NEWS

Pope welcomed in Cyprus; sends greetings to Greek president

pope-welcomed-in-cyprus-sends-greetings-to-greek-president

Pope Francis arrived on Cyprus on Thursday with a focus on inter-faith dialogue and lending his support to a country on one of the frontlines of Europe’s migration crisis.

“It will be a beautiful trip but we will touch some wounds. I hope that we all will be able to gather up the messages given to us,” Pope Francis told journalists on the aircraft.

Young children waving flags of Cyprus and the Vatican welcomed Francis at Larnaca airport, and three young girls in Cypriot traditional dress gave him bouquets of flowers.

Cyprus says it is struggling to cope with an influx of undocumented migrants, either through a dividing line splitting the island, or by boats from the neighbouring Middle East.

Francis, who has made defence of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy, has arranged to have 50 migrants relocated to Italy after his trip this week.

As the airplane he was travelling on entered Greek airspace en route to Cyprus, the pope sent a telegram to President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

pope-welcomed-in-cyprus-sends-greetings-to-greek-president0

“As I fly through Greek airspace during my apostolic visit to Cyprus, I offer prayerful best wishes to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens. Looking forward with great pleasure to my imminent visit to the Republic, I invoke God’s blessings upon all.”

Francis, who will travel on to Greece on December 4, was to meet with Cyprus’s president on Thursday as well as with the Maronite Church. On Friday he is scheduled to perform mass at an open-air stadium and later hold an “ecumenical prayer” with migrants at a Catholic Church in the divided capital. [Reuters, Kathimerini]