Pope preaches peace on Cyprus

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday urged the Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus to show the «desire for harmony» that will allow a new round of peace talks to yield a solution. Arriving in Paphos for a three-day official visit – the first by a pope to Cyprus – Benedict said, «May the love of your families and the desire to live in harmony with your neighbors… inspire you patiently to resolve the remaining concerns, which you share with the international community, for the future of your island.» The pope was greeted in the southwestern resort by Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, who described the pontiff’s visit as «historic» and said, «Cyprus is in need of your words of peace, given the difficult situation the island is facing.» The pope also met with Cypriot Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who took the opportunity to condemn the occupation of the island’s north by Turkish troops. «Turkey has barbarously invaded and conquered by force of arms 37 percent of our homeland,» Chrysostomos said. He added that Ankara «remains focused on its shady plans which include the annexation of the land now under military occupation, and then a conquest of the whole of Cyprus.» The pope did not respond to the archbishop’s remarks. A Vatican spokesman said Benedict had not come to Cyprus to take a political stance. Chrysostomos also asked for the pope’s help in safeguarding Christian monuments, noting that artworks had been «ruthlessly sacked» by the Turks. Benedict’s trip had prompted threats of a boycott by traditional Orthodox clerics. Police were on standby yesterday to break up any protests but there were no reports of unrest.