Pope Advocates Dialogue to Overcome Split in Cyprus

Receives President Tassos Papadopoulos

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged dialogue as the way to overcome the division of Cyprus, when he met with its president, Tassos Papadopoulos.

Referring to the difficult situation in Cyprus, an island divided into the Greek south and Turkish north, the Pope encouraged the Greek-Cypriot representative «in your ongoing efforts to foster dialogue and tolerance among the diverse ethnic and religious groups in your country.»

«Indeed, it is only by commitment to understanding and mutual respect that long held tensions can be resolved and lead to unity based on the principles of solidarity and justice,» he added in English at their Saturday audience.

John Paul II, who acknowledged that Cyprus «has always been so deeply faithful to the Christian message,» assured that president of his prayers, so that «Almighty God may impart to you and all the people of Cyprus, the gifts of peace and harmony.»

Last May, the republic of Cyprus, of Greek majority, became a member of the European Union. Papadopoulos, who is both head of state and government, has held this position since March 1, 2003.

The Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus, controlled by some 60,000 Turkish military men, has been occupied by Turkish forces since 1974, and has only received international recognition from Turkey.

U.N. efforts to reunify the island in a confederation failed in April 2003. But for the first time since the Turkish occupation the citizens of both entities have been allowed to cross over the green line that divides the island.

After the 1975 secession, more than 180,000 Greeks moved to the south and some 50,000 Turks went to the north.

The Greek section has 700,000 inhabitants, and the Turkish some 200,000. Orthodox comprise 95% of Cyprus’ population. Vatican Radio said that Catholics comprise 1.5%.

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