Religion in Cyprus is characterised by two main religious beliefs and practices; Christianity makes up 73% of the population of the island. Most Greek Cypriots, and thus the majority of the population of Cyprus, are members of the autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus), whereas most Turkish Cypriots are officially Sunni Muslims. There are also Bahai, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant (including Anglican), Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and non-religiouscommunities in Cyprus.
The largest and most important church in Cyprus, the Church of Cyprus, is an autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church within the Orthodox tradition using the Greek liturgy. It is one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox autocephalous churches, achieving independence from the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East in 431 A.D.. The bishop of the ancient capital, Salamis (renamed Constantia by Emperor Constantius II), was constituted metropolitan by Emperor Zeno, with the title archbishop. The first Bishops that held Christian ministries in Cyprus were Apostle Lazarus (Church of Saint Lazarus, Larnaca), Apostle Barnabas (Barnabas) and is the place of many voyages of the Apostles after the resurrection of Christ. The Church of Cyprus is recognized by the seniority and prestige of the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople, while retaining complete administrative autonomy under its own archbishop. Seven sacraments are recognized: baptism in infancy, followed by confirmation with consecrated oil, penance, the Eucharist, matrimony, ordination, and unction in times of sickness or when near death.
Many Classical Christian architecture and buildings are located in Cyprus; along with the former tomb of Apostle Lazarus and tomb of Apostle Barnabas. Cyprus is the place where many New Testament biblical stories took place, Christian miracles were performed and where the Apostles established their first churches.
The presence of Armenians in Cyprus dates back to 578. Currently, Armenian-Cypriots maintain a notable presence of about 3,500 persons, mainly inhabiting the urban areas of Nicosia, Larnaca, and Limassol. Recently, some Armenian immigrants have settled Paphos.The Armenian Prelature of Cyprus has had a continuous presence on the island since its establishment in 973 by Catholicos Khatchig I.
The Catholic Church in Cyprus is part of the worldwide Catholic Church under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. There are around 10,000 Catholics in Cyprus, corresponding to just over 1% of the population. Most Catholics in Cyprus are Maronites (one of the Eastern Rite Catholics). In the 1891 census, out of 209,286 Cypriots 1,131 were Maronites.
The Anglican Church of Cyprus was established in 1878. As of 1976, it falls under the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. Anglicans and Protestants, according to the official 2011 population census, amount to 2.02% of the population. With regard to Northern Cyprus, Turkish Cypriot Protestants and Anglicans are a very small community. The community numbers around 500 and can be found living throughout northern Cyprus.
Muslims make up about 25% of the Cypriot population. The island was conquered by the Ottoman General Lala Mustafa Pasha from the Venetians in 1570 A.D. This conquest brought with it Turkish settlement from 1571 to 1878 A.D. for administrative duties, military fortifications, and tax collection. Turkish Cypriots are the minority of the island and adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. Sufism also plays an important role. Historically, Muslims were spread over the whole of Cyprus, but since 1974 they have lived primarily in the north after the Turkish invasion. The Ahmadiyya community has a presence in the north. Several important Islamic shrines and landmarks exist on the island, including: The Arabahmet Mosque in Nicosia (built in the 16th century), The Hala Sultan Tekke/Umm Haram Mosque in Larnaca (built in the 18th century).
The history of the Jews in Cyprus dates back at least to the 2nd century BCE, when a considerable community of Jews on the island is first attested. The Jews had close relationships with many of the other religious groups on the island and were seen favourably by the Romans. During the war over the city of Ptolemais between Alexander Jannaeus and Ptolemy IX Lathyros, King of Cyprus, many Jews were killed. During the war the Jewish citizens remained committed in their allegiance to King Lathyros.
The Jews lived well in Cyprus during the Roman rule. During this period, Christianity was preached in Cyprus among the Jews at an early date, St Paul being the first, and Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, the second. They attempted to convert the Jews to Christianity. Under the leadership of Artemion, the Cypriot Jews participated in the great rebellion against the Romans ruled by Trajan in 117 AD. They sacked Salamis and are said to have annihilated the Greek population. According to an epitome of Dio Cassius written by Xiphilinus the revolting party is said to have massacred 240,000 Cypriot Greeks overall. All ancient figures tend to be highly exaggerated, and Xiphilinus's numbers here are suspect, given his known anti-Semitic outlook. Whatever the real figures, the Jewish community was annihilated and in punishment a severe law was enacted, according to which no Jew was allowed to land on Cypriot soil, not even in case of shipwreck. According to a late source, written by Eutychius of Alexandria Cypriot Jews attacked Christian monasteries on the island during the reign of Heraclius (610-641).
Twice in 649 and 653, when the population was overwhelmingly Christian, Cyprus was subjected to two raids by Arab forces, which resulted in the capture and abduction into slavery of many Cypriots. One story relates that an enslaved Jew in Syria managed to escape and seek sanctuary on the island, where he converted and settled in Amathus in the late 7th century. Communities of Romaniote Jews from the Byzantine period are known.
Israel has had diplomatic relations with Cyprus since Israel’s independence in 1948, when Cyprus was a British protectorate. Israel and Cyprus’ associations have continued to expand since 1960, the year of Cyprus’ independence. Despite rankling feelings about side-effects of Turkish-Israel Defense Cooperation, IAF violations of her airspace, and lingering suspicions that Israel had been passing intelligence to Turkey regarding Cyprus's defense systems, Cyprus remained a stalwart friend of Israel throughout the conflicts of recent decades. Today the diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Israel are on a high level reflecting common geopolitical strategies regarding Turkey in particular and economic interests in developing off-shore gas reserves.
Rabbi Arie Zeev Raskin, originally arrived from Israel in Cyprus in 2003 as an emissary of Chabad-Lubavitch. He was sent to the island to help stimulate a Jewish revival.
On September 12, 2005 Rabbi Raskin was formally nominated as the official Rabbi of Cyprus in a ceremony in which guests such as then-Israeli Ambassador, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of the Lubavitch educational division at Lubavitch World Headquarters, the Cypriot Education and Culture minister, and Larnaca’s deputy mayor Alexis Michaelides. Others included members of the Cypriot government, politicians, diplomats and other prominent members of the local community.
Also in 2005, the Jewish community inaugurated the island's first synagogue, a mikveh (ritual bath), a Jewish cemetery and started a Jewish learning programme in the seaside city of Larnaca. Since 2008, the community oversees the production of a kosher wine, Yayin Kafrisin made of a Cabernet Sauvignon-Grenach Noir blend at the Lambouri winery in Kato Platres, since a Cypriote wine is mentioned in the Torah as a necessary ingredient for the holy incense. As of 2016 the Jewish Community of Cyprus has opened Jewish centers in Larnaca, in Nicosia, in Lemesos and in Ayia Napa offering educational programs for adults, a kindergarten and a Sunday school. The Rabbinate is planning to establish a new larger community center with a museum about the History of the Jews in Cyprus, and a library.
In 2011 Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus the current leader of the Church of Cyprus signed a declaration that affirms the illegitimacy of the doctrine of collective Jewish guilt for the deicide of Jesus and repudiated the idea as a prejudice 'incompatible with the teaching of the Holy scriptures'. The Jewish population of Cyprus today (2018) is 3,500
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Luca Zavagno Cyprus Between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (ca. 600–800): An Island in Transition, Taylor & Francis, 2017 pp.73-79.
Thomas Diez, The European Union and the Cyprus Conflict: Modern Conflict, Postmodern Union, Manchester University Press 2002 pp.36-39.
Набок И.Л. Повышение квалификации за рубежом (знакомство с Кипром) // Universum: Вестник Герценовского университета. 2008. №2.