Peace Meeting Hoping to Break Down Cyprus Wall

40 Religious Leaders Cross Checkpoint

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NICOSIA, Cyprus, NOV. 17, 2008 ( Forty religious leaders crossed the divide that separates Cyprus into Greek and Turkish zones, hoping that the international peace meeting on the island will help to bring the division to an end.

The International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, traditionally sponsored by the Catholic lay Sant’Egidio Community, and this year cosponsored by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, began on the island Sunday and ends Tuesday. This 22nd meeting is on «The Civilization of Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue.»

These annual international meetings are part of the heritage of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 27, 1986.

On Sunday, 40 leaders belonging to different religions crossed the Lidras Street checkpoint, one of the two passages between the Greek and Turkish zones of Cyprus.

The dividing line has existed in Cyprus since 1974, when a Greek attempt to seize control of the island was met by military intervention from Turkey.

Almost 10 years later, the Turkish-held area declared itself the «Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,» but it is recognized only by Turkey.

Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II of New Justiniana and All Cyprus told Vatican Radio: «We believe that this meeting will have a very positive role in regard to the peace process in Cyprus but also in the world.

«We also believe that, in regard to Cyprus, it will give the correct messages to the representatives of the two communities, so that they will work with tenacity and concentration for a just solution for both communities, so that peace will finally reign and so that they will be able to live happily with one another.»

Cyprus is just over half the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut. Its population of almost 800,000 is 78%Greek Orthodox and 18% Muslim.

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