Cyprus has a new Apostolic Nuncio: on September 15, 2017, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli to this delicate post, whom he also appointed on September 13 Nuncio in Israel. The Italian diplomat, 64, is also Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.
Cyprus is another hot point of the Mediterranean, given the division of the Island, of which Turkey occupies the north.
In 2016, Pope Francis’ “Foreign Affairs Minister,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, went to Cyprus to encourage peace in the Island.
Stalled for years, the negotiations for the Island’s reunification were re-launched in 2015. However, the divisions between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots remain strong.
According to figures of Aid to the Church in Need, Catholics constitute only 1.4% of the Cypriot population (Orthodox 66% and Muslims 22%).
In February 2014, Pope Francis received the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI himself went to Cyprus in June 2012, and he received the previous President, Demetris Christofias at the Vatican in 2012.
Cyprus joined the European Union (EU) in 2004. The International Community doesn’t recognize the self-proclaimed Republic of the North – after the Turkish invasion –, but its inhabitants are considered citizens of the EU, which regards the Island as united.
Until September 13, Archbishop Girelli was Apostolic Nuncio in Singapore, Apostolic Delegate in Malaysia and in Brunei, Apostolic Nuncio to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and non-resident papal representative for Vietnam since 2011.
Therefore, Archbishop Girelli is the first non-resident papal representative for Vietnam since 1975: his appointment constitutes a “first step” towards the normalization of relations between the Holy See and Vietnam. It’s one of the fruits of the Joint Working Group. In the framework of this mission, Archbishop Girelli has gone to the country several times.
From 2006 to 2011, he was Apostolic Nuncio in Indonesia and in East Timor.