PAPHOS, Cyprus, JUNE 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI arrived in Cyprus today as a pilgrim of peace and dialogue, encouraging better relationships between nations, Christians and religions.
Upon arriving to the island nation today, the Pope was welcomed by Church and government officials at the International Paphos Airport, which marked the beginning of his three-day trip to the island.
President Demetris Christofias, as well as the local Church, invited the Pontiff to make the visit, which is the 16th international trip of his pontificate. During his three days on the island, he will meet with both government and Church leaders.
In his address, the Pontiff called attention to the “historical role” of the nation that stands “between Europe, Asia and Africa.”
“Cyprus stands at the crossroads of cultures and religions,” the Holy Father said, “of histories both proud and ancient, but which still retain a strong and visible impact upon the life of your country.”
Benedict XVI encouraged Cyprus, which entered the European Union in 2004, to be a witness of its “spiritual and cultural heritage” with the other member states. He also expressed his hope that membership in the union “will lead to prosperity at home.”
Without specifically mentioning Cyprus’ ongoing struggle with Turkey over the northern section of the island, the Pope encouraged the nation to consider “love of your homeland and of your families and the desire to live in harmony with your neighbors” in order to resolve “remaining concerns that you share with the international community for the future of your island.”
“I have come among you as a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God,” the Holy Father continued. “Since the Apostles [Sts. Paul and Barnabas] brought the Christian message to these shores, Cyprus has been blessed by a resilient Christian heritage.”
After greeting Archbishop Chrysostom II, leader of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, the Pontiff said he looked forward to meeting other Orthodox and Cypriot religious leaders: “I hope to strengthen our common bonds and to reiterate the need to build up mutual trust and lasting friendship between all those who worship the one God.”
But as the Successor of Peter, he continued, “I come in a special way to greet the Catholics of Cyprus, to confirm them in the faith and to encourage them to be both exemplary Christians and exemplary citizens, and to play a full role in society, to the benefit of both Church and state.”
The Pope recalled that during his trip he will present the instrumentum laboris (working document) for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in Rome in October.
“That assembly will examine many aspects of the Church’s presence in the region and the challenges that Catholics face, sometimes in trying circumstances, in living out their communion within the Catholic Church and offering their witness in the service of society and the world,” he said.
“Cyprus is thus an appropriate place,” he concluded, “in which to launch our Church’s reflection on the place of the centuries-old Catholic community in the Middle East, our solidarity with all the Christians of the region and our conviction that they have an irreplaceable role to play in peace and reconciliation among its peoples.”
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