Upon the establishment of the Cyprus Republic in 1960, many minority religious groups became recognized through constitutional law. Among these groups were the Maronites, the Armenians and the Latins. The Latins, a Roman Catholic religious group, has a history that dates back many centuries.
Today the Latin population is estimated at approximately 1,700 Cypriot nationals, while the number of Latin registered voters is 645.
In 1960, when the Constitution was being drafted, the group wanted to be referred to as a “Roman Catholic religious group”. The Maronites then objected because they too were Roman Catholic. Taking the initiative, Sir Hugh Foot, the last British Governor of Cyprus, suggested they be referred to as “Latins”. The group accepted the compromise.
“When the 1960 Constitution came into force, our religious group numbered 1,100 people, but it steadily decreased because of deaths, mixed marriages and emigration,” Benito, the group’s elected representative said.
“By 1991, when I was elected Representative, there were only 291 group members on our list and it seemed that we were disappearing. Then I discovered by talking to various people that many Roman Catholics, who had obtained citizenship were uninformed about their constitutional right to belong to the Latin religious group.”
Benito Mantovani told The Cyprus Weekly that now, most Roman Catholics who become Cypriot citizens usually leave the section on their application form for enrollment to the electoral register blank. The reason for this is that most of them are not familiar with the term or its connotation. This causes the community to lose potential members.
When Benito Mantovani was elected as the Representative of the Latin community in 1991, he began a campaign to locate and register all the members who were eligible. He took the initiative after speaking with various Roman Catholics who were not properly informed of their right to be members of the Latin religious group. Thus, Mantovani formed an advisory committee and with the help of a cultural committee and several priests from the community, he managed to raise the population to what it is presently, 1,700.
Despite the fact that only about 50 of the original families are still living in Cyprus, this does not stop the Latin community from preserving their culture and religion. The Latin religious group is directly linked with Rome. Churches have been established in Nicosia, Larnaca and the Limassol seafront. They work closely with other religious groups so they may maintain their religion.
The government of Cyprus has arranged it so that the Latin children may attend the traditional schools of Terra Santa and St. Joseph free of charge.
Community social gatherings are constantly being organized, from church services, to monthly dinners, to recreational activities.
A facility, in which computer skills for employment will be taught, opened on September 24, 2000. This facility will offer leisure activities also.
The Latin community has established itself and has created a voice for itself in Cyprus. The representative, Benito Mantovani seems hopeful about the future. He hopes that the presence of the Latins will have a positive impact on the shaping of Cyprus as a whole.