Seventeen years (March 1997) after seizing them from the premises of the Turk looter A. Dikmen and nine years of difficult court hearings, German authorities delivered to the Church of Cyprus and the Maronite, 173 heirlooms of great religious and historical value.
In a descent ceremony held at the offices of the Police of Munich, attended by Justice Minister of the Bavarian canton Mrs. B Merk, director of the Munich police Mr. Dathe and representatives of the Prosecutor General in Munich. On behalf of the Church of Cyprus, Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis, the consul of Cyprus in Berlin Mrs. E. Papanicolaou, the honorary consul of Cyprus in Munich Mr C. Horn, the lawyer Mr. E. Engbers and the Director of the Department of Antiquities Mrs D. Pilidou who also greeted the ceremony on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus. On behalf of the German authorities, a brief greeting was heard by the Minister of Justice, Mrs. B. Merk who expressed her great thrill for the repatriation of 173 Cypriot artefacts and wished for the quick return of the remaining whose identification is ongoing.
Short speech on behalf of the Church of Cyprus was addressed by Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis. He thanked the German authorities for the handover ceremony of the heirlooms and expressed the wish that this will be the beginning of a closer cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and Germany in the field of combating illegal trade in religious goods. He also highlighted the expectation of the Church of Cyprus for the quick return and the remaining artefacts and the fact that the end of the odyssey of religious treasures is not their repatriation but reseating them at the places of worship from which they were removed. This will be done with the liberation of the occupied by the Turkish army part of Cyprus and reopening of the places of worship.
The next few days and following special packaging the 173 artefacts that were stolen from fifty occupied Christian monuments of our country after the Turkish invasion will travel to Cyprus. The artefacts include mosaics from the church of Panagia of Kanakarias (c. 6th-Lithragkomi), frescoes from the church of Antifonitis (15th c.-Kalograia), St. Solomoni (8th c.-Koma Yialos), Panagia Pergamiotisa (14th c.-Akanthos ), Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, etc.. Three of the icons belong to the Maronite community of Cyprus and another two and a fresco of St. Ignatius of Antioch (Panagia Apsinthiotissa-Syhari) to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
For the remaining, almost eighty objects the investigation for identification continues by experts appointed by the Appeals Court in Munich. Of these, half are Cypriot prehistoric antiquities. Their return will be made after the completion of the process.
This is probably the biggest and most important case of repatriation of Cypriot artefacts after the Turkish invasion of 1974, both in the number and the high value of artefacts and antiquuities. In the entire course of the case involved from the German side, the police and the Prosecutor General in Munich, and on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus the late Archbishop Chrysostomos I, the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis, the office of Attorney General of Cyprus (Mrs. Stella Ioannidou, Mr. Giannakis Lazarou), the Cyprus Police, the Byzantinologist Athanasios Papageorgiou, Ms Tasoula Hadjitofi former consul of Cyprus in The Hague, and former associate of A. Dikmen Dutch Mr. M. Van Rijn. The Republic of Cyprus was represented in German courts by the eminent lawyer Mr. Enno Engbers.
At the end of the event Bishop Porfyrios presented the minister Mrs B Merk and other German officials with gifts on behalf of the Church of Cyprus.