We would like to convey the wishes and blessings of His Beatitude Archbishop of All Cyprus Chrysostomos II and the delight and jubilation of the Church of Cyprus for the current repatriation agreement signed today for four of the most significant icons which decorated the iconostasis of the Monastery of Christ the Antifonitis until the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The odyssey of the icons of the Apostles Peter, Paul, John and Marcus began 38 years ago (March 1975) and today is coming close to an end. Profane hands stole them from the monastery which hosted them for four centuries, and illegally exported them from the island for their sale in the markets of Western Europe.

The icons will be repatriated during the up-coming days at their homeland where they will await the freedom day of the Monastery of Christ the Antifonitis thus to be repositioned again to their original place, where they were placed by the love and devotion of our ancestors. The Church of Cyprus for 39 years continues the titanic struggle of identification and repatriation of thousands of religious treasures and antiquities that were stolen and illegally exported from the island. Moments like this empower and encourage us for the completion of this struggle.

Two months ago, on July 16, we had the great pleasure to receive for repatriation 173 religious artefacts of the case of Turkish looter Aydin Dikmen by the Bavarian police in Munich. In a few days we will visit again the city of Munich to receive six more icons seized at an art gallery of Augsburg.

We wish to convey the acknowledgements and the gratitude of the Church of Cyprus to everyone that in their own way contributed to the success of this effort : the Dutch Government and especially the Minister of Education and Culture and Sience Mrs. Jet Bussemaker , the former Minister of Communications and Works of the Republic Cyprus Mrs E. Markoulli , the current Minister Mr. Tasos Mitsopoulos, the Ambassador of Cyprus to the Kingdom of Netherlands Mr. Kouros, Mr. Giannakis Lazarou from the Department of General Attorney, the Department of Antiquities , the byzantinologist Mr. Athanasios Papageorgiou , the former honorable consul of the Republic of Cyprus Mrs. Tasoula Hadjitofi and the lawyer Mr. Rob Polak.

We would like to express the hope that today's successful repatriation of the four icons of Christ the Antifonitis Monastery will become the starting point for a closer cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and the Dutch State in fighting illegal trade of artefacts of cultural heritage.




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