Pope calls for healing in divided Cyprus and Orthodox archbishop attacks Turkey

By Philip Pullella and Michele Kambas

NICOSIA, Dec 3 (Reuters) – Pope Francis called for healing during an open-air mass in Cyprus, at the sight of a huge Turkish Cypriot flag on the side of a mountain on the other side of the line that has divided the island from long ago. almost half a century.

The Holy Father began his first full day in Cyprus with a meeting with the leaders of the Orthodox Church, the largest Christian community on the island. There, Francis again expressed his desire for unity between the eastern and western branches of Christianity, divided since 1054.

There are only 38,000 Catholics on the island, representing about 4.7% of the population, and for many the mass at the stadium was the highlight of the pope’s two-day visit.

The Supreme Pontiff prepared his homily around the theme of healing and shared pain, themes that strike a chord with all Cypriots on an island divided in two since the 1974 Turkish invasion, triggered by a coup led by Greek Cypriots. .

“Healing occurs when we carry our pain together, when we face our problems together, when we listen and talk to each other,” Francisco said.

Countless attempts at mediation in Cyprus have failed and the peace process stalled in 2017 when talks collapsed. Tens of thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots remain internally displaced.

The huge Turkish Cypriot flag painted on the mountainside, lit up at night, is a constant reminder of the division.

The Pope only visits the south of the island, controlled by the internationally recognized Cypriot government. The separatist Turkish Cypriot state of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Ankara.

In his meeting with the Pope, the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostom II, attacked Turkey.

Many Christian places of worship were turned into mosques, priceless icons and relics were smuggled abroad, and place names changed after the conflict.

“They not only imitated the bloodthirsty Attila, they surpassed him,” Chrysostom told Francis, referring to a fifth-century ruler of the Huns and an enemy of Christianity. “In this holy and just fight … we would like to have your active support,” said Crisóstomo.

(Edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)


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