Just a few days ahead of his apostolic journey to Cyprus and Greece, Pope Francis sent a video message expressing his joy in visiting the countries “as a pilgrim to your magnificent lands blessed by history, culture, and the Gospel.”
The Pope leaves for the two nations on Thursday, December 2, for a five-day journey.
In his video message, Pope Francis expressed his joy over the upcoming visit to Cyprus and Greece. His visit, whose theme is “In the Name of the Gospel” will follow in the footsteps of the first great missionaries, especially the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, he said, noting the importance of going to the origins of the Church in order to “rediscover the joy of the Gospel.”
The Pope asked for prayers from everyone as he prepares for this “pilgrimage to the wellsprings.” His meetings with the people will help “quench” his thirst at the “wellsprings of fraternity”, he said, which are very important as the Church has embarked upon its universal synodal journey.
The “synodal grace” will include fraternal visits with their Beatitudes Chrysostomos and Hieronymos, heads of the local Orthodox Churches. The Pope expressed his gratitude, “as a brother in the faith,” for the grace to be received by them and to meet “in the name of the Lord of Peace.”
He addressed, too, the “small flocks” of Catholics in those lands, saying he is looking forward to sharing his affection with them and bringing them “the encouragement of the whole Catholic Church.”
The ancient wellsprings of Europe
The Pope went on to say how this visit will allow him to “drink from the ancient wellsprings of Europe,” with Cyprus as the continent’s outpost of the Holy Land, and Greece the home of classical culture.
Europe needs to recognize the importance of the Mediterranean, he noted, where the Gospel flourished and great civilizations arose. This great heritage in the “Mare Nostrum,” or Mediterranean, invites us to be united, especially in the face of today’s challenges such as the pandemic and the climate crisis.
Pope Francis calls for fraternity for migrants
The Pope pointed out that the sea embraces many peoples and lands called to live together in peace and mutual acceptance. He thanked those helping prepare the journey for their warmth reflective of this calling.
At the same time his thoughts turned to those fleeing from war and poverty, landing on the shores of these lands, and the hostility or exploitation they have endured in their migrations.
He emphasized that they are “our brothers and sisters”, noting that so many have lost their lives at sea that the Mediterranean has become a “great cemetery”. The Pope recalled he will visit the island of Lesvos once again, “convinced that the sources of a common life will only flourish again in fraternity and integration: together”. This is the only way forward, he stressed.