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Un système de coordination des entités religieuses

The 1960 Constitution of Cyprus did not create a new internal legal regime for the various religions in Cyprus. It maintained in effect the provisions of Ottoman law, especially those of the Hatt-i Hümayun (imperial edict), with regard to the implementation of the religious law of each religious community and religious group, regarding : 1) institutions of family law and 2) adjudication of the relevant disputes by the appropriate religious tribunals. This jurisdiction is however, subject to the provisions of the Constitution. Any provisions of religious law, that are inconsistent with the Constitution, are not implemented.

The state is not confessional. As a result, all the religions and creeds in Cyprus deal restrictively with their own affairs, without in any way interfering in the affairs of the state. When assuming their duties, state officials are not sworn in, but affirm their faith to, and respect for, the Constitution and the laws made there under, the preservation of the independence and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, pursuant to articles 42, §1, 59, § 4, 69 and 100 of the Constitution. However, there is no prohibition with regard to the election or appointment of religious functionaries in political or public offices.

According to article 110 § 1 of the Constitution, the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus shall continue to have the exclusive right of regulating and administering its own internal affairs and property in accordance with the Holy Canons and its Charter in force for the time being. The Parliament shall not act inconsistently with such right of the Orthodox Church. The exclusive right of regulating and administering their own internal affairs and property is also recognized according to article 110 § 3 of the Constitution, with regard to the three "religious groups" of the Republic.

A "religious group" in the sense of article 2 § 3 of the Constitution, is a group of persons, ordinarily resident in Cyprus, professing the same religion and either belonging to the same rite or being subject to the same jurisdiction thereof. The number of such group, on the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution, exceeded one thousand persons out of which at least five hundred became on such date citizens of the Republic. It should be observed that such religious groups were formed only once ; there is no possibility for a religion to be declared as a religious group in the future, nor is there a possibility to remove such constitutional status of any of the three religious groups. Such "religious groups" are the Armenians, the Maronites and the Latins (Roman Catholics), who opted as a group to belong to the Greek Community and now reside in the non-occupied territory.

Article 110 § 2 of the Constitution also provides that all matters relating to or in any way affecting the institution or foundation of Vakf (religious foundation), or the vakfs, or any vakf properties, including properties belonging to Mosques and any other Moslem religious institution, shall be governed solely by and under the Laws and Principles of Vakfs (ahkamul evkaf, religious endowments) and the laws and regulations enacted or made by the Turkish Communal Chamber ; and no legislative, executive or other act whatsoever shall contravene or override or interfere with such Laws or Principles of Vakfs and with such laws and regulations of the Turkish Communal Chamber.

It could therefore, be accepted that there is no prevailing, official, or established religion in Cyprus. However, the five main religions of the Republic, namely the Orthodox Christian, the Islamic, the Maronite, the Armenian and the Roman Catholic, enjoy a special constitutional status. The state has recognized broad discretionary powers in their favor and does not have the right to intervene in their internal affairs.

Other religions and rites, such as the Jews, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Orthodox Christians who follow the Old Calendar, enjoy religious freedom, but are not considered as "religious groups" under the Constitutional sense. Such religions are equal before the law and no legislative, executive or administrative act should discriminate against them ; however, such religions do not enjoy the special constitutional status of the five main religions of the island, which essentially refers to the provisions of the Constitution recognizing broad discretionary powers with regard to the main religions’ internal affairs, with regard to family matters and with regard to matters of communal character.

Whenever matters of common interest arise, (religious education, family matters etc), the state and religious corporations debate on equal terms.

D 12 septembre 2012    AAchilles Emilianides

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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