NICOSIA - The United Nations Tuesday hailed “a key breakthrough” in inter-faith communication reached by a cross section of religious leaders in the whole of Cyprus.
“These may seem like small steps, but they constitute a huge leap for the religious communities concerned,” Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt said.
“I am very pleased about the recent positive developments and improved climate of interreligious communication in Cyprus.
“I consider it a breakthrough for religious freedom on the whole island,” he added.
The UN official’s comments came after the Grand Mufti of Cyprus Talip Atalay last Friday crossed the Green Line and held a service at Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca for the first time. He was reportedly accompanied by Neapolis bishop Porfyrios.
“This was possible due to an agreement reached with the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who personally facilitated Atalay’s access to the areas controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus,” Bielefeldt said.
Archbishop Chrysostomos II hosted a lunch for the Mufti at the Archbishopric without drawing media attention.
And Karpas bishop Christoforos crossed over to the occupied monastery of Apostolos Andreas for the first time in 18 months.
The Turkish occupying regime had forbidden bishop Christoforos from crossing over the Turkish-held north in 2012.
According to press reports, Christoforos was accompanied by Atalay and he had the chance to be informed about the restoration procedure of the historic monastery.