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It is these ancient ties and significant occurrences that render Cyprus an area of sacred land. Caught between past and present, it possesses an incredible wealth of ancient ruins which perfectly capture the ancient civilization and mythical deities, the antiquated churches and Byzantine monasteries as well as unexpected medieval and gothic cathedrals.
Cyprus has a small, tightly knit Catholic community of Latin and maronite followers. These people enjoy the same support of the brothers of the Franciscan order associated with the Custody of the Holy Land today as they have done for centuries, with the Latin community surpassing the authority of the patriarchs of Jerusalem. Their vicar is a young monk elected by a representative of the Pope based in Jerusalem. During the past few years, the Catholic church has attracted many new followers from Asia and Africa, immigrant workers and the under-privileged. These people from over 50 different nationalities regularly attend Church functions.
Barbed wire, walls, blockades and a buffer zone manned by UN soldiers provide a clear barrier separating the Republic of Cyprus (part of the EU since 1st May 2004) from the rest of the northern territory of the island, which remains under the control of Turkey after the military intervention of 1974.
The painful, drawn out feud between Greek Christian Cypriotes and Turkish Muslim Cypriotes has had an alarming affect on the wealth of Christian cultural heritage that exists in the occupied northern territory, as well as causing great suffering to the local people.
Hundreds of churches have been vandalized and looted. Frescoes, mosaics and ancient icons have been removed and sold by art dealers worldwide leading to the neglect and degradation of the once extraordinary cultural offerings of this area.