Pope Benedict XVI received the President of Cyprus at the Vatican Apostolic Palace today, where the two leaders discussed their hopes for reunification of the island nation as well as other international situations.
President Demetris Christofias of the Republic Cyprus spoke with Pope Benedict about the future of the country, expressing his particular concern for the situation of Christians in the Turkish controlled portion of the island.
Cyprus was divided into two by a Turkish invasion in 1974. The Turks took the northern half of the Mediterranean island, while the Greeks maintained control of the southern half. In 2004, a U.N. effort to reunite the country was rebuffed by Greek Cypriots, leaving the country divided.
The “cordial” discussion between President Christofias and the Pope included the Cypriot leader illustrating the “condition of many churches and Christian buildings in the north of the island,” according to the Vatican.
A 2006 meeting between then-President Tassos Papadopoulos and Pope Benedict involved the president giving the Pontiff a large photo album featuring pictures of over 300 Orthodox churches destroyed by the Turks or used for secular and non-religious activities.
During today’s meeting, Benedict XVI and President Christofias expressed their mutual hope that the ongoing negotiations between the parties may reach a solution.
Ideas were also exchanged on the “international situation regarding, among other things, the continent of Africa.”
Finally, emphasis was given to “the importance of good relations between Catholics and Orthodox and between Catholics and Muslims, who are all called to work together for the good of society and for peaceful coexistence among peoples," the Vatican said.
According to 2001 census, 94.8 percent of the permanent population in the government-controlled area belongs to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Additionally, 0.5 percent of the population is Maronite Catholic, 0.3 percent Armenian Orthodox, 1.5 percent Roman Catholic, 1 percent Protestant and 0.6 percent Muslim.