.- The Cyprus ambassador to the Holy See asserted that the “moral influence” of Pope Benedict XVI will be “massive” during his upcoming trip to the Mediterranean island, which is currently under Communist leadership in the south and under Turkish occupation in the north of the country.
In an interview with Terrasanta.net, Ambassador George Poulides spoke on the preparations and overall significance of the Holy Father's June 4-6 visit to Cyprus. The Pontiff will make history on the island by releasing a working document for the synod of bishops in the Middle East, which is aimed at promoting peace and helping end religious persecution in the region.
“The preparations have reached fever pitch,” Ambassador Poulides said of the papal visit. “Both the Government, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic community are working non-stop for this important occasion.”
“Not only is the vast mobilization of all Cypriots expected, but also the dynamic flow of hundreds of journalists from every part of the world. In addition, many of the faithful will arrive from neighboring countries in the Middle East, together with their Bishops,” he told Terrasanta.net.
Ambassador Poulides expressed what he believes to be the Holy Father's intent for the visit, saying that first and foremost “Pope Benedict XVI wishes to send a sign of peace and justice toward the people of Cyprus and a message of sympathy and support for the efforts of the government of the Republic of Cyprus” which seeks to unify the island and remove the Turkish military from the northern portion of the island.
The ambassador explained that following the Turkish invasion of 1974, the “Holy See and all succeeding Pontiffs have indeed been noble defenders of international law, always calling, with great coherence, for the application of the numerous resolutions of the United Nations which condemn the Turkish intervention.”
Ambassador Poulides also mentioned the the significance of Holy Father's release of the working document for the Middle East Synod, saying that it will make Cyprus “the focal point of Christian efforts in favor of peace in the tormented region of Middle East.”
“It concerns an event of great importance,” he observed, “as it will not strictly be about political issues, but also the crucial question of the relations between Christians - as a whole - and Muslims, wherever the latter compose the majority of the population.”
When asked about the Communist leadership in the country, the ambassador said that he could not see how the current president “could negatively influence the excellent relations established between Cyprus and the Holy See.”
“The President declares himself a believer, but even if he wasn’t, I can assure you that the relations with Vatican would still been excellent,” the ambassador told Terrasanta.net.
On whether or not he is confident that the Holy Father's visit will help bring peace in the area, Ambassador Poulides asserted that “moral influence of Pope is massive.”
“The Pontiff brings a message of peace and justice that travels beyond the Christian world,” he underscored. “Even his mere presence on this wounded island constitutes a vigorous protest against the injustice and the violence that the Cypriot people have undergone, namely the Turkish occupation.”