FaithWorld

Cyprus Maronites reviving language link to Jesus

aramaic

Maronite Sunday mass in Kormakitis, 21 May 2002/Ayla Yackley

As the archbishop walks down the church aisle a melodic hymn rises from the congregation in an ancient tongue that Jesus would have recognized. The Aramaic language of the earliest Christians lives on in the church services of a tiny village on the Turkish Cypriot side of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where a hybrid dialect of Aramaic is commonly spoken by just 1,000 people who are striving to keep it alive.

Maronites from the village of Kormakitis, on a sun-baked peninsula in northwestern Cyprus, have for centuries used a unique language to communicate now codified by experts as Cypriot Maronite Arabic, or CMA.  Rooted in Aramaic, CMA evolved with influences from Arabic, Latin, Turkish and Greek.

Locals admit that not many in the congregation understand the meaning of the words in the Syriac-Aramaic hymns they were taught from infancy.  Like their own CMA language, it has been passed down to them phonetically. But in an attempt to boost dwindling numbers of people using CMA, an alphabet was established three years ago.

“We are among the last to use this language,” said Elias Zonias, who teaches CMA to children. He is compiling a dictionary for what was until now considered a “dead” language.

Read the whole story here.

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Tax dispute flairs between Cyprus gov’t and Orthodox Church

cyprus church

An Orthodox church in Limassol, Cyprus, 20 Nov 2007/Ewa Dryjanska

A furious dispute has erupted in Cyprus after the ruling communists set their sights on the island’s wealthy Orthodox Church of Cyprus to help plug a runaway deficit. The island’s government says it wants to start a dialogue with the Church regarding the millions it says the church owes in unpaid taxes.

The church says it does not owe a penny.

“We are not tax dodgers,” said Archbishop Chrysostomos, the prelate of the ancient church which traces its roots to some of the earliest followers of Jesus. The church has broad business interests ranging from a bank to a brewery.

Read the whole story here.

This echoes recent moves in Greece, where the government has decided to tax bequests and revenues from the Greek Orthodox Church’s property to help tackle a 300 billion euro ($409.9 billion) debt pile. The Church, in Greece as in Cyprus one of the country’s biggest owners of prime real estate, has until now been largely exempt from taxes even though the state pays priests’ salaries.

Vandal desecrates Cypriot bishops’ tombs

graves

Cyprus police look for clues after a vandalism attack on the tombs of three archbishops in Nicosia 21 March 2010/Andreas Manolis

Police in Cyprus arrested a Romanian man on Sunday on suspicion of desecrating the tombs of three archbishops and possibly taking remains from one of them. Police said the 34-year-old had confessed to removing marble slabs covering the graves of three leaders of the Cypriot Orthodox church from the late 19th and early 20th century.

They also said skeletal remains had disappeared from one of the tombs, but that the remains from another, briefly thought to have been taken, had in fact been re-buried elsewhere years ago.  The suspect, who had not been charged, was arrested after turning up at a police station with a bag of human excrement, which he threw at police officers. He denied removing any human remains from the tombs.