INTERVIEW – On May 30, 2021, Mrs. Antonella Mantovani won her second term as Representative of the Latin Community in Cyprus. In this interview with the Media Office of the Latin Patriarchate, she talks about her work and future plans for the benefit of the Latin Community members in Cyprus.
1. Mrs. Mantovani, congratulations on winning a second term as Representative of the Latin Community in Cyprus! How did you feel about that feat?
In seeking re-election for a second term, I had asked voters to continue supporting me based on the work which I had undertaken during my first term of office.
I am very happy that the members of the Latin Community have shown, by a large majority, that they approve of my approach and my work so far as well. I am honoured by the trust they continue to place in me and the opportunity they have given me to continue to represent them for another 5 years.
2. What does the Representative of the Latin Community do? And what is his or her role in the Cypriot parliament?
As Representative of the Latin Community in the House of Representative (the Cyprus Parliament), I have a consultative (non-party political) role in educational, social and religious issues, which may affect the Latin Catholic Cypriots in a different way than the rest of the population.
There is a legal obligation for the consultation of the Latin Representative on new legislation/policies which may have an additional effect on the Latin Catholic Community of Cyprus due to their faith or their particular institutions, rights or cultural profile.
I am a member of the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Educational Affairs and Culture and I sit in the Plenary Assembly of the Cyprus Parliament, without having the right to vote.
I am also a member of the Advisory Committee on Private Education at the Ministry of Education.
I also meet with the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe when they prepare their Opinion for Cyprus.
In general, I act as the link between the interests of the Latin Catholic Community and Government authorities (ministries, local authorities, police, judiciary… etc).
My other interest is to promote the presence of the Latin Community within Cyprus and to encourage the interaction between its members by organizing cultural and social events.
3. What are some of your proudest achievements during your first term? What areas would you like to tackle and improve during your second term?
During my first term, I achieved some very successful collaborations to promote the presence and history of the Latin Community; there was the Exhibition “The Latins of Cyprus” with House of Representatives, and its subsequent publication in three languages; the Permanent Exhibition of the Latin Community at the Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR) in Nicosia; and the series of lectures about the historical presence of the Latins in Cyprus in collaboration with the Department of History of the University of Cyprus.
I was also able to include the Latin Community under a special scheme of the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education, which allows us to organise a cultural event every year to present the contribution and strong presence of the Latins of Cyprus.
I started the association “Thriskeftiki Omada Latinon Kyprou” which has sections for the Youth and Women. Following various discussions with other members of the community, we had decided that, for a small community such as ours, forming one association with various sections would be more effective than having many different associations.
For the first time, our Community established its own premises for the exclusive use of its members and friends of the Community – “Σπίτι των Λατίνων” in Nicosia, where the members of the Community and I, as Representative, organized several events.
With the contribution of the Latins of Limassol, we created an Archive of the Latin Community of Limassol at the Limassol Historical Archive & Studies Centre.
I am a member of the Board of Terra Santa College and I still have close contact with the Schools of the Latin Community. I also assisted the Latin Catholic Church for the resolution of various issues which concerned the Church in Cyprus.
Going forward, I hope to continue with the above and to further strengthen the ties and bring together the members of the Community. I would like, for example, to organize purely social activities aimed at Latin children, the establishment of an annual gala dinner for members of the Latin Community…etc.
I also will continue to promote the cultural contribution and history of the Latin Community through cultural events and the creation of a comprehensive digital archive of the whole Community.
There is a tradition of Social Contribution by the Latin Community and I will seek the cooperation of other organizations to involve the Community in events about contemporary issues and concerns so that the Latin Community remains visible and continues to contribute on matters which affect society today.
Most ambitious of all, I would like to cultivate links with other Latin communities abroad, as contact with organised groups from these communities may lead to new opportunities and connections.
4. How did the activities of the Latin Community get affected during the outbreak of COVID-19? And what were the strategies to adapt to the new health situation?
Like in most countries, we had to postpone many of our planned activities due to restrictions on physical gatherings.
I did manage to arrange for the state broadcaster (CyBC) to broadcast the Christmas Holy Mass and Easter Sunday Mass services on the CyBC 2 TV channel live from the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Nicosia, so that we could bring our Latin Holy Mass to the Latins of Cyprus from their own Cyprus Church.
My main contact with members of the Latin Community during lockdown periods was over the telephone, using Zoom meetings and other social media channels.
5. Recently, a series of short videos called “The Latins of Larnaka” was prepared by the Office of the Representative of the Latin Catholic Religious Group in the House of Representatives. Can you talk a little bit about this project? Will the series be translated into other languages?
The original idea for this project was to host a traditional (physical) exhibition about the Latins of Larnaka, those Latin Catholic families who settled in Cyprus from Europe or the Levant between the 18th-20th centuries and formed the nucleus of what later became the Latin Community.
Due to the various recurring COVID-19 restrictions at the time, we realized that instead of taking the exhibits from the participating families and setting them up at an exhibition centre, it was more feasible to visit them at their homes and interview them filming their exhibits there.
From these recordings, we created a series of short documentary videos, which we upload one at a time on our YouTube channel and on Facebook. We have reached a wider audience in this way and we will keep the footage for the archive of the Latin Community.
The project was undertaken in collaboration with the Phivos Stavrides Foundation – Larnaka Archives to answer the question of who the Latins of Cyprus are, where they came from, and what their contribution is to Cyprus. It is aimed primarily at a Cyprus audience. It was mainly funded by the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture. One day, we hope to add English subtitles but the main priority for now, will be to continue this project also next year and film the oral history of more Latin families, especially the older generations of each family.
6. On Friday, September 3, Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa will be making his first pastoral visit as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem to the Latin Community in Cyprus. What was the reaction of the Community to his appointment?
Patriarch Pizzaballa was already well-known to the Latins of Cyprus as he used to visit the Cyprus Franciscan Parishes at least once a year in his previous role as Custos of the Holy Land. He always made it a point to hold Holy Masses in all the towns and to meet the parishioners. Therefore, Cypriot Latins feel that they know him, they feel that he is close to them and they are happy that they already have a spiritual relationship with the new Patriarch.
As Latin Representative, I know Patriarch Pizzaballa is well aware of the presence and role of the Latin Community in Cyprus. He has always been very supportive and he knows of my support of the Catholic Church in Cyprus. I look forward to continuing our good collaboration.
By: Saher Kawas