Upon arrival to the Paphos airport in Cyprus, the Holy Father greeted the people of the nation and explained his purpose for the journey. He reflected on the scope of the coming Synod for the Middle East and hoped for the inspiration of Cypriots in their quest for a peaceful resolution to the division of their island nation.
The Holy Father’s visit is the first of any Pope to the Mediterranean island and will take place over the course of the next three days. The highlight of the trip is the consignment of the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, for the coming Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops in October.
“As the Successor of Peter,” he said from the airport, “I come in a special way to greet the Catholics of Cyprus, to confirm them in the faith and to encourage them to be both exemplary Christians and exemplary citizens, and to play a full role in society, to the benefit of both Church and state.”
Arriving among the people of Cyprus as “a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God,” Pope Benedict first greeted His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Orthodox Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus and a “brother in the faith” and then anticipated some of the moments of the coming days.
Referring to island as an “appropriate place” to distribute the working document, Pope Benedict said the synod “will examine many aspects of the Church’s presence in the region and the challenges that Catholics face, sometimes in trying circumstances, in living out their communion within the Catholic Church and offering their witness in the service of society and the world.”
The assembly, he explained, will reflect on the historic role of Catholic communities in the Middle East, solidarity with all of the area’s Christians “and our conviction that they have an irreplaceable role to play in peace and reconciliation among its peoples.”
The Holy Father also expressed his hope that the Cypriots’ love of family and homeland as well as their desire to live in harmony with their neighbors will inspire them “to patiently resolve the remaining concerns that you share with the international community for the future of your island.”
On Thursday, Vatican Radio highlighted the difficult situation on the island, shedding light on the “so-called ‘Cypriot question.’” They reported that the country continues to suffer “still today” from the 1974 division of the Turkish-occupied north, inhabited by predominantly Muslim Turk-Cypriots and the Greek-Cypriot south, which is for the large part Orthodox Christian.
"In everyone (there is) the hope that the presence of the Pope might serve to encourage the negotiations underway between the president of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias and the Turk-Cypriot leader Dervish Eroglu for a solution," they reported.
Following the greeting from the airport, the Holy Father went to the Church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa for an ecumenical celebration, blessing an olive tree en route.
To read the Pope's full address, click here.