.- Pope Benedict XVI received the President of Cyprus at the Vatican Apostolic Palace today, where the two leaders discussed their hopes for reunification of the island nation as well as other international situations.
President Demetris Christofias of the Republic Cyprus spoke with Pope Benedict about the future of the country, expressing his particular concern for the situation of Christians in the Turkish controlled portion of the island.
Cyprus was divided into two by a Turkish invasion in 1974. The Turks took the northern half of the Mediterranean island, while the Greeks maintained control of the southern half. In 2004, a U.N. effort to reunite the country was rebuffed by Greek Cypriots, leaving the country divided.
The “cordial” discussion between President Christofias and the Pope included the Cypriot leader illustrating the “condition of many churches and Christian buildings in the north of the island,” according to the Vatican.
A 2006 meeting between then-President Tassos Papadopoulos and Pope Benedict involved the president giving the Pontiff a large photo album featuring pictures of over 300 Orthodox churches destroyed by the Turks or used for secular and non-religious activities.
During today’s meeting, Benedict XVI and President Christofias expressed their mutual hope that the ongoing negotiations between the parties may reach a solution.
Ideas were also exchanged on the “international situation regarding, among other things, the continent of Africa.”
Finally, emphasis was given to “the importance of good relations between Catholics and Orthodox and between Catholics and Muslims, who are all called to work together for the good of society and for peaceful coexistence among peoples," the Vatican said.
According to 2001 census, 94.8 percent of the permanent population in the government-controlled area belongs to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Additionally, 0.5 percent of the population is Maronite Catholic, 0.3 percent Armenian Orthodox, 1.5 percent Roman Catholic, 1 percent Protestant and 0.6 percent Muslim.___________________________________________________________
VATICAN CITY, 27 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released the following communique:
“In the Vatican Apostolic Palace this morning, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience President Demetris Christofias of the Republic Cyprus. The president subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
“The cordial discussions focused on certain questions concerning the situation in country, and its future. For his part, President Christofias illustrated the condition of many churches and Christian buildings in the north of the island. The two sides expressed their mutual hope that the ongoing negotiations between the parties may reach a solution to the longstanding question of Cyprus.
“Ideas were also exchanged on the international situation regarding, among other things, the continent of Africa.
“Finally, emphasis was given to the importance of good relations between Catholics and Orthodox and between Catholics and Muslims, who are all called to work together for the good of society and for peaceful coexistence among peoples”.
Cyprus President: Turkish occupation responsible for cultural heritage’s destruction
Turkish occupation is responsible for the destruction of Cyprus' cultural heritage, President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has said, noting that Turkey must contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Speaking at the Larnaca Airport before his departure for an official visit to the Holy See, where he will meet with Pope Benedict XVI, President Christofias said that he would discuss, inter alia, the issue of the destruction of the cultural heritage of Cyprus.
He said that, Maronites and Latins living in the isladn are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and they, noting that Maronites live here for 1.200 years, while the Maronite Church in Cyprus is under the jurisdiction of the Holy See and the Maronite Archbishop, is confirmed by His Holiness the Pope.
President Christofias stressed that both he personally and the leadership of the Church of Cyprus have great interest in developing relations and dialogue between the Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Holy See.
Furthermore, he pointed out that “under the initiative of the Community of Sant’ Egidio,*** we had recently an interreligious, intercultural meeting, which focused on the common struggle for peace in the world”.
“It is therefore an important issue and because our cultural heritage is in danger and being destroyed, we
must explain the reasons why this is happening”, he said.
He noted that “the reason for the destruction of our cultural heritage lies in Turkish occupation,” adding that “it is a necessity for Turkey to give its assent so as to solve the Cyprus problem”.
“In this way”, he continued, “there will be a real restoration of our cultural heritage, which belongs to all of the people of Cyprus, even though some react to this».
A large part of Cyprus’ cultural heritage, some of which has been listed by UNESCO, continues to be under Turkish occupation since 1974. Many archaeological sites in occupied Cyprus have been either abandoned, neglected or destroyed.
The church of Sant'Egidio,
seat of the community of Sant'Egidio
***The Community of Sant'Egidio is a Christian community that is officially recognized by the Catholic Church as a "Church public lay association". It claims 50,000 members in more than 70 countries. Its main activities are: * Prayer, centered around a reading of the Bible * Spreading the Gospel to help people who are looking for a sense to their life. * Service to the poor, which is free and unpaid * Commitment to ecumenism (the Community of Sant'Egidio is also ecumenical, though being rooted in the Catholic Church) * Dialogue with members of other religions and non-believers. The Community of Sant'Egidio was founded in Rome in 1968 by a group of Roman high school students led by Andrea Riccardi. It is named after the Roman Church of Sant'Egidio (Italian for Saint Giles) in Trastevere, its first permanent meeting place. Since 1968, the community has gathered each night to pray and read from the Bible, reflecting on the Gospel, eventually spreading throughout the world with a mission of helping those in need. Their activities include setting up refuges for the old, hospices for AIDS patients, and printing a handbook titled "Where to Eat, Sleep, and Wash in Rome" as gifts to the homeless. The charitable efforts of Sant'Egidio also led it to be a well-regarded mediator of peace negotiations. In the late 1980s, the Community came to the realization that their humanitarian efforts in Mozambique, then torn by the Mozambican Civil War, could not succeed without peace. In 1990, the Community was accepted by the ruling FRELIMO and rebel Mozambican National Resistance as a mediator, playing a key role in the Rome General Peace Accords signed in 1992. They continue peace initiatives in Algeria (notably the 1995 Sant'Egidio Platform), the Balkans, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other areas, in the belief that war is the "mother of every poverty”. The community of Sant'Egidio shows its commitment against the Death penalty by maintaining penpalships with many Death convicts, collecting signatures for a moratorium of executions and inviting cities around the world to take part in the Cities for Life Day.