On behalf of the Church of Cyprus, it is with great pleasure that I greet this descent ceremony today, a fruit of the decision of the Regional Court of Munich on 18th of March 2013. With this decision 173 byzantine and post-byzantine heirlooms of the Church are repatriated on the land from which they have been stolen and exported illegally after the Turkish invasion on July 1974 by the Turkish looter Aydin Dickmen and his collaborators. It has been 16 years since March 1997 Munich Police in cooperation with Interpol located and seized 246 Cypriot heirlooms on the premises of the said looter as well as 7 years of a difficult court battle to reach this gladsome moment.
Our joy is unfortunately incomplete and not final, because further examination for 59 heirlooms is still pending. The wish and expectation of our Church is that the process is completed as soon as possible and they return back to the island from which they have been stolen.
Without any exaggeration, we consider this case as probably the most important and the most significant occasion of illicit trade of Cypriot artefacts, not without any reason, of course. These artefacts include mosaics of the 6th century, byzantine frescoes of 12th, 14th and 15th centuries, byzantine and post-byzantine icons, manuscripts and other prehistoric antiquities that are coming from at least fifty monuments of the semi-occupied by Turkish troops Cyprus.
The heirlooms of this case come from almost all religious communities of Cyprus, the Orthodox Church as well as the Maronite and Armenian. Almost prehistoric antiquities belong to the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus.
The Odyssey of these artefacts will not finish with their repatriation, because all of the monuments from which they have been stolen are still under control of the Turkish army and have been transformed to warehouses, barns, stables, cultural centres etc. For this reason they will be kept on safe sites on the non–occupied areas until the final liberation and reunification of the island. Then we will be able to restore them back to the holy places of worship.
We consider it as our imperative moral obligation, to express our sincere thanks to everyone who contributed in their own particular way to the successful outcome of this case:
To the German authorities:
the Police of Munich,
the judges of the District Court and Regional Court of Munich who heard the case and decided on the part judgement.
To the Cypriot authorities:
the office of the Attorney General,
to the Public Prosecutor Mr John Lazarou,
the Police of Cyprus, the Department of Antiquities the Cypriot Embassy in Berlin and its representative Mrs Eleni Papanicolaou.
The brilliant lawyer Mr Enno Engbers who represented the Republic of Cyprus all these years to the German courts.
The byzantinologists Mr Athanasios Papageorgiou and Mr J Deckers for their critical contribution.
The late Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos I and His Beatitude the current Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, as well as Mrs Tasoula Hadjittofi and Mrs Mischel Van Rijn.
Finally I would like to thank all of you who honour this ceremony and the struggle of the Church of Cyprus to retrieve its stolen treasures and heirlooms, with your presence here.
May God bless you all.