NEWS

Cypriots cross Green Line to worship

Despite security fears and some opposition, up to 2,000 Greek-Cypriot Orthodox pilgrims and various dignitaries attended a service at Aghios Mamas church in Turkish-occupied Morphou today, for the first time since the 1974 invasion. Around 650 Turkish-Cypriot policemen set up security checks and conducted body searches on worshippers, politicians, diplomats and other dignitaries entering the holy site, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Nicosia. A bomb exploded outside the church last week, causing minor damage and no injuries, and obscene graffiti was painted on the walls. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said he hoped Turkish-Cypriot authorities would ensure a safe passage and stay for the worshippers. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot leader, and others opposed to the church reopening, are due to hold a rival service at a nearby mosque tomorrow. However, Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of breakaway northern Cyprus’s administration, attended yesterday’s vesper service and wished the pilgrims peace and prosperity. Dimitris Christofias, speaker of the Cypriot Parliament, rejected domestic criticism of the pilgrimage, saying anyone suggesting it helped legitimize the Turkish-Cypriot regime had a warped perception of events. Many worshippers are likely to attend the feast of the patron saint of Morphou at the same church this afternoon along with officials from Greek-Cypriot political parties, EU representatives and foreign diplomats.