This Easter will be a special one at Ayios Georgios Exorinos church in occupied Famagusta with the Greek Orthodox faithful attending a Good Friday service there for the first time in 57 years.
Famagusta Mayor Alexis Galanos and the Turkish Cypriot “mayor” of the occupied city Octay Kayalp announced they had reached an agreement for it to go ahead.
The 15th century church is situated within the walled old city of Famagusta and bi-communal trouble led to it being abandoned in 1957 although once-monthly services have recently been arranged there.
In statements to the press, Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides welcomed news of the Good Friday service, noting the government supported trust-building efforts.
Also speaking to the press, Famagusta and Constantia Bishop Vassilios said that he was pleased it was going ahead adding efforts were underway to get permission for a procession through some of the streets of the old city.
The Epitaphios is an icon, most often found as a large embroidered cloth venerated during Good Friday and Holy Saturday services. The Epitaphios is used on the last two days of the Holy Week in the Byzantine rite, as part of the ceremonies marking the death and resurrection of Christ.
On the afternoon of Good Friday, the priest and deacon will place the Epitaphios on the Holy Table. An elaborately carved canopy, called a kouvouklion, stands over the Epitaphios making up part of a bier or catafalque representing the Tomb of Christ.
Made of elaborately carved wood, it is decorated with spring flowers. The faithful venerate it before the bier is carried around the church and sometimes through the surrounding streets as part of the ceremony.
The solemn procession with the Epitaphios, accompanied by bells ringing the funeral toll, commemorates the burial procession of Christ.