Pop Icon Returns Stolen Cyprus Church Icon

British pop star Boy George has given back to Cyprus an 18th century icon after unwittingly buying the stolen artifact 26 years ago from a London dealer, the Cyprus Orthodox Church said Thursday.

An eagle-eyed priest had spotted the post-Byzantine icon of Christ hanging on the former Culture Club singer's wall during a Dutch television show.

The clergy recognized the icon as the one stolen from Saint Charalambos church in the village of Neo Chorio Kythreas in Turkish-held northern Cyprus.

Church officials then contacted the singer and provided documentation of its origin from experts and testimony from the parish priest from where the 300-year-old icon was taken.

According to the Church of Cyprus, Boy George, 49, bought the icon in 1985 from an art dealer in London, but was unaware of its origin.

"The singer agreed to return the icon, expressing his wish that it is returned soon to the church from which it was illegally removed and hoped others follow his example," a church statement said.

Boy George had a string of hits in the 1980s as lead singer of Culture Club that exploded onto the scene with songs such as "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?", "Church of the Poison Mind", "Karma Chameleon" and "It's a Miracle."

The icon handover ceremony took at a Greek church in north London on Wednesday.

Turkey invaded and seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup to unite the island with Greece.

Since the 1974 Turkish invasion hundreds of valuable artifacts have been stolen from the north and found their way onto the black market.

The Cyprus Church has been active in retrying to reclaim stolen treasures through the courts.

It says more than 500 churches have been pillaged and many archaeological and other cultural heritage sites have been abandoned to the elements.

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