Pope in Cyprus : The Cross, Symbol of Victory of Non Violence


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(05 Jun 10 - RV) Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of the Cross on Saturday evening, not just for Christians, but for the entire world.

The Holy Father was speaking in the small church of the Holy Cross, nestled in the buffer-zone of Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus. The Pope was celebrating Mass for Catholic priests, religious, catechists and members of lay movements on the predominantly Orthodox island.

The Pope told them that with the Cross, the power of evil was destroyed by the power of self-sacrificing love.

He said "That is why the world needs the Cross. The Cross is not just a private symbol of devotion, it is not just a badge of membership of a certain group within society, and in its deepest meaning it has nothing to do with the imposition of a creed or a philosophy by force. It speaks of hope, it speaks of love, it speaks of the victory of non-violence over oppression, it speaks of God raising up the lowly, empowering the weak, conquering division, and overcoming hatred with love. A world without the Cross would be a world without hope, a world in which torture and brutality would go unchecked, the weak would be exploited and greed would have the final word".

The Mass was the final event on the Pope's second day of his apostolic voyage to Cyprus. He also spoke to the priests gathered about the incredible grace that has been given them, and reminded them it was undeserved.

"As we reflect on our shortcomings, individually and collectively, let us humbly acknowledge that we have merited the punishment that he, the innocent Lamb, suffered on our behalf. And if, in accordance with what we have deserved, we should have some share in Christ's sufferings, let us rejoice because we will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed."

Pope Benedict made special mention of the priests and religious of the Middle East, whom he says are currently experiencing a particular call to conform their lives to the mystery of the Lord's Cross.

He said through the difficulties facing their communities as a result of the conflicts and tensions of the region, many families are taking the decision to move away, and it can be tempting for their pastors to do likewise. He commended their decision to stay:

"Their presence alone is an eloquent expression of the Gospel of peace, the determination of the Good Shepherd to care for all the sheep, the Church's unyielding commitment to dialogue, reconciliation and loving acceptance of the other. By embracing the Cross that is held out to them, the priests and religious of the Middle East can truly radiate the hope that lies at the heart of the mystery we are celebrating in our liturgy today".

One interesting encounter happened on the way to the Mass. The Pope met with Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil Al-Haqqain, a leading Sufi Muslim leader from Nothern Cyprus. He lives near the Church in the Turkish part of Nicosia. The two men met, and both mentioned how old they were, since they are both in their 80s.

The two men exchanged gifts and embraced, and then the Pope proceeded to Mass.