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Pope calls for ‘desire for harmony’ in divided Cyprus

Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped that Cyprus’s divided Greek and Turkish communities could find the “desire for harmony” to reach peace as he visited the divided Mediterranean island Friday.
“May the love of your families and the desire to live in harmony with your neighbours” under God’s protection “inspire you patiently to resolve the remaining concerns that you share — with the international community — for the future of your island,” the pope said.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.
The United Nations has sponsored repeated rounds of reunification talks between the two communities, the latest launched in September 2008.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, who heads the Greek Cypriot community, told the pontiff the island was in need of his words of harmony in a welcoming ceremony at the airport.
But he also hit out at the treatment of Christian churches in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.
“Cyprus is in need of your words of peace, given the difficult situation the island is facing in its occupied area,” Christofias said.
“Allow me to say that Cyprus is in need of your prayers and your contribution in order to quickly regain its unity and freedom,” he added.
“Particularly worrying is the fact that for more than 35 years our cultural and religious heritage in the occupied area has been looted and destroyed systematically, constituting a loss for humanity as a whole.”
The pope said Cyprus had been “blessed with “resilient Christian heritage” since the earliest years of the faith.
“Cyprus is thus an appropriate place in which to launch our church’s reflection on the place of the centuries-old Catholic community in the Middle East, our solidarity with all the Christians of the region and our conviction that they have an irreplaceable role to play in peace and reconciliation among its peoples.”
That was a reference to a synod of Middle East bishops to be held in October. Part of the pope’s mission to Cyprus is to deliver the working document for that gathering to prelates from the region who have travelled to the island.

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