CYPRUS – On March 11-13, 2017, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, visited the Cyprus parishes, priests and Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. There were many moments of fraternity, sharing, and ecumenical interaction.
The two-day visit began with a Mass in the parish of Nicosia, one of the four Latin parishes of Cyprus. The small island of the Diocese of Jerusalem actually has three parishes run by the Franciscans (Nicosia, Larnaca and Limassol) and a parish run by the Community of the Incarnate Word in Paphos. Mass in the parish of Nicosia was an opportunity for the Archbishop to recall how “the Patriarchate includes different realities, Jordan and Cyprus, for example, but Jerusalem unites us, Jerusalem is the symbol of our unity.”
After the Mass in Nicosia, the Apostolic Administrator visited the school of the Franciscan Sisters in Limassol, where he also met Antonella Mantovani, the Latin Catholic representative to the House of Representatives of Cyprus. A peculiarity in Cyprus is that the religious communities vote for a member of the Assembly to represent them.
After visiting the parish in Limassol, Archbishop Pizzaballa spoke to the parish community during an afternoon of prayer and reconciliation. He then visited the St. Michael Hospice. The hospice, under the protection of Archangel Michael and located in the outskirts of Paphos, offers palliative care to the elderly and those suffering from cancer or other serious diseases, but also to sick children.
The Apostolic Administrator also came to the parish in Paphos, the place of the flogging of Saint Paul, where, in front of the Church, the column is located at which the Apostle was scourged. This Greek Orthodox shrine, loaned to the Latin and Anglican communities for their ceremonies, is a place of strong ecumenism lived on a daily basis. Archbishop Pizzaballa also met with the Anglican priest before leaving for dinner with the Maronite Archbishop and clergy of the island.
On Monday, March 13, after Mass at the Terra Santa School in Nicosia, Archbishop Pizzaballa, accompanied by Charles Edward Guilbert Roed, head of the Patriarchate Projects Development Office, met with the Ambassador of France in Cyprus, Mr. René Troccaz. The opportunity to stress the strong link between the European and the Christian realities of the diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East in general.
Another key event in the tight agenda of these two days was the Archbishop’s meeting with the Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Cyprus. Archbishop Pizzaballa thanked the Island’s seven Knights, pointing out how “the Knights are the link between Europe and the Holy Land”, encouraging them to grow in number and to come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
An important meeting was held that brought together all the Latin priests in Cyprus, Archbishop Pizzaballa and the Patriarchal Vicar in Cyprus, Father Jerzy Kraj, OFM. It was the appropriate time to revisit the latest changes made in the diocese of Jerusalem and the provisions for the future, in these times of financial and administrative reorganization of the Patriarchate.
Two other ecumenical meetings also marked the pastoral visit. The first was with the Nicosian Maronite Archbishop, Josef Soueif. He offered Archbishop Pizzaballa an olive tree in silver, a very important symbol in Cyprus. The second meeting was with the Greek-Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom II, who, while giving the gift of an icon to Archbishop Pizzaballa, said how happy he was to be working with the Administrator, and he regretted, because of his advanced age, being unable to attend next week’s inauguration ceremony for the restored Holy Tomb Aedicule.