Pope Francis landed in Cyprus yesterday (2/12) after a 3-hour flight from Rome accompanied by 77 journalists, 7 of them from Cyprus and Greece on his apostolic journey to the eastern Mediterranean region, flying first to Cyprus then to Greece.
According to media reports, Pope Francis met with Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades, followed by an exchange of gifts and addresses given to local authorities and diplomatic representatives present. Earlier the Pope had meetings with Catholic clergy, religious, and catechists gathered in Nicosia’s Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace.
During his speech Pope Francis lamented the terrible division on the island, calling it a “laceration” and urged for continuing dialogue from both sides, adding that neither side should use force or threats.
“The greatest wound suffered by this land has been the terrible laceration it has endured in recent decades. I think of the deep suffering of all those people unable to return to their homes and their places of worship,” Pope Francis said.
“We know that it is no easy road; it is long and winding, but there is no other way to achieve reconciliation.”
Describing Cyprus as “the outpost of the Holy Land on the continent” and “Greece, the home of classical culture,” he said his visit would be an opportunity to drink from the ancient wellsprings of Europe. Europe, he said, cannot ignore the Mediterranean, which has seen the spread of the Gospel and the development of great civilizations.
However, he lamented that today the Mediterranean Sea has become a great cemetery, with refugees and migrants swallowed up in its waves as they flee war and poverty. “As a pilgrim to the wellsprings of humanity,” the Pope said, he will re-visit migrants and refugees in the Greek island of Lesbos, convinced that “the sources of common life will only flourish again in fraternity and integration”.
“The people of Cyprus lived through, and know better than anyone the pain of being uprooted from their homes, becoming refugees,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said.