Liturgy Celebrated in Turkish-Occupied Famagusta



The church of Saint George, Famagusta, Cyprus. Photo by CNA

Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots attended an Orthodox Liturgy in the occupied region of Famagusta on Sunday morning.

It was the first time Greek Cypriots were able to attend a Liturgy in the church of Saint George Exorinos (Agios Georgios Exorinos) by using the newly constructed Dherynia crossing. Before the crossing was opened, they were forced to drive an extra 40 minutes in order to reach the church, located only two kilometers away from the free Greek side of the island.

According to Cypriot state-run news service CNA, many officials attended the Liturgy, including Averof Neophytou, the leader of the ruling DISY party of Cyprus, and the mayor of Famagusta, Alexis Galanos.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Galanos said that the religious has a further symbolic meaning. It sends the message that the people of Famagusta want to return to their homes and want Turkish troops to end the illegal occupation of the land.

He also added that the local authorities and the people of Famagusta are once again sending the message that the town should be returned to its lawful residents, and that U.N. experts should be allowed in the cordoned-off town of Varosha.

Varosha has been a ghost town since 1974, when its population was forced to leave the city after the Turkish invasion. Not one person has lived there since then.

Varosha, a once-thriving holiday resort on the eastern coast of Cyprus, has been fenced off since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The U.N. considers the Turkish military as solely responsible for this action.

Repeated attempts to hand over the area to U.N. administration and its lawful Greek Cypriot inhabitants have failed because of the hard-line stance taken by the Turkish army.

With information from C.N.A.