Restored church for ancient Christian community lifts hopes of new unity in Cyprus

Ayia Marina Skyllouras/Facebook

A restored 14th century church of Ayia Marina Skyllouras in Nicosia, Cyprus has been handed to the island's tiny Maronite Christian community.

Maronite Archbishop Joseph Soueif led worshippers, including EU ambassadors and representatives from the UN, in hymns and psalsm in Aramaic, Cyprus Mail reports

Takis Hadjidemetriou, a Greek Cypriot member of the technical committee said, 'What we are looking at today seems like an impossible dream'.

This was the prospect of the return of Maronite Christians to a traditional Maronite village that is largely unoccupied and fenced off as part of a military encampment. Maronites are allowed back to worship in the church on Sundays.

Prior to it becoming a military camp, Turkish Cypriots and Maronites lived together in the village for centuries.

The restoration of the church in Ayia Marina has been done to ensure that children and grandchildren of the Maronites can connect with their heritage, their identity and religion in the same church as their forbears, worshippers were told.

The church restoration began in July last year and was funded entirely by the European Union.

Archbishop Soueif said the church is a 'sign of hope for our beloved Cyprus'. It represented hope for confidence building in Cyprus, as the villagers and Maronite Cypriots had showed that their people can live together, he added. Referring to the upcoming dinner of leaders with the UN Secretary General in New York, he said: 'We want to achieve and we hope to have a reunited Cyprus.'

Such a Cyprus should be an oasis of peace in the region, with no room for conflict, hatred and divisions, the Archbishop concluded.