Patriarch wants churches back

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) – Abandoned Orthodox churches in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus should be restored as places of worship as part of any settlement for the island, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios urged yesterday. The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians also predicted that a recent relaxation of travel restrictions on the island is creating unstoppable momentum toward a solution. «I think this is the beginning of reunification,» he told reporters. «These are steps instigated by the people, not by political authorities.» Vartholomaios is sailing on a vessel with more than 250 scientists, activists and religious leaders, on a journey to study environmental problems around the Baltic Sea. «For the time being, [Orthodox churches in northern Cyprus] are considered to be museums or mosques,» he said. «I hope they will be given back to the owners – the Greek Orthodox community – to be used again as places of Orthodox worship as they were before.»

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