Today, Cyprus has about 11,000 Catholics, according to its national statistical service, and Greece is home to about 50,000 Catholics (0.5% of the population).
Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa welcomed the announcement of Pope Francis’ trip to Cyprus, which falls under his jurisdiction as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The patriarch noted that Pope Francis is expected to meet Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, local Catholics, and a group of migrants and refugees while in Cyprus, in addition to offering Mass in a stadium on the island.
“We are grateful and honored by this visit, which aims to be both a pilgrimage and an opportunity for encounter,” Pizzaballa said on Nov. 5.
“It is a pilgrimage on the footsteps of the apostle Barnabas, the apostle of the nations, together with Paul, father of the Church of Cyprus. It is an opportunity for encounter with the reality of the Middle East which pours into the Mediterranean - and into Cyprus - the drama of families seeking refuge from war, poverty, power struggles and religious sectarianism.”
The apostolic journey will be the pope’s third trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. His previous trips were to Iraq in March and Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The 84-year-old pope, who underwent colon surgery in July, has expressed his desire to travel to Canada, Congo, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor in the coming year.
This article was updated to include a statement by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa.