Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 03, 2021
Pope Francis and Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus arrive for a meeting with the Orthodox bishops who are members of the Holy Synod at the Orthodox cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis devoted the second day of his visit in Cyprus to strengthening the church’s already good relations with the island’s majority Orthodox Christians and to encouraging its small Catholic community, which includes thousands of migrant workers, mostly from the Philippines.

He began the day by riding from the nunciature in the United Nations-protected buffer zone of the divided city of Nicosia to the residence of the Orthodox archbishop for a private meeting with Chrysostomos II, 80, who was elected leader of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus in 2006.

Afterward, they went to the nearby Cathedral of St. Barnabas for the pope’s first encounter with the Holy Synod. There, Archbishop Chrysostomos welcomed Francis to “the first church of the Gentiles,” founded by St. Barnabas, who is the patron saint of Cyprus, St. Paul the Apostle, and the evangelist St. Mark. He recalled that Paul and Barnabas first preached the Gospel on this island in 45 C.E., and from here, the good news spread to Europe.

Pope Francis devoted the second day of his visit in Cyprus to strengthening the church’s already good relations with the island’s majority Orthodox Christians.

Since then, the archbishop said, the church in Cyprus has had to face “many conquerors” but has continued to bear witness to Christ. “But, sadly, from 1974 to this day, our Cyprus and its church has been going through the most difficult moment of its history.”

Just as the president of Cyprus did Thursday evening at the presidential palace, so, too, this morning Archbishop Chrysostomos denounced the “ferocious” Turkish invasion 47 years ago. He said Turkey “sequestered 38 percent of our fatherland with the force of arms, expelled its inhabitants” and “profaned and demolished the sanctuaries of the Lord.”

Since then, he said, “Turkey has developed a plan of ethnic cleansing in our Cyprus”; it expelled 200,000 Christians from their paternal homes “with incredible barbarity,” replaced them with Turkish colonists and “reduced our culture to ruins.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos told Pope Francis, “We want to have your active support in this, our holy and just struggle.” He recalled he made the same request to Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and told Francis, “We wait with impatience also for your help, for the protection and respect of our cultural patrimony...that are today violated by Turkey.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos: “We wait with impatience also for your help, for the protection and respect of our cultural patrimony...that are today violated by Turkey.”

Turning to the topic of Christian unity, the archbishop said his church “seeks dialogue with all the churches,” and “we applaud the dialogue that is underway between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Catholic Church in Rome, and we pray for its success.”

He told the pope that the Orthodox Church of Cyprus began a dialogue with the Muslims of the Middle East some years ago, but the tensions that exasperated extremist elements have not allowed it to continue, except with Syria. “Nevertheless, we firmly believe in the peaceful resolution of our disagreements, whether of a civil or religious nature. And the right way is only through a dialogue that is truly honest.”

He concluded by welcoming Pope Francis, in his own name and in that of the synod, to “this island of saints and martyrs.”

The Path to Unity

Pope Francis thanked Archbishop Chrysostomos II for his “openness of heart and commitment to promoting dialogue between us” and extended his greeting to the entire Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

“We have a common apostolic origin: Paul traversed Cyprus and went on to Rome. We are thus heirs of the same apostolic zeal, and a single path joins us—that of the Gospel,” he said. “I like to see us advancing on that same path, seeking ever greater fraternity and full unity.”

Pope Francis went on to reflect on some aspects of the life of St. Barnabas, the founder of the church in Cyprus. He recalled that his name means both “son of consolation” and “son of exhortation.” Both characteristics, he said, “are indispensable for the proclamation of the Gospel.”

Barnabas “exhorts us, his brethren, to undertake the same mission of bringing the Gospel to humanity” and reminds us that “the message cannot be based only on generic exhortations, the inculcation of precepts and rules to be followed, as often has been the case,” the pope said. Rather, “it must follow the path of personal encounter, be attentive to people’s questions, to their existential needs.”

Pope Francis: “The Gospel is not handed on by communication but by communion.”

“If we are to be sons of consolation, even before we say a word, we need to listen, to let ourselves be questioned, to discover others, to share,” he said. “Because the Gospel is not handed on by communication but by communion.”

He told the 10 Orthodox bishops present that in the coming years, Catholics want to “rediscover the synodal dimension essential to being church.”

“We feel the need to walk more closely alongside you, dear brethren, who, through your experience of synodality, can truly help us,” Francis said.

Then, alluding to what Archbishop Chrysostomos had said regarding the Turkish invasion, Francis told the Orthodox bishops: “I wish to assure you of my own prayer and closeness and that of the Catholic Church in the most troubling problems that beset you and in the best and boldest hopes that spur you on. Your sorrows and your joys are also ours; we sense them as our own. At the same time, we feel great need of your prayers.”

“We feel the need to walk more closely alongside you, dear brethren, who, through your experience of synodality, can truly help us,” Francis said.

Referring again to St. Barnabas, he recalled how the Acts of the Apostles tell us what kind of man he was when it reports, “He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

“This splendid gesture suggests that, in order to be revitalized in communion and mission, we, too, need to have the courage to divest ourselves of all that, however precious, is earthly, in order to favor the fullness of unity,” Francis said.

“Let us not become paralyzed by fear of openness or bold gestures or give in to talk of ‘irreconcilable differences’ that, in fact, have nothing to do with the Gospel! Let us not permit the ‘traditions,’ in the plural and with a small ‘t,’ to prevail over ‘Tradition,’ in the singular and with a capital ‘T.’ That Tradition bids us to imitate Barnabas and leave behind everything, however good, that could compromise the fullness of communion, the primacy of charity and the need for unity.

“Certainly, where our relations are concerned, history has opened broad furrows between us,” the pope said. “But the Holy Spirit desires that with humility and respect we once more draw close to one another. He invites us not to grow resigned to our past divisions, and to cultivate together the field of the kingdom with patience, perseverance and concrete gestures.”

Pope Francis: Let us not permit the ‘traditions,’ in the plural and with a small ‘t,’ to prevail over ‘Tradition,’ in the singular and with a capital ‘T.’

He then suggested a way ahead: “If we set aside abstract concepts and cooperate, for example in works of charity, education and the promotion of human dignity, we will rediscover our fraternity, and communion will mature by itself to the praise of God.”

He cited as a good fruit of such cooperation the fact that there is a church in Cyprus today—the Church of Panaghia Chryssopolitissa, “Our Lady of the Golden City”—that serves as a place of worship for the various Christian confessions. The church is much loved by the people of Cyprus and often chosen for the celebration of marriage.

In his talk, Francis drew on a third aspect of the life of St. Barnabas and the spread of the Gospel in Cyprus described in the Acts of the Apostles. When Barnabas returned to Cyprus with Paul and Mark, he found “a magician and false prophet” named Elymas “who maliciously opposed them, seeking to make crooked the straight paths of the Lord.”

Francis told the Orthodox bishops: “Today, too, there is no lack of falsehood and deception that the past can set before us to hinder our journey. Centuries of division and separation have made us assimilate, even involuntarily, hostility and prejudice with regard to one another, preconceptions often based on scarce and distorted information, and spread by aggressive and polemical literature.” He said all this “makes crooked the path of God, which is straight and directed to concord and unity.”

“How many times in history have we Christians been more concerned to oppose others than to accept docilely the path of God, which leads to resolving disagreements in charity!”

“How many times in history have we Christians been more concerned to oppose others than to accept docilely the path of God, which leads to resolving disagreements in charity!”

He invited the Orthodox bishops to “ask the Lord to grant us the wisdom and courage to follow his ways, not our own.” He urged them to ask this grace through the intercession of the many saints and martyrs of this island so that Cyprus, which is “already a bridge between East and West,” may also become “a bridge between heaven and earth.”

The Plight of Migrants

After his historic visit to the Orthodox synod, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the GSP sports stadium for some 10,000 Catholics, mostly from Cyprus. The congregation also included many migrant workers from the Philippines and their children, as well as Catholics from the Middle East and Africa. They greeted him with great enthusiasm.

On his return to the nunciature, Francis met the chief rabbi of Cyprus and the director of the city’s prison, who brought gifts from the prisoners.

In the afternoon, Francis presided at an ecumenical prayer service for migrants in the parish church of the Holy Cross, his last public event in Cyprus. There, he first listened to testimonies from four young migrants and a Caritas worker who assists them. He greeted each one of them and then began reading his talk. But at a certain point—deeply moved by the testimonies he had heard, he said—he put aside the text and spoke with power and passion from the heart.

Francis lamented that people seeking food, help, freedom and brotherhood encounter only barbed wire, and he denounced the fact that many, when repatriated, end up in concentration camps or slavery.

He spoke about the perilous journeys on which migrants embark and the countless numbers who die on the way or drown in the Mediterranean Sea. He lamented that people seeking food, help, freedom and brotherhood encounter only barbed wire, and he denounced the fact that many, when repatriated, end up in concentration camps or slavery. All this is happening today—not just in World War II under the Nazis and Stalin—he said, and he felt he has a duty to make it known.

“I’m sorry, but I want to say what is in my heart!,” the pope said. “May the Lord awaken the conscience of all us in the face of such things.

“Please forgive me for telling things as they are, but we cannot remain silent and look the other way in this culture of indifference!”

Afterward, the Vatican confirmed that out of his concern for this tragic situation, Pope Francis has arranged for 12 migrants to be brought from Cyprus to Rome in the coming weeks. The president of Cyprus said there would be 50 in all, so it seems that this is the first group, and others will follow either before Christmas or in the New Year.

Tomorrow morning, Dec. 4, Pope Francis will depart from Cyprus for Greece, where he will remain until Monday morning. He will visit the island of Lesbos on Sunday and is expected to speak again on the migrant crisis.

The latest from america

A pro-life advocate prays during a "Love Them Both" rally sponsored by Indiana Right to Life July 26, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The rally took place while an Indiana Senate committee was preparing to vote on a bill that would ban most abortions in the state. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)
Those who want to reduce or minimize abortion, as opposed to eliminating it, are in a more difficult political position. 
Robert David SullivanAugust 10, 2022
Carl Kabat, an old man wearing a roman collar.
Father Kabat, an avid anti-nuclear protestor and member of the Plowshares Eight, is dead at 88 years old.
Mayor Tim Keller of Albuquerque, N.M., speaks at an interfaith memorial ceremony at the New Mexico Islamic Center Aug. 9, 2022. The ceremony was held to commemorate four murdered Muslim men came hours after police said they had arrested a prime suspect in the killings. (CNS photo/Andrew Hay, Reuters)
During a Mass for peace, Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe decried the killings of four Muslim men in New Mexico since last November.
Why do we dwell within our protective shells, safe from what might harm us but certainly not fully open to what lies beyond?
Terrance KleinAugust 10, 2022