Francis said he is looking forward to meeting all the people of Cyprus and Greece, not only Catholics, and highlighted his meetings with the two Orthodox leaders as fostering “an apostolic fraternity that I desire a lot.”
“As a brother in the faith, I will have the grace to be received by you and to meet you in the name of the Lord of Peace,” he said.
Both Cyprus and Greece have populations that are majority Greek Orthodox. Around 72% of people in Cyprus are Christians and 25% of the population is Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center.
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).
Addressing the countries’ small Catholic populations, Pope Francis said: “I come to you, dear Catholic sisters and brothers, gathered in those lands in small flocks which the Father loves so tenderly and to which Jesus the Good Shepherd repeats: ‘Fear not, little flock’ (Luke 12:32). I come with affection to bring you the encouragement of the whole Catholic Church.”
The countries of Cyprus and Greece are also linked through the Apostle Paul, who traveled to both areas. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.