprus and I personally, welcome to our island with great pleasure the honourable representatives –clergy and lay alike– of the various member Churches of the Middle East Council of Churches. We thank and welcome all of you who, driven by the true spirit of Christian love, have responded to our invitation and have come here, so that together we can exchange views and give answers to the many and serious problems that concern us.

The presence of you all underlines, and bears witness to, the great importance and seriousness of this Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches. In these critical times, this Meeting also arouses the interest and attention of all Christians in this sensitive region of ours. We believe strongly that the time has come for all of us – all the Churches of the Middle East – to join forces and work consciously towards a solution of the many serious problems that exist in our region, and above all so that peace can prevail in our countries and among our peoples, far from religious fanaticism and bigotry.

As can be easily understood, in order for us, the Middle East Council of Churches, to be able to exercise our role and make an active and fruitful contribution to the desired objective of establishing a better and happier world in our region, without wars and bloodshed, we must focus with Christian love and in a spirit of good will and mutual understanding, on the task of examining the problems we are facing, in order to give answers and achieve solutions.

First of all, we note the need to restructure the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches, with a view to rendering it more effective in its actions and decisions. Undoubtedly there have been –and still are- financial difficulties which must be solved, taking of course into account the current difficult international economic situation. However, shortcomings have been identified in the operation of the Secretariat of the Council, which have led to a lack of co-ordination and harmonious co-operation among the member-Churches. All these things must be resolved otherwise the Middle East Council of Churches will not be able to respond to the noble aims of its establishment and operation.

We recall that in the past also, in order to facilitate the work of the Council, the Church of Cyprus, and I personally, had suggested that we take over the support of the Secretariat in its entirety, by paying the cost of the operations and staffing of the office, within of course the bounds of our capabilities, and also by covering any other related needs that might arise. We repeat this offer and suggestion today and place it at your disposal.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for the important work and great contribution of the Council to date, not only to the Christian world but to all the peoples and countries of our region. Undoubtedly, however, a great deal remains to be done.

We repeat that today’s Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches is taking place in very difficult and critical times for our region. We are all experiencing the effects of these troubled times. We note in particular the regrettable phenomena of the rise of religious fanaticism and the serious violation of religious freedoms.

We regret to say that unfortunately in the Northern part of our island which has been occupied for almost thirty-five years now by the Turkish troops of invasion, religious freedoms and human rights are being brutally violated. First of all, the Turkish invaders, in a provocative effort to alter the demographic composition of the island’s population, have expelled the Christian Greeks from their homes and in their place they have installed settlers from Turkey. They then turned against our sacred temples and after first desecrating them, they proceeded to destroy some and convert others into Muslim mosques or recreational facilities or even sheep pens and stables for animals.

We, at the Church of Cyprus have suggested and asked, through the United Nations, to be permitted to maintain and repair all these holy churches. Unfortunately, however, once again our request has met with the refusal of the occupying authorities.

It should also be stressed that the violation of the religious freedoms of the small number of enclaved people who have remained in the Karpass is still continuing. Suffice it to mention just a few incidents which offend the religious feelings of our people and all civilised human beings:

On 30 November 2010, the feast day of the Apostle Andrew, the occupying authorities of the pseudo-state forbade his Grace, Christoforos, Bishop of Karpass, to perform mass in the Holy Monastery of the Apostolos Andreas, despite their earlier promises and assurances. Needless to say, unfortunately the Turks are continuing to prevent his Grace from exercising his religious duties at the Holy Churches of the occupied bishopric of the Karpass District.

On 25 December 2010, while Christmas Mass was being performed, Turkish pseudo-police entered the Holy Church of Ayios Synesios at Rizokarpasso, interrupted the service, forced the Reverend Zacharias Georgiou to remove his holy vestments, forcibly evicted the few enclaved persons and sealed the Holy Church. Furthermore, another priest, Constantinos Papacostas was forbidden to perform Christmas Mass at the Holy Church of Ayia Triada, at the village of Ayia Triada in the Karpass.

We wish to add the following general points: in order for any church service to be performed in the occupied areas, prior permission is required from the so-called “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” of the occupying authorities, even for funerals, christenings, etc. In addition, at all religious gatherings, so-called policemen video-tape everything that takes place within our holy churches as well as all the people who attend the services. The result of this is that the services are desecrated and defiled. Moreover, the occupying authorities recently converted the Holy Church of the Archangel Michael at Ayialousa –an 11th century monument– into a School for Dance, and they demolished the Holy Church of St Catherine in the village of Yerani and the chapels of Ayios Demetrios at Ayialousa and Ayios Avacum (Chelones location)of Rizokarpasso. Finally, it should be noted that all Greek-Orthodox cemeteries have been desecrated and destroyed.

From the above it becomes evident that religious freedoms are violated in the occupied north of Cyprus as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It is therefore essential and imperative that we ensure good and harmonious co-operation among all Christians and all the Churches of the region. Hence, this Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches -and the Middle East Council of Churches in general- is called upon to overcome any internal problems and other difficulties that might exist, in order to contribute to this goal.

With these general thoughts, I salute the proceedings of the Meeting and from the depths of my heart hope that our efforts will bear fruit, so that very soon the spirit of Christian love and Christian peace will be established in our countries and our peoples. With all our heart we also pray to our Lord Jesus Christ that the day will come when His great wish comes to fruition, “that they may all be one” (John 17: 21) and that His true prophecy will be fulfilled “and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Thank you!”.

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