Concluding his Apostolic Journey to the island of Cyprus on Sunday afternoon, the Holy Father expressed his hope for the peace and reconciliation of the people of the island.
Wrapping up the day's events, which included the consignment of the Instrumentum laboris for October's Special Assembly of Middle Eastern bishops, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a delegation headed by the president of the nation, Demetris Christofias at the Larnaca International Airport.
The Holy Father called for redoubled efforts to build "a real and lasting peace for all peoples" in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which is "no stranger to conflict and bloodshed." He then highlighted the role of the island of Cyprus to the promotion of dialogue and cooperation.
"Striving patiently for the peace of your own hearts and for the prosperity of your neighbors," he told them, "you will then be well placed to hear and understand all sides of many complex issues, and to help peoples to come to a greater understanding of one another."
Noting his encounters with the Orthodox Patriarch of All Cyprus, Chrysostomos II, and the history of relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Holy Father said, "We have a divine call to be brothers, walking side by side in the faith, humble before almighty God, and with unbreakable bonds of affection for one another." He thereby invited all Christians to "continue this journey."
Then, Benedict XVI took the opportunity to express his "sincere hope and prayer that, together, Christians and Muslims will become a leaven for peace and reconciliation among Cypriots and serve as an example to other countries."
Noting that he himself had seen the "sad division of the island" from his stay at the Apostolic Nunciature, located in the U.N. buffer zone between north and south, he said, "surely truth and reconciliation, together with respect, are the soundest foundation for the united and peaceful future of this island, and for the stability and prosperity of all her people."
He went on to say that much has been done positively for this end, "though much remains to be done to overcome divisions."
The northern third of the island has been separate from the southern portion since a series of conflicts between Turkish and Greek-backed forces in the 60s and 70s led to a complete division in 1974.
Pope Benedict concluded by asking everyone to "work patiently and steadfastly with your neighbors to build a better and more certain future for all your children."
After saying "peace be with you," to the people of Cyprus, he boarded the plane for Rome.
For the Holy Father’s full address, visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cyprus10/resource.php?res_id=1433