Cypriot President Says Nation Is Bridge That Unites

Welcomes Benedict XVI to Island, Asks for Help With Turkey

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NICOSIA, Cyprus, JUNE 5, 2010 ( President Demetris Christofias of Cyprus welcomed Benedict XVI to the presidential palace of the nation’s divided capital today, noting the country’s desire to become a model for the «civilization of co-existence.»

«Due to its geographic position, Cyprus has always been a meeting point of many peoples and civilizations,» the president explained. «For centuries, Orthodox Christians live harmoniously on our island together with the Catholic and Muslim communities.

«This heritage and the wealth emanating from this co-existence demonstrate that Cyprus can become a bridge which unites different worlds.»

«Cyprus aspires to and can become a model for the ‘civilization of co-existence,'» he added. «The civilization of the future.»

The Pope is in Cyprus for a three-day trip in which he will deliver the «instrumentum laboris» (working document) for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in Rome in October.

On day two of his trip he visited the presidential palace and met with Christofias, and then gave an address to the civil authorities and diplomatic corps in the presidential gardens.

Since 1973, Cyprus has maintained diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and in 2003 established an embassy at the Vatican. Cyprus will celebrate 50 years as an independent republic in August.


In his address to Benedict XVI, Christofias lamented the nation’s ongoing struggle with Turkey over the occupation of the northern section of the island.

There have long been tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority; since 1974, the latter has controlled a third of the island. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot-occupied area declared itself the «Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,» but only Turkey recognizes this.

«Since the first visit of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in 43 A.D., Cyprus has always been an apostolic land, with deep Christian roots,» the president noted. «Unfortunately, a great part of the spiritual and cultural heritage of Cyprus, including the burial site and the Stavropegic Monastery of Apostle Barnabas as well as the Maronite religious monuments, continues to be under the occupation of the Turkish army.

Some 500 churches are found in the northern region of Cyprus, many of which have been destroyed or converted into military depots, stables, dance clubs and mosques. «It is particularly disturbing that for 36 years our cultural and religious heritage in the occupied areas is being destroyed and this constitutes a loss for mankind in general,» he added.

«Nicosia remains the last divided European capital,» the president lamented, referring to the U.N. Buffer Zone — known as the «Green Line» — that separates the northern and southern regions of the island.

In recent years, the United Nations has encouraged the island to renew unification efforts. But little progress has been made and the conflict is one of the reasons keeping Turkey out of the European Union.

«The international community must exert its influence on Turkey,» Christofias urged. «We honor our commitments and are free of nationalistic prejudices. We bring to the negotiation table positions that serve the interests of the people of Cyprus as a whole, regardless of national identity and religious beliefs.

«Our political determination and our good will to reach a solution cannot be disputed.»


On Friday, the Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop, Chrysostomos II, expressed similar concerns at an ecumenical celebration when he asked for Benedict XVI’s help to end the occupation of religious sites in the Turkish-controlled northern region.

«Turkey, which attacked us barbarously and, with the power of its arms, occupied 37% of our territory, is proceeding — with the tolerance of the so-called ‘civilized’ world — to implement its unholy plans, first to annex our occupied territories and then the whole of Cyprus,» he said.

«In the case of our island, as it has done elsewhere, Turkey has implemented a plan of ethnic cleansing» the archbishop continued. «It drove out the Orthodox Christians from their ancestral homes and brought — and continues to bring — hundreds of thousands of settlers from Anatolia, thus altering the demographic character of Cyprus.

«Our cultural heritage has been plundered relentlessly and our Christian monuments are being destroyed or sold on the markets of illicit dealers in antiquities, in an attempt to rid the island of every last trace of all that is Greek or Christian.»

«We look forward to your help in order to ensure protection and respect for our sacred monuments and our cultural heritage,» concluded Archbishop Chrysostomos, «in order that the diachronic values of our Christian spirit might prevail.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Address of Christofias:

Address of Archbishop Chrysostomos II:

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