This morning, Pope Benedict XVI landed on Cyprus, a Mediterranean island located south of Turkey and west of Syria and Lebanon. Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, welcomed the Holy Father at 2pm local time.
The country's president, Orthodox clergy, politicians and select Roman Catholic faithful were among those present for the welcoming ceremony at Paphos International Airport.
Catholic News Service
's Vatican Correspondent, Cindy Wooden, was among those journalists aboard the Holy Father's flight to Cyprus. Upon landing, Cindy told S+L that en route to Cyrus, the Holy Father addressed the murder of the bishop
in Turkey yesterday saying that it was neither politically nor religiously motivated and that we should not allow this event to affect Muslim-Christian relations; particularly in light of the current political climate surrounding the Holy Father's visit to Cyprus.
After landing, the Holy Father thanked the country's officials for having welcomed him so warmly and for the opportunities for dialogue that this weekend presents. "Following in the footsteps of our common fathers in the faith, Saints Paul and Barnabas, I have come among you as a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God. Since the Apostles brought the Christian message to these shores, Cyprus has been blessed by a resilient Christian heritage," Pope Benedict said in his welcome address this morning before heading for the Church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa in Paphos for an Ecumenical celebration at the Church's archaeological site.
Here is the complete text of the Holy Father's address at the Paphos airport:
Your Beatitude Chrysostomos,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greetings! Peace be with you! It is a great pleasure to be with you today.
Mr President, I am grateful for the kind invitation to visit the Republic of Cyprus. I express my cordial greetings to you and to the Government and people of this nation, and thank you for your gracious words of welcome. I also recall with gratitude your recent visit to the Vatican and look forward to our meeting tomorrow in Nicosia.
Cyprus stands at the crossroads of cultures and religions, of histories both proud and ancient but which still retain a strong and visible impact upon the life of your country. Having recently acceded to the European Union, the Republic of Cyprus is beginning to witness the benefit of closer economic and political ties with other European states. Membership has already given your country access to markets, technology and know-how. It is greatly to be hoped that membership will lead to prosperity at home and that other Europeans in their turn will be enriched by your spiritual and cultural heritage which reflects your historical role, standing between Europe, Asia and Africa. May the love of your homeland and of your families and the desire to live in harmony with your neighbours under the compassionate protection of almighty God, inspire you patiently to resolve the remaining concerns that you share with the international community for the future of your island.
Following in the footsteps of our common fathers in the faith, Saints Paul and Barnabas, I have come among you as a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God. Since the Apostles brought the Christian message to these shores, Cyprus has been blessed by a resilient Christian heritage. I greet as a brother in that faith His Beatitude Chrysostomos the Second, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, and I look forward shortly to meeting many more members of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.
I also look forward to greeting other Cypriot religious leaders. I hope to strengthen our common bonds and to reiterate the need to build up mutual trust and lasting friendship between all those who worship the one God.
As the Successor of Peter, I come in a special way to greet the Catholics of Cyprus, to confirm them in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) and to encourage them to be both exemplary Christians and exemplary citizens, and to play a full role in society, to the benefit of both Church and state.
During my stay with you, I will also consign the Instrumentum Laboris, a working document in view of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops to be held later this year in Rome. That Assembly will examine many aspects of the Church’s presence in the region and the challenges that Catholics face, sometimes in trying circumstances, in living out their communion within the Catholic Church and offering their witness in the service of society and the world. Cyprus is thus an appropriate place in which to launch our Church’s reflection on the place of the centuries-old Catholic community in the Middle East, our solidarity with all the Christians of the region and our conviction that they have an irreplaceable role to play in peace and reconciliation among its peoples.
Mr President, dear friends, with these thoughts, I entrust my pilgrimage to Mary, the Mother of God, and to the intercession of Saints Paul and Barnabas.
May God bless the people of Cyprus. May the All-Holy [Virgin] protect you always!