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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The pope's trip to Cyprus

- The The Holy, Royal and Stavropegic Monastery of Kykkos (Greek:Ιερά Μονή Κύκκου)

All I know about Cyprus is from the distant past, ancient and medieval - it's the once home to the oldest known pet cat :), in Greek mythology it's the birthplace of Aphrodite, and in ancient history, Cyprus was part of the Ionian Revolt that led to the Persian invasion of Greece and the Greek victory at the Battle of Marathon. Cyprus was brought back under Greek rule by Alexander the Great, and then came under Roman rule in the time of Julius Caesar, eventually to be part of the (Greeky Roman) Byzantine Empire. On his way to the Third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart captured Cyprus and sold it to the Templars, and it later ended up in Venetian hands until conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1570.

I really knew nothing, though, about present day Cyprus, so when I saw a news story about the pope visiting there (Cyprus trip a political minefield for the pope) I decided to look it up, and I found that contemporary Cyprus is a place that's in many ways as conflicted as the Holy Land. The island is officially known of as the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, but in 1974, after years of conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Turkey invaded and now occupies the north of the island. Here's a brief history from Wikipedia (Cypriot intercommunal violence) ....

The population of Cyprus was wholly Greek-speaking and Christian prior to the Ottoman conquest in 1570-73. This brought about radical changes in the demographics of the island. A new ethnic element appeared, the Turks. The population of Cyprus, overwhelmingly Greek at the time, was now ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The island of Cyprus was then annexed by Britain in 1914 from the Ottoman Empire, following the latter's decision to join the World War I on the side of the Central Powers. Soon afterwards, it offered the island to Constantine I of Greece on condition that Greece join the war on the side of the British. Although the offer was supported by Eleftherios Venizelos, the Greek prime minister, it was rejected by the King, who wished to keep Greece out of the war. The offer therefore lapsed. After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the new Turkish government formally recognized Britain's ownership of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots believed it their natural right to unite the island with Greece (called enosis), as many of the Aegean islands had done following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In 1931, riots broke out in Cyprus due to resentment against the British administration. The British suppressed the riots, abolished the legislative council in Cyprus, and banned all political parties. At the end of the Second World War Britain rejected fresh demands for enosis, offering concessions on home rule, or self-government, instead. In August 1954 Greece, which had previously avoided involvement in Cyprus because of its alliance with Britain, unsuccessfully sought to have the question of Cyprus’s status brought before the United Nations General Assembly. In the subsequent UN discussions, Turkey announced that it opposed a union of Cyprus with Greece and declared that if Britain withdrew from the island, control of Cyprus should revert to Turkey, as Turks made up a significant portion of the population of the island and had ruled the island for several hundred years prior to leasing the island to the British and the subsequent British annexing of the island in 1914. Greek Cypriots felt that this position paid little respect to the right of self determination of the Cypriot people. The repeated rejections by the British of Greek Cypriot demands for enosis prompted an armed underground campaign against colonialism by a movement of Greek Cypriots known as the National Organization of Cypriot Struggle, or EOKA ....

Given this, there are of course refugee problems in Cyprus.

The news story states that the pope's lodgings in Cyprus, the Vatican Nunciature, is located right on the Green Line in Nicosia ....

The United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus runs for more than 180.5 km along what is known as the Green Line .... the cease fire line that de facto divides the island nation of Cyprus into two, cutting through the capital of Nicosia. It was first established in 1964, when Major-General Peter Young was the commander of a "peace force", a predecessor of the present UNFICYP. After stationing his troops in different areas of Nicosia, the general drew a cease-fire line on a map with a dark green crayon, which was to become known as the "Green Line". The Green Line became impassable following the July 1974 invasion by Turkey .... Traffic across the buffer zone was very limited until 2003, when the number of crossings and the rules governing them were relaxed.

The news story observes that the pope will have to walk the line not only between the Greeks and the Turks, but between Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy .....

During a 2006 Vatican audience, the late Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos gave the pope an album of photographs of destroyed churches in the north under the Turkish occupation and of others converted to restaurants, shops or other secular uses. Reporters covering the meeting quoted Benedict as saying "such destruction (is) incredible."

The Turkish north has published a book showing the destruction of mosques, cemeteries and other signs of Turkish culture in the south. It is called, "Erasing the Past: Turkish Cypriot Culture and Religious Heritage under the control of the Greek Cypriot Administration."

There are also problems between Cypriot Catholics and Orthodox Christians, who are dominant in the south. Some hardline Orthodox clerics, who view the pope as a heretic, say Benedict should stay in Rome to avoid provoking the island's 800,000 Orthodox ....

The trip may end up being interesting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Crystal - this was a very informative post.

11:30 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jana :)

1:59 AM  

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