Pope in Cyprus

PAPHOS, Cyprus (CNS) — As tensions swirled just to the north in Turkey and to the south in Gaza, Pope Benedict XVI landed in Cyprus praying for peace.

The pope began his June 4-6 visit to Cyprus, in the far eastern Mediterranean Sea, by blessing an olive tree.

The trip began one day after the president of the Turkish bishops’ conference was killed by his driver, who had been experiencing psychiatric problems.

And even as the pope was flying from Rome, international tensions were simmering over Israel’s raid on a flotilla of boats trying to run the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Cyprus itself is not a stranger to tension; the island has been divided between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots since 1974. U.N. peacekeepers patrol a buffer zone between the two sides, and the Vatican nuncio’s residence, where the pope was staying, is in the zone.

Arriving at the airport in Paphos, Pope Benedict told President Demetris Christofias and the Cypriot people, “May the love of your homeland and of your families and the desire to live in harmony with your neighbors under the compassionate protection of almighty God inspire you patiently to resolve the remaining concerns that you share with the international community for the future of your island.”

Christofias told the pope, “Your presence here conveys a strong message of peace over hatred and war. We share with you the same vision for peace and social justice.”

Pope Benedict went directly from the airport to the Church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa, which stands in the midst of an archaeological park with the remains of a fourth-century Christian basilica.

Amid the cream-colored stones and ancient marble columns, the pope presided over an ecumenical prayer service honoring Sts. Paul and Barnabas, who preached the Gospel in Cyprus in about 45 AD.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, the pro-consul of the Roman Empire converted to Christianity as a result of the apostles“ ministry.

“Thus it was from this place that the Gospel message began to spread throughout the empire” and take root in Europe, the pope said.

The pope told Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, that his church was right to be proud of its direct link to the apostles.

Even though Christians of the East and West split almost 1,000 years ago, there exists a “communion, real yet imperfect, which already unites us, and which impels us to overcome our divisions and to strive for the restoration of that full, visible unity, which is the Lord’s will for all his followers,” the pope said.

“Today we can be grateful to the Lord, who through his Spirit has led us, especially in these last decades, to rediscover the rich apostolic heritage shared by East and West, and in patient and sincere dialogue to find ways of drawing closer to one another, overcoming past controversies and looking to a better future,” the pope said.

In his greetings to the pope, Archbishop Chrysostomos asked for prayers for peace and the unity of Cyprus and denounced the continuing presence on the island of thousands of Turkish troops and their occupation of the northern third of the island.

“The cultural heritage in particular has been ruthlessly sacked and all Christian artworks destroyed or sold by traffickers in antiquities,” the archbishop said.

“They wish to make everything that is Greek and Christian disappear from occupied Cyprus,” he said.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español