John Paul II Hopes to Visit Cyprus, Later

Vatican Confirms Invitation to the Island

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VATICAN CITY, APR. 3, 2001 ( John Paul II welcomed an invitation to make a pilgrimage to the island of Cyprus, but he won´t be able to squeeze in the visit during his upcoming trip to Greece, Syria and Malta.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls explained today that «the Holy Father received an invitation from Cypriot authorities to travel to Cyprus, in the context of his Jubilee pilgrimage in St. Paul the Apostle´s footsteps.»

He said the Holy Father was grateful for the invitation, but added, «The present state of preparations for the Holy Father´s forthcoming trip to Greece, Syria and Malta has reached such a point that it is technically impossible to introduce a stage in Cyprus, too.» The Pope is scheduled to arrive in Athens on May 4.

The invitation to Cyprus was extended by President Glafcos Clerides, with the blessing of Archbishop Chrysostomos. Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides explained to the Vatican that the invitation is only valid for the island´s southern area, controlled by the government, and not the north, occupied by the Turks.

The ancient kingdom of Salamis, where the Apostle Paul first preached the Gospel in Jewish synagogues in Cyprus, was in the north of the island.

Cyprus was divided in 1974, when a coup favoring union with Greece deposed President-Archbishop Makarios, who returned to his post at the end of that year, and remained there until his death in 1977.

The Turkish-Cypriot region of the north proclaimed itself a federal republic in 1975, but its independence is not recognized by the United Nations. In 1988, talks began between the Greek and Turkish governments for the island´s reunification.

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