12/02/2021, 20.45
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Pope in Cyprus: May Europe be reconciled and welcoming to migrants

Francis arrived in Nicosia, the last European capital divided by barbed wire. For the pontiff, this is not the time to let hatred prevail, nor should healing wounds be deferred. “It is also an important message for the Church throughout Europe, marked by the crisis of faith.” For Francis, “there is no need to be impulsive, [nor] aggressive, nostalgic or mournful,” but “it is good to go forward reading the signs of the times as well as the signs of the crisis. It is necessary to begin again to proclaim the Gospel with patience, especially to the new generations.”

Nicosia (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has landed in Cyprus, the first stage of his 35th trip outside of Italy, carrying a message of reconciliation, hospitality, unity and the courage to further these principles.

During his trip, the pontiff will have more than one occasion to talk about migrants, recurring theme he referred too before his departure from Rome when he met with two groups of refugees, one before leaving Casa Santa Marta, in the Vatican, and the other at the parish of Santa Maria degli Angeli, near Fiumicino Airport,

The papal visit will end, on Sunday, on the island of Lesbos (Lesvos), where Francis visited the then new Kara Tepe refugee camp in 2016, and from where, he brought 12 refugees to Rome. This is not included in the official schedule of this year’s visit

In his first address, at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace (pictured) in Nicosia, the Pope met with priests, men and women religious, deacons, catechists, associations and Church movements stressing that “the Church in Cyprus has open arms: she welcomes, integrates, accompanies”.

He reiterated this by greeting the Latin Church, “which has been present here for millennia, and over time saw the enthusiasm of the faith grow, together with her children, and today, thanks to the presence of so many migrant brothers and sisters, presents herself as a 'multicoloured' people, a real meeting place between different ethnic groups and cultures.”

Such words are particularly poignant in Cyprus, the European country with the highest percentage of migrants compared to the population, and in Nicosia, the last European capital divided by barbed wire and watchtowers, symbols of the Turkish invasion of 1974 that carved the island in two.

Francis also referred to this in his second appointment of the day, at the Presidential Palace for the welcoming ceremony and the courtesy visit to the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, and in the subsequent meeting with local authorities, representatives of civil society, and the diplomatic corps in the ceremonial hall.

In his address, he spoke about the “wound suffered by this land”. He noted, “the deep suffering of all those people unable to return to their homes and their places of worship. I pray for your peace, for the peace of the entire island, and I make it my fervent hope. The way of peace, which reconciles conflicts and regenerates the beauty of fraternity, has a single word as its signpost. That word is dialogue.

“We ought to help one another to believe in the patient and unassuming power of dialogue, on the basis of the Beatitudes. We know that it is no easy road; it is long and winding, but there is no other way to achieve reconciliation. Let us nurture hope by the power of gestures, rather than by gestures of power. There is a power of gestures, which prepares the way of peace. Not gestures of power, threats of reprisal and shows of force, but gestures of détente and concrete steps towards dialogue.

“I think, for example, of openness to sincere discussion that would give priority to people’s needs, ever more effective involvement on the part of the international community, the need to protect the religious and cultural heritage, and the restitution of all that people hold most precious in that regard, such as places or at least sacred furnishings.”

The reference is to the self-proclaimed Republic of Turkish Cyprus, where only one functioning church remains. All the others have become either mosques, stables, discos or warehouses, causing the loss of centuries-old frescoes and the sacred furnishings.

Yet for Francis, “Times that seem least favourable, when dialogue languishes, can be the very times that prepare for peace.” Indeed, “In these circumstances, may hatred not be allowed to prevail, efforts be made to bind up wounds and to keep in mind the situation of those who have disappeared. And when tempted to yield to discouragement, to think of coming generations, who long to inherit a world of peace, cooperation and cohesiveness, not one marred by perennial rivalries and poisoned by unresolved disputes.

“For this [reason], dialogue is necessary, to avoid the growth of suspicion and resentment. Let us think in this regard of the Mediterranean, now sadly a place of conflicts and humanitarian tragedies; in its profound beauty it is mare nostrum, the sea of all those peoples who border it, in order to be connected, not divided.

“Cyprus, as a geographic, historical, cultural and religious crossroads, is in a position to be a peacemaker. May it be a workshop of peace in the Mediterranean. Peace is not often achieved by great personalities, but by the daily determination of ordinary men and women.

“The European continent needs reconciliation and unity; it needs courage and enthusiasm, if it is to move forward. For it will not be the walls of fear and the vetoes dictated by nationalist interests that ensure its progress, nor will economic recovery alone serve to guarantee its security and stability.

“May we look to the history of Cyprus to see how encounter and welcome have brought forth good fruits that endure. Not only in the history of Christianity, for which Cyprus was “the springboard” on this continent, but also for the building of a society which found its richness in integration.”

Here again, the Holy Father spoke about migrants and migration. “I think” he said, “of the presence of many immigrants” in Cyprus, which hosts, “percentagewise, more than any other country of the European Union. To preserve the multicoloured and multifaceted beauty of the whole is no easy thing.”

This “takes time and patience; it demands a broad vision capable of embracing a variety of cultures and looking to the future with foresight. I think in this regard of the importance of protecting and supporting all the members of society, especially those who are statistically a minority.”

Echoing what he said in his previous meeting, Francis noted that “the beauty of this land comes from the cultures which over the centuries have met and blended here. Today too, the light of Cyprus is richly variegated. Many peoples and nations have contributed different shades and tints to this people.”

This “is also an important message for the Church across Europe, [a continent] marked by the crisis of faith.” For Francis, “there is no need to be impulsive, [nor] aggressive, nostalgic or mournful,” but “it is good to go forward reading the signs of the times as well as the signs of the crisis. It is necessary to begin again to proclaim the Gospel with patience, especially to the new generations.” (FP)

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