Aide: Pope Will Go to Cyprus as a Pilgrim

Father Lombardi Explains Significance of Trip

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ROME, MAY 31, 2010 ( Benedict XVI will travel to Cyprus — the island of the Acts of the Apostles — above all as a pilgrim, says a Vatican spokesman.

During his editorial on the most recent episode of the weekly Vatican television program «Octava Dies,» Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican’s press office, explained the Pope’s reasons for his June 2-4 trip.

«Many are asking why the Pope has to go precisely to Cyprus, to meet the bishops of the Middle East to give them the working document for the next synod, the big ecclesial meeting in the month of October,» said Father Lombardi.

The answer is simple, he responded: «Just read the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the first steps in the proclamation of the Gospel in the world after Jesus’ resurrection. Cyprus appears at least six times.

«Barnabas is from Cyprus. He was one of the first to join the community of the Apostles in Jerusalem. Cyprus is the first stage — both difficult and fruitful — of the first missionary voyage of Paul, Barnabas and the future evangelist Mark.»

«Barnabas returns to evangelize Cyprus after being separated from Paul,» Father Lombardi continued. «Paul passes and re-passes along the coast of Cyprus in his later voyages, including the last one, which took him to Malta and to Rome.

«After all, just look at the map and you understand that Cyprus is a strategic — and so cultural and spiritual — crossroads in the region, with a history that is for us closely linked with that of the Holy Land.

«The routes of Jewish and Christian pilgrims to and from Jerusalem passed through here, the routes of navigators between the East and West, between Asia and Europe.»

«If on one hand,» the Jesuit priest added, «we are surprised that John Paul II never set foot there, we are not surprised that Benedict XVI gladly accepted the invitation to come there as visitor and pilgrim, with a trip that ideally follows the one to Malta, going up the Mediterranean toward the East, and it is also linked with that important trip to the Holy Land last year.»

Speaking of the Orthodox majority present on the island, Father Lombardi stated that «from Cyprus, therefore, one cannot but look around, one cannot but pray and hope for an announcement and service to the Gospel that is a source of dialogue, of ecclesial communion, of human growth and peace for all, in a region immensely dear to all believers, but still afflicted with too much suffering and division.»

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