Media Reacts Positively to Pope's Cyprus Trip

Press Follows Benedict XVI’s Words Closely

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By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2010 ( Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Cyprus, which ended Sunday, was covered positively by media reports that picked up on his teachings and spread it worldwide.
While on this 16th international apostolic pilgrimage of his pontificate, the Pope made clear his position and commitment in favor of Christian unity, dialogue with Islam, and peace and reconciliation in the international scene.
The Mass over which he presided on Sunday in Nicosia was one of the most popular meetings in that country’s history, and a significant event of the Church in Cyprus, as more than 10,000 Catholics participated.
The interest of the media was also evident, and news of the presentation of the «instrumentum laboris» (working document) for the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East appeared on the front Web page of most European newspapers on Sunday. The majority of these articles had a positive tone.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, explained how Benedict XVI, in his last three trips to Malta, Portugal and Cyprus, has changed decisively the negative perception previously in the media regarding the sexual abuse crisis.
«What is striking,» the priest said, «is that in just over a month and a half we have had three trips of the Pope abroad, all crowned with great success, in regard to the objectives that could be expected.»
Ecumenical progress
In Cyprus this success was seen first of all, as Father Lombardi acknowledged, in the ecumenical field, as it was marked in particular by progress in relations with the Orthodox Church, which represents the majority religion in this island.
«The embrace of peace during the Mass on Sunday between the Pope and [Orthodox Archbishop] Chrysostom II is the symbol of this meeting, which marks one more step in the long path of ecumenism, with a Church, Cyprus, which despite being numerically small, is very significant in the ecumenical movement, especially in the Orthodox realm, and very rich in initiatives,» the priest said.
The success was even more marked because, before the apostolic trip, the press was giving ample space to Orthodox voices critical of dialogue with the Catholic Church.
Giovanni Maria Vian, director of L’Osservatore Romano, added his observations: «The scope of the trip, in an Orthodox country, is historic because of the further rapprochement with an authoritative and venerable sister Church, which under the leadership of Archbishop Chrysostom II has committed itself decisively to the ecumenical path.»
Relations with Islam
Progress in the dialogue with Islam is another of the decisive achievements of Benedict XVI’s trip to Cyprus. His visit refutes those who attempt to present the Pope as an «enemy» of Islam, based on the controversy sparked by a phrase taken out of context during the Pontiff’s address in Regensburg in September 2006.
The Holy Father held a press conference aboard the Papal plane as he traveled from Rome to Paphos, in which he expressed his willingness to «dialogue with Muslim brothers, who are brothers, despite the differences.»

His words made the front page in Mideast newspapers, as well as in the rest of the world.

Again, upon leaving the island, in his farewell in the Larnaca International Airport, Benedict XVI expressed his «hope and prayer that, together, Christians and Muslims will become a leaven for peace and reconciliation among Cypriots and serve as an example to other countries.»
In a moving gesture, the Pontiff met with and embraced an elderly Sufi leader, Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi al-Haqqani, near the apostolic nunciature, which again received good press coverage.
Reconciliation and peace

Because of the current conflict between Turkey and Cyprus since the island’s division in 1974, the Pope was unable to meet with some of the top authorities of northern Cyprus.

In general, international leaders have avoided Cyprus due to a fear of upsetting relations with Turkey and Greece, given the division the island has endured since 1974.
Benedict XVI, who visited Turkey in 2006, did not hesitate to visit Cyprus, despite difficult circumstances following the death of Turkish citizens who were part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which sought to break through the Israeli blockade on May 31.
As well, on the eve of the Papal trip, Bishop Luigi Padovese, president of the Turkish bishops’ conference, who was to meet with the Pope in Cyprus, was murdered by his driver. Yet, after hearing this news, Father Lombardi affirmed that the Holy Father would stick to his plan without altering his itinerary.
The Vatican spokesman recalled: «The authorities, both political as well as religious, energetically presented their expectations, their problems linked to the situation of the divided island, and the risk of losing the Christian cultural patrimony. They did so with much clarity, taking advantage of the opportunity of having such an important guest.»
He noted that «the Pope responded with great balance and clarity, supporting the fundamental principles of coexistence: respect for the rights of the human person and the right to return to places of origin, to communicate with those they have had to leave behind, the right to religious liberty, to the liberty of conscience, to the liberty of worship.»
Vian commented on an address the Pontiff gave to civil authorities and the diplomatic corps in Cyprus, noting that he «launched to the international community a new and intense appeal to reason, with an objective that can be understood and accepted by all, beyond any division: to serve the common good.»
The media’s reaction to Benedict XVI’s Cyprus trip was generally positive, as it was after his visits to Portugal and Malta.

Now, the next stage of this itinerary will take place in September, when the Pope visits Great Britain.

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