By Benedict Mayaki SJ and Christine Seuss
On Saturday morning, Pope Francis departed Cyprus, continuing on to Greece for the second leg of his 5-day apostolic journey, holding from 2 – 6 December.
The Pope’s 2-day visit in Cyprus saw him meet with civil and religious leaders, as well as the Cypriot faithful. He also presided over a Mass at the GSP stadium in the capital, Nicosia, and held an ecumenical prayer with migrants at the Parish Church of the Holy Cross.
At the end of the Pope’s visit, Vatican News' Christine Seuss spoke to Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who reflected on the recently-concluded visit and the message that the Pope’s presence brings to Cyprus.
Comfort and consolation
“My impression is an impression of comfort and consolation,” the Patriarch says, because the Pope’s visit “encouraged and touched some key points in the life of our Church.”
He explained that the Pope’s presence further promoted the already-cordial relations with the Greek Orthodox Church, adding that the faithful of the Latin-rite can even pray in Orthodox Churches.
Another point the Pope touched on – one close to the Holy Father’s heart – is the question of migrants, refugees and the traffic in human beings, the Patriarch added.
Pope Francis and the Cypriot faithful
Turning his thoughts to the various events that marked the Pope’s visit, Patriarch Pizzaballa noted that in spite of the relatively small numbers of Latin-rite Catholics, the events were always well attended. In fact, he noted that all 7,000 available tickets for the Holy Mass on Friday were given out and still yet, many more people wanted to join.
This, he affirmed, “is a very concrete sign of participation and desire to meet the Pope from our people.”
The Patriarch however bemoaned the exclusion from attendance of the Catholics in the north side of the island – most of them foreign students and workers from Africa – who, because of the political situation, could not take part physically because of the “so-called border.”
Healing the wounds of division
In his addresses to the Church in Cyprus, Pope Francis reiterated calls for an end to divisions that separate people.
When asked if the Pope’s appeals and visit could bring healing and reconciliation, Patriarch Pizzaballa highlights that the Pope’s presence was “a very important moment” even though the wounds in Cyprus are very deep and cannot be cured in “just one or two days.”
He notes that the Holy Father has been “very courageous in mentioning the barriers and divisions in very strong, outspoken ways”, without using “diplomatic, politically-correct expression.”
The Patriarch goes on to acknowledge that “we need this,” because even though we know there are barriers and divisions, we may have gotten used seeing them and do not pay attention to them anymore.
But “Pope Francis, with these expressions, reminds us that these wounds are something wrong that we are not to get used to,” he said, stressing the importance of the message for us all.