Pope to meet with Cypriot Orthodox leader to strengthen ties – KSNF / KODE – FourStatesHomepage.com

Pope Francis arrives at Larnaca Airport, Cyprus on Thursday, December 2, 2021. Pope Francis’ trip to Cyprus and Greece draws new attention to the plight of migrants at Europe’s borders and the disconnect between l Francis’ call to countries to welcome and integrate them and the front-line governments that are less and less willing or unable to let them in. (AP Photo / Alessandra Tarantino)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Pope Francis plans to meet with the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus on Friday in a bid to further bridge an ideological and political divide between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East that dates back nearly ‘A millenium.

Francis and Archbishop Chrysostomos II meet on the second day of the Pope’s three-day trip to Cyprus. The two will join the Holy Synod, the highest decision-making body of the Greek Orthodox Church. Francis is to preside over an ecumenical prayer service with the migrants later in the day.

Although Cyprus comprises only a tiny part of the Eastern Orthodox community with around 800,000 faithful, Cypriot religious leaders stress the role of the Mediterranean island as a “gateway” to the expansion of Christianity towards the United States. west because of its proximity to the birthplace of faith.

Christianity first spread to Cyprus in AD 45, when the apostle Paul converted the island’s Roman governor, Sergius Paulus, in the first step of his first mission to spread the faith. The Cypriot Church itself is said to have been founded by another apostle, Barnabas.

Francis made the connection of Cyprus with the roots of Christianity a central point of his visit. Cypriot Church leaders are keen to strengthen ties with the Holy See, as minority Christian communities in neighboring countries fear their faith will be under attack amid armed conflict.

Cyprus itself bears the scars of war. The nation split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. After the ethnic split, 170,000 Christians fled the separatist Turkish Cypriot north, where churches, monasteries and other Christian monuments were destroyed.

Tens of thousands of Muslim Turkish Cypriots fled north after the end of hostilities.

The destruction of Christian places of worship is one of the key issues Archbishop Chrysostomos should raise with Francis in the hope that the pontiff’s political strength will help revive stalled talks to reunite Cyprus.

Upon his arrival on Thursday, Francis urged Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to resume talks, saying threats and shows of force only prolong the “terrible laceration” that the island’s residents have been suffering for nearly a half-century.

“Let us nurture hope through the power of gestures, rather than by gestures of power,” Francis told Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and other heads of government at the presidential palace, located in the south recognized by the Greek Cypriots.

The prospects for the unification of the island have seldom been as bleak as they are today. The Turkish Cypriots, led by their newly elected leader Ersin Tatar, changed their preconditions for peace and demanded recognition of a separate state before an agreement could even be discussed.

Previously, the two sides had agreed – with the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council – that any agreement would involve the establishment of a two-zone federation, with a Turkish Cypriot zone to the north, a Greek Cypriot to the south and a Greek Cypriot zone to the south. only federal government regulating the main ministries. , including defense and foreign affairs.

Acknowledging the stalled talks and the continued suffering of Christians unable to return to their former homes in the predominantly Muslim north, Francis urged an initiative by Christian and Muslim religious leaders on the island to promote reconciliation.

“The moments which seem the least favorable, when dialogue languishes, can be the very moments which prepare for peace”, declared the pontiff.

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