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Cyprus Rolls Out Red Carpet for Pope Francis

Pope Cyprus
President Anastasiades welcomes Pope Francis to the Presidential Palace in Nicosia on Thursday. Credit: Twitter/Nicos Anastasiades

Cyprus welcomed Pope Francis on Thursday, on his second visit to the Mediterranean island, in what is dubbed by the Vatican as an “Apostolic journey.”

President Nicos Anastasiades stated that the Pope’s decision to visit a small island like Cyprus proves the greatness of the Pope’s personality, to the peoples who suffer and who accept violations of international law.

“It is with great honor and joy that I welcome you to the Republic of Cyprus,” Anastasiades told the Pope. “On behalf of the entire Cypriot people, I express my gratitude and I welcome you,” he added.

Speaking after a meeting in the Presidential Palace, Anastasiades said that Cyprus shares the Pope’s vision for peaceful coexistence, dialogue between states and religions and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

A pearl in the heart of the Mediterranean

The Pope said he comes to Cyprus “with the same desire as the Apostle Barnabas: to see the grace of God at work in your Church and your land, to rejoice with you at the wondrous things the Lord has done, and to urge you to persevere always, without growing weary or discouraged.”

Pope Francis in his address thanked the President and all Cypriots for their warm welcome noting how down through the centuries the people have welcomed foreigners, calling Cyprus “an open door, a harbor that unites,” while also a continuing “crossroads of civilizations”.

He noted how early Christians through the gentle power of the Spirit brought an “unprecedented message of beauty” the country has inherited and so became a “messenger of beauty among the continents” reflected in the natural beauty of the island and surrounding sea. He likened Cyprus to a “pearl of great price in the heart of the Mediterranean.”

Pope addresses Catholic clergy in Cyprus

Earlier, in the first official discourse of his visit to Cyprus, Francis addressed the Catholic clergy, religious, and catechists in Nicosia’s Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace.

He invited them to be patient as they go forth in a spirit of fraternity, forgiveness, mercy, and openness. A “patient” church is the one best suited for the reality in Cyprus, “a church that does not allow itself to be upset and troubled by change, but calmly welcomes newness and discerns situations in the light of the Gospel,” the Pope said.

On Friday, the Pontiff will first visit the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus at 8:30 am. From there he will make his way to the Apostle Barnabas Cathedral.

After the Holy Mass at GSP Stadium, Pope Francis will hold an ecumenical prayer with migrants and asylum seekers at the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross near the Paphos Gate at 4 pm.

Turkish Cypriot invites Pope to visit the north as well

Turkish Cypriot Ersin Tatar said Cyprus has “two peoples”, not just the Christian Greek Cypriots, but the Muslim Turkish Cypriots as well, and invited the Pope to visit the north, as the “President of the state of Vatican and as spiritual leader of the Catholic world.”

He also accused the Greek Cypriot side of trying to take political advantage of the Pope’s three-day visit, against Turkey and the north. Tatar said this was yet another proof that the “Greek Cypriot administration” as he calls the Republic of Cyprus, was using religious beliefs for its own gains.

Greece next stop for Pope after Cyprus

On Saturday Francis will arrive in Greece. It will be his second visit to the country.

In 2016 he visited the infamous Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos and prayed with Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, as well as Ieronymos, the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church.

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

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