THE ARCHBISHOP yesterday reasserted his readiness to let the historic Apostolos Andreas Monastery in occupied Karpasia collapse rather than sign onto any plan that does not state that the Church of Cyprus owns the site.
“I’ve said it before that I would rather see the monastery collapse than let go of the property. The monastery is ours,” Archbishop Chrysostomos II said.
He was talking to state broadcaster CyBC, which asked him to comment on an announcement made this week by the ‘TRNC’ saying they would fund a project to fix the complex’s church alone, citing delays on the part of the Greek Cypriots.
After decades of neglect following the 1974 Turkish invasion, the monastery complex now needs to be renovated.
However, efforts to get all stakeholders to agree have so far failed.
The Primate yesterday blamed the bicommunal technical committee assigned to protect the island’s cultural heritage.
“I’m sorry to say that this bicommunal committee has done nothing. I can say its stance has been negative rather than positive,” the Archbishop said.
The bicommunal committee was created in April 2008 and has helped in seeing through the renovation of religious monuments on both sides of the divide, including the Ayios Armolaos church in Kyrenia, the Saint Mamas church in Lapithos, and has been fixing the Tophane Mescit mosque and the Akaki mosque in Nicosia.
It has also been co-ordinating Apostolos Andreas’ restoration efforts for the past year.
But the Church has refused to agree because a document prepared by the United Nations Development Programme names them only as donors.
“We are not donors, we are owners,” the Archbishop said adding that he was willing to pay to fix the church but not if it meant foregoing the Church’s rights.
“If we make a mistake, they will make out as if the monastery belongs to EVKAF,” he said referring to the Turkish Cypriot religious foundation.
It was in 2010 when the UN suggested that EVKAF could oversee the site’s restoration that the Primate originally said that he would rather let the monument collapse than forego ownership.
The co-chairman of the technical committee Takis Hadjidemetriou issued an announcement clarifying that the UNDP was following protocol differentiating between donors and owners.
The UNDP “has globally signed similar documents in thousands of cases and it surely could not change them in the case of Apostolos Andreas,” he said adding that the signature of the owner – in this case the Church – would anyway be necessary for when tenders were proclaimed.
“What we can say today is that if those responsible in the Church displayed a spirit of trust and cooperation, the monastery’s restoration project would be at a far more advanced stage today,” Hadjidemetriou said.
But the Archbishop expressed concerns over the intentions of the ‘TRNC’.
“I don’t know what their plans are, if they plan to clear the space to build a hotel, I don’t know. And this situation worries me,” he said yesterday.
But he added, “we insist that the monastery is ours; we will not back down on this point”.