.- On Saturday morning, the Pope urged the people of Cyprus to build lasting peace and harmony based on mutual trust. Commenting on the “unique circumstances” of Catholics on the island nation, he encouraged their efforts towards full unity with Christians and continued dialogue with non-Christians.
The meeting between the Holy Father and members of the Maronite, Armenian and Latin Catholic traditions took place mid-morning on a beautiful day at St. Maron elementary school in the capital city of the Nicosia. Addresses were exchanged between Archbishop Youssef Soueif of the Maronites and the Pope.
In his words to the group, Pope Benedict XVI remembered the long tradition of the Church in Cyprus and told them that, as “Christ’s followers of today,” they continue to be called to bear witness in promoting “the Gospel values” of their predecessors.
In the “unique circumstances” of the Church in Cyprus, he said that they are given the ability to contribute to “the goal of Christian unity.” This objective, he added, along with the search for dialogue with non-Christians, is “an essential part of our Church’s life and mission.
Over 80 percent of the of the island’s inhabitants are Christian, the vast majority being Orthodox, while the Muslim population makes up 18 percent of the nearly 800,000 inhabitants.
Specifically speaking of inter-religious dialogue, the Pope noted on Saturday that “much still needs to be done throughout the world.
“This,” he pointed out, “is another area where Catholics in Cyprus often live in circumstances which afford them opportunities for right and prudent action. Only by patient work can mutual trust be built, the burden of history overcome, and the political and cultural differences between peoples become a motive to work for deeper understanding.”
He went on to urge them “to help create such mutual trust between Christians and non-Christians as a basis for building lasting peace and harmony between peoples of different religions, political regions and cultural backgrounds.”
Turning to the Year for Priests before closing, the Holy Father said that throughout the Year a new awareness has come about in the Church of the "need for good, holy and well-formed priests" and religious who are totally committed to Christ and evangelization.
A group of young people performed a choreographed routine for the group before the end of the morning, at which time the Pope parted for his meeting with the Orthodox Archbishop of All Cyprus Chrysostomos II.
The Pope's full address can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cyprus10/resource.php?res_id=1425