Pope on Cyprus, a Very Successful Visit


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(09 Jun 10 - RV) Wearing a bright red wide brimmed hat, familiarly known in Rome as a ‘Capello Romano' Pope Benedict XVI was shaded from the sizzling morning sun as he weaved his way around the throngs of pilgrims and visitors to St Peter's Square, cheerfully waving to them from the back of his Pope-mobile.

Many of those present in the sweltering heat this Wednesday for the Pope's Audience were wearing clerical collars, just some of the 9,700 accredited priests who have answered the Holy Father's call to come celebrate the close of the Year for Priests with him on Friday.

But on Wednesday the Pope's thoughts still drew him towards the East and the Christian communities of the Holy Land as he retraced the steps of his recent voyage to Cyprus:

"In my Apostolic Journey to Cyprus this past week, I walked in the footsteps of Saints Paul and Barnabas, who first brought the Gospel to that island, and visited the small but lively Catholic communities of the island".

In comments in Italian the Pope revealed that his visit was successful because it had achieved its three main goals, "strengthen the faith of Catholic communities", "encourage them to pursue the path towards full unity among Christians, especially with our Orthodox brethren", and "embrace all peoples in the Middle East and bless them in the name of the Lord, asking God for the gift of peace".

Retracing the steps of the journey, the Pope recalled the city of Paphos and the church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa, where"with the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II and representatives of the Armenian, Lutheran and Anglican Communities", "we renewed our mutual fraternal and irreversible commitment to ecumenism".

Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos II, saying they proved that "rootedness in tradition does not prevent the Orthodox community from being firmly committed to ecumenical dialogue together with the Catholic community".

The Pope recalled "In my celebrations with the Maronite and Latin Catholic communities I witnessed their strong faith and traditions, and the vitality of their educational and charitable institutions". He said "In Cyprus and throughout the Middle East, Christians are called to overcome divisions and to persevere in their witness to the Gospel in those lands!".

But the clear highlight of the trip confided the Pope, was " the delivery of the Synod's Instrumentum laboris at Mass in Nicosia. Where, he recalled, "we prayed for the soul of the late Bishop. Luigi Padovese", whose"sudden and tragic death has left us saddened and dismayed".

Pope Benedict XVI concluded his audience reflections by looking forward to the October Synod for the Middle East, which he said, "will be accompanied by the prayerful affection of the entire Church, in whose heart the Middle East occupies a special place". The Pope augured that the gathering will also draw the attention of other global protagonists, "especially among those in public life" that they may ceaselessly "work so the region can overcome situations of conflict and suffering that still afflict it and finally find peace in justice".