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Security fears prevent Morphou church pilgrimage

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on Wednesday said he hoped a decision by the Turkish Cypriot authorities not to allow a Cyprus Orthodox Church service in Morphou (Güzelyurt) would not prevent similar services taking place in the north in the future.

Officials in the north have proposed the Greek Orthodox pilgrimage be moved to after September 5 as it coincides with a Muslim holiday that will see many people off work, raising concerns over the provision of adequate security.

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General Director of the office responsible for foreign affairs in the north Kemal Köprülü has told Turkish Cypriot paper Yenidüzen that the services can go ahead after September 5, citing security concerns for the negative response as many people will be on leave for a coinciding Muslim holiday.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with his Danish counterpart Anders Samuelsen, who is on an official visit to Cyprus, Kasoulides said: “I believe this is sad because for the first time in years the occupation regime has made a decision like this, something that does not respond to the climate of today, where pilgrimages of this kind take place on a mutual basis”.

“I hope that the explanation that will be given will in the future not rule out these kinds of pilgrimages”.

General Director of the office responsible for foreign affairs in the north Kemal Köprülü has told Turkish Cypriot paper Yenidüzen that the services can go ahead after September 5.

Köprülü cited security concerns, saying that a lot of people in the north would be on leave due to Kurban Bayrami (the Holiday of Sacrifice) which would make it difficult to ensure adequate security measures were taken.

“Because of Kurban Bayrami and the Ayios Mamas celebrations coinciding, we propose the service at the church in Morphou take place next week,” the official said.

Bishop of Morphou Neophytos, meanwhile, on Wednesday said the decision not to allow services at the Ayios Mamantos church in Morphou as in recent years on September 1, 2 and 3 was “unacceptable”. The services commemorate Morphou’s patron saint Ayios Mamas.

In an announcement, the Bishop said: “Even though we submitted our request to the UN at the start of July, the occupation authorities informed us through the peacekeeping force on August 22 that their answer was no. They cited religious reasons and specifically that the Ayios Mamantos celebrations coincide with Kurban Bayramı on September 1”.

Bishop Neophytos continued: “In our view, there is nothing to stop the Christians and Muslims in this land from having parallel celebrations. There cannot be religious freedom for one and not the other”.

Complaining this was not the way to work towards a solution of the Cyprus problem, Bishop Neophytos said that he would be giving the services at the Ayios Mamantos Church in Xyliatos in the Nicosia district instead, at 6.30pm on Friday, September 1 and at 7am on Saturday, September 2.

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