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Pope Francis to Visit Cyprus and Greece December 2-6

Pope Francis Greece Cyprus
Pope Francis met asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesvos in 2016. Credit: AMNA

The Vatican announced on Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus and Greece between December 2-6. The pontiff will travel to Nicosia, Athens and the island of Lesvos, it said.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope is undertaking the Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece upon the invitation of the countries’ civil authorities and Bishops’ Conferences.

It said that Francis will spend December 2 to 4 in Nicosia, before heading to Athens and the island of Lesvos.

Pope Francis on Apostolic journey to Cyprus

Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus will see him follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who likewise made an Apostolic Journey to the Mediterranean island nation in 2010.

The vast majority of Cypriots identify as Greek Orthodox, but the nation has a vibrant Latin-rite community of around 2,400 Catholics as well. Many of them can even trace their roots back to the Crusaders who settled there after the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th century.

St. Paul stopped off in Cyprus in the first century AD and converted the island’s Roman governor Sergius Paulus to Christianity.

Tradition holds that St. Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, fled to Cyprus fearing persecution and was ordained as the Bishop of Kition by the Apostles Barnabas and Paul. His tomb lies under the Byzantine-era Church of Saint Lazarus in the southern city of Larnaka.

Pope Francis Greece Cyprus
The Pope greeted asylum seekers on Lesvos in 2016. Credit: AMNA

Pope to visit Athens and Lesvos after Cyprus

Pope Francis’ trip to Greece will be his second, following his one-day visit to the Greek island of Lesvos in 2016. During that trip, Pope Francis visited the refugee camp of Moria with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos II.

In fact, he ended up taking twelve Syrian refugees back with him to Rome, where they lived after being grated asylum.

As Greek Reporter reported at the time, unaccompanied women with children in their arms were extending their hands in an effort to shake hands with the three religious leaders. One refugee approached the Pope with tears and bowed in front of him and asked for his blessing. In an intimate moment, both the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch took a baby in their arms.

After the Moria camp visit, the three religious leaders visited the island’s port, where they held a moment of silence for the refugees and migrants who lost their lives, in their efforts to reach the Greek islands.

The three leaders also threw some flowers in the sea, in memory of the refugees and migrants who perished in the Aegean.

In 2017, Pope Francis donated 50,000 euros to address the needs of the earthquake victims of Lesvos.

“The Holy Father, because he feels very close to the earthquake victims on the island of Lesvos, has donated 50,000 euros to be used as relief for the victims, according to the judgment of Archbishop Nikolaos,” the Holy See’s representation said.

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