Pope Francis Highlights Refugee Crisis and History of Persecution During First Day of Trip to Cyprus

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By Jessica Easthope

Pope Francis acknowledged the division and history of persecution in Cyprus during the first day of his trip, Thursday. He shared hope that the island can heal as conflict in Cyprus lingers with borders reaching Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

“The greatest wound suffered by this land has been the terrible laceration it has endured in recent decades. I think of the deep suffering of all those people unable to return to their homes and their places of worship. I pray for your peace, for the peace of the entire island,” the Holy Father said.

Earlier in the day, he delivered a message to church officials in Cyprus following a visit to the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace, saying the church needs to move forward from past conflicts.

“It does little good to be impulsive and aggressive, nostalgic or querulous. Instead, it is good to move forward, reading the signs of the times as well as the signs of the crisis. We need to start proclaiming the Gospel with patience,” said Pope Francis.

All eyes are on the Holy Father as he makes his 35th international trip to Cyprus and Greece this week – but his focus is on the refugees, many of whom have been living in limbo for months and even years. Cyprus has the most refugees per capita than any other country in the European Union.

“It is a nice trip, but we will touch wounds. I hope that we will all be able to grasp the messages we find,” Pope Francis said, briefing journalists on the plane.

The Pontiff is encouraging other countries within the European Union to leave their borders open to refugees – even amid growing concern over the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The president of Cyprus confirmed, Thursday Pope Francis will take a group of 50 refugees from Cyprus and help relocate them in Italy.