The conference on Places of Worship and Holy Sites in Europe and the Middle East: Status and Protection under National and International Law was officially opened today, November 9th, 2017 in Cyprus. Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis (Church of Cyprus) and Rev. Sorin Selaru (Romanian Orthodox Church) held a divine service celebrating the feast of Saint Nectarios of Aegina. The event is organized by the Conference of European Churches together with the Representation Office of the Church of Cyprus to the European Institutions and brings together 40 delegates from 15 different countries. They were welcomed by His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus and His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and all Palestine, who shared the orthodox perspective on the topic at stake and by Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who emphasized Cyprus's special importance for the protection of cultural heritage.
Considering that in recent history some of the CEC member churches face serious problems in getting and maintaining access to Places of Worship, protection of Holy Sites should be a matter of general interest and not only the concern of believers. During the three sessions of the meeting, participants will discuss over different national legislation from Europe and the Middle East, protection under international law, legal personality and registration, access to and use of Holy Sites, destruction and denial of access. During the last part of the event, several country case studies will be underlined. The case study of Romania on Dispossession and change of proprietor will be presented by Rev. Dr. Sorin Selaru, Director of the Permanent Office of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions. The event closes tomorrow, November 10th, 2017 with a final Communique drafted by the conference’s working groups.