Nuncio: Pope’s Cyprus visit a step towards unity
Pope Francis on Thursday begins the 35th apostolic journey of his pontificate, which will take him to Cyprus and Greece, December 2 to 6. He will first visit Cyprus, December 2 to 4, and then proceed to Greece. This is the second visit by a pope to Cyprus after that of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
A divided island
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot government, recognized only by Turkey, and the southern two-thirds controlled by the internationally-recognized government led by Greek Cypriots. United Nations troops patrol the "Green Line" dividing the two parts, and reunification talks have made slow progress. Apart from the division, the Mediterranean island also has a serious problem of migration.
According to the Apostolic Nuncio to Cyprus Archbishop Tito Yllana, it would not be proper to say that the Pope is visiting an island. It would be better to say that he is visiting a people, a country that is also in the middle of the sea, he told Vatican News.
Like any other nation, the archbishop explained, Cyprus also has problems. Without minimizing the reality, he said that every problem in the world, whether it has been there for 20 or 100 years, always has a solution. This, he said means that we have to take the first step, slowly, and we have to contribute.
Pope meets the people
The visit of Pope Francis, and before him that of Pope Benedict XVI eleven years ago, the Holy See diplomat said, are steps that really contribute to achieving that unity, that understanding, that sense of a nation, which would precisely make the Republic of Cyprus. Pope Francis gives great importance to the people, a people who are believers thanks to their ancestors, St. Barnabas in particular, through whom the faith has reached many regions in Europe. “Everyone is waiting for the Pope, all over the country,” the archbishop said, adding he has witnessed this in his visits to all the communities of the country.
Holy See-Cyprus relations
The Apostolic Nuncio whose post is equivalent to that of an ambassador also noted excellent relations between the Holy See and Cyprus, marked by mutual understanding and exchange of views on Cyprus. He said people at large want unity and one nation, something to which the Holy Father’s visit could greatly contribute.
Archbishop Yllana also noted cooperation and goodwill in organizing this visit, not only on the part of generous lay people but also on the part of the authorities. They are eager to receive the Pope in this land called the Republic of Cyprus, a land with a Christian majority. The presence of the Orthodox and Catholics of the Eastern and Latin rites, as well as men and women missionaries and religious show that the Church is alive in Cyprus, which to the apostolic nuncio is a great source of comfort.