Pope Francis addresses the authorities, civil society, and diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 2, 2021. | Vatican Media.
Pope Francis told Cypriot authorities on Thursday that he is praying for “the peace of the entire island.”
The pope addressed political leaders, representatives of civil society, and members of the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace in the capital, Nicosia, on Dec. 2, hours after he arrived on the island divided by a U.N. buffer zone.
He described the de facto partition of the island as “the greatest wound suffered by this land.”
“I pray for your peace, for the peace of the entire island, and I make it my fervent hope,” he said.
“The way of peace, which reconciles conflicts and regenerates the beauty of fraternity, has a single word as its signpost. That word is dialogue.”
Pope Francis is the second pope to visit Cyprus after Benedict XVI made a three-day trip to the Mediterranean island in 2010. He is embarking on a five-day visit that will also take him to Greece, another predominantly Orthodox Christian country.
In his live-streamed address, the pope described Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a population of 1.2 million people, as “a country geographically small, but historically great.”
He said that the nation has served as “the eastern gate of Europe and the western gate of the Middle East,” offering “an open door, a harbour that unites.”
“Cyprus, as a crossroads of civilizations, has an innate vocation to encounter, favoured by the welcoming character of the Cypriot people,” he said.
The island of Cyprus also contains Northern Cyprus, a predominantly Sunni Muslim territory located on the northeastern portion of the island.
Northern Cyprus is recognized only by neighbouring Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974, and is considered part of the Republic of Cyprus by all other states.
Pope Francis left Rome at 11 a.m. local time on Thursday. After touching down at Larnaca International Airport, he travelled to the divided capital city, where he addressed members of the country’s Catholic minority at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia.
He was then driven to the Presidential Palace, where he paid a courtesy visit to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who later gave a speech praising the pope’s outreach to the poor and defence of the environment.
Anastasiades said that Cyprus receives an outsized share of migrants compared to other European Union member states and thanked the pope for his role in transferring 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy.