In Cyprus, the Pope praises diversity
In front of the small Maronite Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Grâces, in Nicosia, some soldiers of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus keep watch. Pope Francis has just landed in Larnaca and is planning to make the first stop there on his forty-eight hour visit to the easternmost country of the European Union. However, the church is located on the edge of the line separating the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), born out of the Turkish military intervention in 1974 and recognized by Turkey alone.
He was welcomed there by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Raï, the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, and Archbishop Selim Jean Sfeir. Inside await him in all their diversity priests, nuns and religious as well as representatives of ecclesial movements present on the island. What better place than this assembly bringing together different branches of Latin and Eastern Catholicism to praise a Church that is fraternal and rich in its « Diversity », endowed with « Many spiritual and ecclesial sensibilities, stories of various origins, different rites and traditions » ?
While addressing the Catholic Church, Pope Francis also spoke for Europe in this religious melting pot. In this island « Which is a tangle of peoples, a mosaic of encounters », he said, the Church « Welcomes, integrates and supports » and « Presents itself as a multicolored people », with « People who come from another world, from another culture ». « There is not and there should not be a wall in the Catholic Church », he asked forcefully.
« Go beyond divisions »
There is in this Church, for the Jesuit pontiff, a lesson to be learned for the European countries: “You are immersed in the Mediterranean, a sea of different stories, a sea that has cradled so many civilizations, a sea from which still today unload people, peoples and cultures from all parts of the world. Through your fraternity, you can remind everyone, the whole of Europe, that, to build a future worthy of man, we must work together, overcome divisions. (…) We need to welcome and integrate ourselves, to walk together, to be brothers and sisters of all! «
A little later, in front of the political and diplomatic representatives of Cyprus, Francis continued his praise of « The chromatic scale » of the island’s population. The President of the Republic, Nicos Anastasiades, however, drew his attention to the difficulties to which the country is exposed due to the arrival of many refugees but also « Significant flows of illegal immigrants through the occupied territories », that is to say the northern part of the island. He thanked the Pope for his intention to transfer fifty migrants to Rome: “Your symbolic initiative is, above all, a strong message on the need for an essential review of the European Union’s immigration policy, so that there is a more equitable sharing of the management of problems. «
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