Holy Mass presided by the Holy Father, Pope Francis
Welcome address to the Holy Father
Nicosia, December 3, 2021
It is with great joy that the Church of Cyprus welcomes you. We are all here united in prayer for you and for your ministry to the universal Church, with the whole Church of Jerusalem, of which Cyprus is a part. We have waited for you with joy and now with joy we cry out: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!".
Cyprus played a leading role in the very first proclamation of the Gospel. Thanks to the people of this beautiful island, the proclamation of the Gospel also reached the pagans and crossed all cultural and religious boundaries, reaching the outskirts of the ancient world (cf. Acts 11:20). A Cypriot Levite, Joseph known as "Barnabas", led Paul to the Apostles and vouched for him (cf. Acts 9:27). Paul and Barnabas were brothers in the same community of Antioch. They were sent together to Cyprus on their first missionary journey (Acts 13). Since the beginning of Christianity, therefore, Cyprus has been a place of creativity of the Gospel, of evangelization and inculturation, a place of encounter, dialogue and acceptance of the Good News, synonymous with overcoming ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries.
History teaches us that Cyprus is like a bridge between peoples. In 431 the Universal Church recognized the importance of this Particular Church as a sign of the rapid and effective establishment of Christianity on the island.
After the fall of Akko in 1291, Cyprus welcomed the religious communities that fled from the Holy Land, in particular the Franciscans, who contributed so much to the care of the Catholics and who, for many years, together with other priests and religious of the diocese, have continued to welcome and serve migrants and all people, especially the poorest.
Cyprus shares the wounds of Europe and the Middle East at the same time: wounds that are political, military and - it must be acknowledged not without bitterness - also religious divisions. Not even the early Church of Cyprus was exempt from ups and downs (Acts 13:13; 15:36-40), but this did not prevent the spread of the Gospel. With the same spirit today we will not let our ups and downs become a pretext for stopping the announcement of the Gospel.
Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, is the last European capital divided by a wall, which is a deep wound on the island. Yet, together with our beloved Orthodox brothers, we look to Christ, "who has broken down the wall of separation (...), that is, the enmity" (Eph 2:14). That is why we express our hope, which is for us already a certainty. Indeed, we are saddened by our wounds and by our divided lands, but we know that they can be transfigured, that our internal walls can be torn down, that history is redeemed in Christ.
In the light of this "redemption" today we express our deepest gratitude to the Orthodox Church which, especially in Cyprus, shows signs of great openness and friendship to our Church, even allowing us to celebrate our Eucharist in their churches. I hope that this positive experience of ours may be a first step towards the unity our people long for. May Cyprus become for the other Churches a model of unity and harmony, of encounter and sincere friendship! In fact this small island, though wounded by so many divisions, also brings with it light and hope: harmony between the Churches, welcome and integration, as you can see from this assembly, in which one cannot distinguish who is Cypriot and who is not, where the most diverse origins - Asians, Africans, Europeans, migrants, foreign workers - together with the local Cypriots form a single body, a single community, just as at the time of the very first announcement.
Holy Father, all of this makes us believe that in Christ reconciliation is possible, that the Kyrios can overcome our fears, that he can pass through the doors of our closed cenacles and say: "Peace be with you!"
May Jesus Christ once again erase our fears and make us, like Barnabas, Paul and Lazarus, brave witnesses of peace and life towards our brothers and sisters, who still suffer in this sea and beyond the sea, in Lebanon, in Syria and in the Holy Land.
May the Virgin Mary, the Holy Kikotissa, "Source of Mercy", show us her benevolent, yet "hidden face" and intercede for all of us and for our Churches.
Let the sea waves surrounding Cyprus, the very waves of a Mediterranean stained by the blood of so many of our poor brothers and sisters, be now the birthplace no longer of Venus but Caritas, true Love, which on the Cross made us all brothers, sons and mothers.