Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catholics in Cyprus full of expectation for Pope’s visit

In preparation for the Pope’s apostolic visit to Cyprus this June, the Cypriot communications team for the visit has launched a new website to both prepare for the visit and report on it as it happens.

The Pope’s journey will take place from June 4-6.

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cyprus will be the first official papal visit to the island, which lies in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.

The Italian bishops' news agency SIR reports that the visit is being highly anticipated within the Catholic community.

There are between 7,000 and 13,000 Roman Catholics on the island and about 1,000 Maronite Catholics.

The website dedicated to the visit,, is a partner to that of the Maronite Eparchy of Cyprus.

On the site, viewers can learn about entry requirements, the languages spoken in Cyprus, the local currency, transportation and the medical system.

Greek and Turkish are the predominant languages on the island, though English is spoken widely and French and German are readily spoken by those within the tourist industry.

Statistics on the local Catholic community, as well as biographical information on the Pope are also available.

“The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cyprus will be a great opportunity to promote human and Christian principles and values, based on freedom, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace,” declares the site’s welcome page.


1 comment:

Maria said...

For the record please note that the number of Maronites in Cyprus is more than 6000 and not 1000 as stated in your blog
thank you and best regards
Maria Kokkinou - Boege

Overseas Cypriot Maronites Association

The Maronite Catholic community is of Lebanese origin, and has been present on the island since the 10th century. The community once flourished with a population of 80,000, occupying 64 villages in the occupied area ofNorthern Cyprus. The Maronites suffered persecution under the occupation of Ottomans in the 16th Century. At the time of British rule, the number of villages had been reduced to just four - Kormakitis, Agia Marina, Asomatos and Karpasha - and the population was a mere 1000. Today, the Maronites number around 6000 in Southern Cyprus, and are refugees from their homes, land, and churches.

As a result of the tragic events of 1974, the four Maronite villages and the Monastery of Prophet Elias are in a Turkish military zone. After the opening of the borders in 2004, of the four villages, only Kormakitis is freely accessible at all times. Access to Agia Marina is wholly prohibited as it is within the military zone and the village of Asomatos is only accessible on Sundays for the refugees to attend a church service for two – three hours. Many of the former Maronite properties in Karpasha village are occupied by Turkish military officers as their living quarters.

Our community faces a serious threat of assimilation into the Greek Orthodox community of Cyprus. For the many Maronites who sought refuge abroad after 1974, and despite the many efforts to bring the community closer together, including our own Association of Overseas Cypriot Maronites in the UK, it is now an inevitability that the younger generations will gradually be absorbed into the societies that they are living in. The Maronite Community is deeply rooted in the history of Cyprus, and is tragically on the verge of extinction.

Immediate action is required to facilitate the return of our community to the Maronite villages, in order to restore our vibrant cultural and religious identity to its former glory. The main obstacle to achieving this objective is the military presence in the occupied area of Northern Cyprus that prevents us not only from settling on our land and gathering in our churches, but also from visiting the villages that were once our homes and the centre of a thriving community. The monastery of Prophet Elias, formerly a centre point for all Maronites, is currently in an alarming state of repair, following bombing in 1974. Its restoration and regular use will be invaluable in bringing our Maronite community together.

As members of a minority community that has been caught in the middle of an international conflict, and whose customs and traditions have been scattered around the globe along with its members, we are asking for help and support in achieving these objectives. While we are Cypriots, we are also Europeans, and in this modern day, such sustained abuse of human rights cannot be accepted within the European Union, particularly in light of Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership. These objectives, we feel, are not only in the interests of protecting our precious community, but are also of great importance when negotiating a solution to the Cyprus Problem.