Speeches 2005-13 42610
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
 “Grace and peace to you in abundance” (1P 1,2). With great joy I salute you who represent the Christian communities present in Cyprus.
I thank His Beatitude Chrysostomos the Second for his gracious words of welcome, His Eminence Georgios, the Metropolitan of Paphos, our host, and all those who have helped to make this meeting possible. I am also pleased cordially to salute the Christians of other confessions present, including those of the Armenian, Lutheran and Anglican communities.
It is truly an extraordinary grace for us to gather together in prayer in this Church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa. We have just heard a reading from the Acts of the Apostles which reminds us that Cyprus was the first stage in the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul (cf. Ac 13,1-4). Set apart by the Holy Spirit, Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, and Mark, the future evangelist, first came to Salamis, where they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues. Traversing the island, they reached Paphos where, close to this very place, they preached in the presence of the Roman pro-consul Sergius Paulus. Thus it was from this place that the Gospel message began to spread throughout the Empire, and the Church, grounded in the apostolic preaching, was able to take root throughout the then-known world.
The Church in Cyprus can rightly be proud of her direct links to the preaching of Paul, Barnabas and Mark, and her communion in the apostolic faith, a communion which links her to all those Churches who preserve that same rule of faith. This is the communion, real yet imperfect, which already unites us, and which impels us to overcome our divisions and to strive for the restoration of that full visible unity which is the Lord’s will for all his followers. For, in Paul’s words, “there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ep 4,4-5).
The Church’s communion in the apostolic faith is both a gift and a summons to mission. In the passage from Acts which we have heard, we see an image of the Church’s unity in prayer, and her openness to the promptings of the Spirit of mission. Like Paul and Barnabas, every Christian, by baptism, is set apart to bear prophetic witness to the Risen Lord and to his Gospel of reconciliation, mercy and peace. In this context, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, due to meet in Rome next October, will reflect on the vital role of Christians in the region, encourage them in their witness to the Gospel, and help foster greater dialogue and cooperation between Christians throughout the region. Significantly, the labours of the Synod will be enriched by the presence of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Christian communities in the region, as a sign of our common commitment to the service of God’s word and our openness to the power of his reconciling grace.
The unity of all Christ’s disciples is a gift to be implored from the Father in the hope that it will strengthen the witness to the Gospel in today’s world. The Lord prayed for the holiness and unity of his disciples precisely so that the world might believe (cf. Jn 17,21). Just a hundred years ago, at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, the acute awareness that divisions between Christians were an obstacle to the spread of the Gospel gave birth to the modern ecumenical movement. Today we can be grateful to the Lord, who through his Spirit has led us, especially in these last decades, to rediscover the rich apostolic heritage shared by East and West, and in patient and sincere dialogue to find ways of drawing closer to one another, overcoming past controversies, and looking to a better future.
The Church in Cyprus, which serves as a bridge between East and West, has contributed much to this process of reconciliation. The path leading to the goal of full communion will certainly not be without its difficulties, yet the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus are committed to advancing in the way of dialogue and fraternal cooperation. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds and strengthen our resolve, so that together we can bring the message of salvation to the men and women of our time, who thirst for the truth that brings authentic freedom and salvation (cf. Jn 8,32), the truth whose name is Jesus Christ!
Dear sisters and brothers, I cannot conclude without evoking the memory of the saints who have adorned the Church in Cyprus, and in particular Saint Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis. Sanctity is the sign of the fullness of Christian life, a profound inner docility to the Holy Spirit who calls us to constant conversion and renewal as we strive to be ever more conformed to Christ our Saviour. Conversion and holiness are also the privileged means by which we open our minds and hearts to the Lord’s will for the unity of his Church. As we give thanks for this meeting and for the fraternal affection which unites us, let us ask Saints Barnabas and Epiphanius, Saints Peter and Paul, and all God’s holy ones, to bless our communities, to preserve us in the faith of the Apostles, and to guide our steps along the way of unity, charity and peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful that, as part of my Apostolic Journey to Cyprus, I have this opportunity to meet with the political and civil authorities of the Republic, as well as the members of the diplomatic community. I thank President Christofias for the gracious words of greeting which he expressed in your name and I willingly reciprocate with my own respectful good wishes for your important work, recalling in particular the happy occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Republic’s Constitution.
I have just laid a wreath at the memorial of the late Archbishop Makarios, the first President of the Republic of Cyprus. Like him, each of you in your lives of public service must be committed to serving the good of others in society, whether at the local, national or international level. This is a noble vocation which the Church esteems. When carried out faithfully, public service enables us to grow in wisdom, integrity and personal fulfilment. Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics gave great importance to such fulfilment – eudemonia - as a goal for every human being, and saw in moral character the way to reach that goal. For them, and for the great Islamic and Christian philosophers who followed in their footsteps, the practice of virtue consisted in acting in accordance with right reason, in the pursuit of all that is true, good and beautiful.
From a religious perspective, we are members of a single human family created by God and we are called to foster unity and to build a more just and fraternal world based on lasting values. In so far as we fulfil our duty, serve others and adhere to what is right, our minds become more open to deeper truths and our freedom grows strong in its allegiance to what is good. My predecessor Pope John Paul II once wrote that moral obligation should not be seen as a law imposing itself from without and demanding obedience, but rather as an expression of God’s own wisdom to which human freedom readily submits (cf. Veritatis Splendor VS 41). As human beings we find our ultimate fulfilment in reference to that Absolute Reality whose reflection is so often encountered in our conscience as a pressing invitation to serve truth, justice and love.
At a personal level, you as public servants know the importance of truth, integrity and respect in your relationships with others. Personal relationships are often the first steps towards building trust and – in due course – solid bonds of friendship between individuals, peoples and nations. This is an essential part of your role, both as politicians and diplomats. In countries with delicate political situations, such honest and open personal relationships can be the beginning of a much greater good for entire societies and peoples. Let me encourage all of you, present here today, to seize the opportunities afforded you, both personally and institutionally, to build these relationships and, in so doing, to foster the greater good of the concert of nations and the true good of those whom you represent.
The ancient Greek philosophers also teach us that the common good is served precisely by the influence of people endowed with clear moral insight and courage. In this way, policies become purified of selfish interests or partisan pressures and are placed on a more solid basis. Furthermore, the legitimate aspirations of those whom we represent are protected and fostered. Moral rectitude and impartial respect for others and their well-being are essential to the good of any society since they establish a climate of trust in which all human interactions, whether religious, or economic, social and cultural, or civil and political, acquire strength and substance.
But what does it mean in practical terms to respect and promote moral truth in the world of politics and diplomacy on the national and international levels? How can the pursuit of truth bring greater harmony to the troubled regions of the earth? I would suggest that it can be done in three ways.
Firstly, promoting moral truth means acting responsibly on the basis of factual knowledge. As diplomats, you know from experience that such knowledge helps you identify injustices and grievances, so as to consider dispassionately the concerns of all involved in a given dispute. When parties rise above their own particular view of events, they acquire an objective and comprehensive vision. Those who are called to resolve such disputes are able to make just decisions and promote genuine reconciliation when they grasp and acknowledge the full truth of a specific question.
A second way of promoting moral truth consists in deconstructing political ideologies which would supplant the truth. The tragic experiences of the twentieth century have laid bare the inhumanity which follows from the suppression of truth and human dignity. In our own day, we are witnessing attempts to promote supposed values under the guise of peace, development and human rights. In this sense, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, I called attention to attempts in some quarters to reinterpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by giving satisfaction to particular interests which would compromise the Declaration’s inner unity and move away from its original intent (cf. Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 18 April 2008).
Thirdly, promoting moral truth in public life calls for a constant effort to base positive law upon the ethical principles of natural law. An appeal to the latter was once considered self-evident, but the tide of positivism in contemporary legal theory requires the restatement of this important axiom. Individuals, communities and states, without guidance from objectively moral truths, would become selfish and unscrupulous and the world a more dangerous place to live. On the other hand, by being respectful of the rights of persons and peoples we protect and promote human dignity. When the policies we support are enacted in harmony with the natural law proper to our common humanity, then our actions become more sound and conducive to an environment of understanding, justice and peace.
Mr President, distinguished friends, with these considerations I reaffirm my esteem and that of the Church for your important service to society and to the building of a secure future for our world. I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and perseverance in the fulfilment of your duties. Thank you.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
 It gives me great joy to be with you, the representatives of the Catholic community in Cyprus.
I thank Archbishop Soueif for his kind words of welcome on your behalf and I thank in a special way the children for their beautiful presentation. I also greet His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, and salute the great and patient work of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in the person of Father Pizzaballa, here with us today.
On this historic occasion of the first visit of the Bishop of Rome to Cyprus, I come to confirm you in your faith in Jesus Christ and to encourage you to remain of one heart and one soul in fidelity to the apostolic tradition (cf. Ac 4,32). As the Successor of Peter, I stand among you today to offer you the assurance of my support, my affectionate prayers and my encouragement.
We have just heard from the Gospel of John how some Greeks, who had learned of the great works which Jesus was performing, approached the Apostle Philip and said, “We wish to see Jesus” (cf. Jn 12,21). These words touch all of us deeply. Like the men and women in the Gospel, we wish to see Jesus, to know him, to love and to serve him, with “one heart and soul”.
Furthermore, like the voice from heaven in today’s Gospel which testified to the glory of God’s name, the Church proclaims his name not simply for her own sake, but for the good of humanity as a whole (cf. Jn 12,30). You too, Christ’s followers of today, are called to live your faith in the world by adding your voices and actions to the promotion of the Gospel values handed down to you by generations of Cypriot Christians. These values, deeply embedded in your own culture as well as in the patrimony of the universal Church, should continue to inspire your efforts to promote peace, justice and respect for human life and the dignity of your fellow citizens. In this way, your fidelity to the Gospel will surely benefit all Cypriot society.
Dear brothers and sisters, given your unique circumstances, I would also like to draw your attention to an essential part of our Church’s life and mission, namely the search for greater unity in charity with other Christians and dialogue with those who are not Christians. Especially since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has been committed to advancing along the path of greater understanding with our fellow Christians with a view to ever stronger ties of love and fellowship among all the baptized. Given your circumstances, you are able to make your personal contribution to the goal of greater Christian unity in your daily lives. Let me encourage you to do so, confident that the Spirit of the Lord, who prayed that his followers might be one (cf. Jn 17,21), will accompany you in this important task.
With regard to interreligious dialogue, much still needs to be done throughout the world. This is another area where Catholics in Cyprus often live in circumstances which afford them opportunities for right and prudent action. Only by patient work can mutual trust be built, the burden of history overcome, and the political and cultural differences between peoples become a motive to work for deeper understanding. I urge you to help create such mutual trust between Christians and non-Christians as a basis for building lasting peace and harmony between peoples of different religions, political regions and cultural backgrounds.
Dear friends, I would invite you to look to the profound communion that you already share among yourselves and with the Catholic Church throughout the world. With regard to the immediate needs of the Church, I encourage you to pray for and to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As this Year for Priests draws to a close, the Church has gained a renewed awareness of the need for good, holy and well-formed priests. She needs men and women religious completely committed to Christ and to the spread of God’s reign on earth. Our Lord has promised that those who lay down their lives in imitation of him will keep them for eternal life (cf. Jn 12,25). I ask parents to ponder this promise and to encourage their children to respond generously to the Lord’s call. I urge pastors to attend to the young, to their needs and aspirations, and to form them in the fullness of the faith.
Here in this Catholic school, let me also address a word to those working in the Catholic schools of the island, especially the teachers. Your work is part of a long and esteemed tradition of the Catholic Church in Cyprus. Continue patiently to serve the good of the whole community by striving for educational excellence. May the Lord bless you abundantly in the sacred trust which is the formation of almighty God’s most precious gift to us - our children.
I now address a special word to you, my dear young Catholics of Cyprus.  Be strong in your faith, joyful in God’s service and generous with your time and talents! Help to build a better future for the Church and for your country in placing the good of others before your own.
Dear Catholics of Cyprus, foster your own harmony in communion with the universal Church and with the Successor of Peter, and build up your fraternal bonds with each other in faith, hope and love.
In a special way, I wish to consign this message to those present who come from Kormakiti, Asomatos, Karpasha, and Agia Marina. I know of your desires and sufferings, and I ask you to carry my blessing, my closeness, and my affection to all who come from your villages, where Christians are a people of hope. For my part, I fervently hope and pray that with the commitment of good will of those concerned, a better life for all the inhabitants of the island will be speedily assured.
With these few words, I entrust all of you to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the intercession of Saints Paul and Barnabas.
God bless you all!
 I greet you with fraternal affection in the Risen Lord and I thank you for your gracious welcome.
I recall with gratitude your visit to Rome three years ago, and I rejoice that today we meet again in your beloved homeland. Through you, I greet the Holy Synod, and all the priests, deacons, monks, nuns and lay faithful of the Church of Cyprus.
Before all else, I wish to express my gratitude for the hospitality which the Church of Cyprus so generously offered to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue on the occasion of its meeting last year in Paphos. I am likewise grateful for the support that the Church of Cyprus, through the clarity and openness of her contributions, has always given to the work of the dialogue. May the Holy Spirit guide and confirm this great ecclesial undertaking, which aims at restoring full and visible communion between the Churches of East and West, a communion to be lived in fidelity to the Gospel and the apostolic tradition, esteem for the legitimate traditions of East and West, and openness to the diversity of gifts by which the Spirit builds up the Church in unity, holiness and peace.
This spirit of fraternity and communion also found expression in the generous contribution which Your Beatitude sent in the name of the Church of Cyprus for those suffering from last year’s earthquake in L’Aquila, near Rome, whose needs are close to my heart. In that same spirit, I now join you in praying that all the inhabitants of Cyprus, with God’s help, will find the wisdom and strength needed to work together for a just settlement of issues remaining to be resolved, to strive for peace and reconciliation, and to build for future generations a society distinguished by respect for the rights of all, including the inalienable rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of worship.
Cyprus is traditionally considered part of the Holy Land, and the situation of continuing conflict in the Middle East must be a source of concern to all Christ’s followers. No one can remain indifferent to the need to support in every way possible the Christians of that troubled region, so that its ancient Churches can live in peace and flourish. The Christian communities of Cyprus can find a most fruitful area for ecumenical cooperation in praying and working together for peace, reconciliation and stability in the lands blessed by the earthly presence of the Prince of Peace.
With these sentiments, Your Beatitude, I thank you once more for your fraternal welcome, and I assure you of my prayers for you and for all the clergy and faithful of the Church of Cyprus.
 May the joy of the Risen Christ be always with you!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I thank Archbishop Eterovic for his kind words, and I renew my greetings to all of you who have come here in connection with the launch of the forthcoming Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. I thank you for all the work that has been accomplished already in anticipation of the Synodal Assembly, and I promise you the support of my prayers as you enter this final phase of preparation.
Before I begin, it is only fitting that I recall the late Bishop Luigi Padovese who, as President of the Turkish Catholic Bishops, contributed to the preparation of the Instrumentum Laboris that I am consigning to you today. News of his unforeseen and tragic death on Thursday surprised and shocked all of us. I entrust his soul to the mercy of almighty God, mindful of how committed he was, especially as a bishop, to interreligious and cultural understanding, and to dialogue between the Churches. His death is a sobering reminder of the vocation that all Christians share, to be courageous witnesses in every circumstance to what is good, noble and just.
The motto chosen for the Assembly speaks to us of communion and witness, and it reminds us how the members of the early Christian community “were of one heart and soul”. At the centre of the Church’s unity is the Eucharist, Christ’s inestimable gift to his people and the focus of our liturgical celebration today on this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood. So it is not without significance that the date chosen for the Instrumentum Laboris of the Special Assembly to be consigned should be today.
The Middle East has a special place in the hearts of all Christians, since it was there that God first made himself known to our fathers in faith. From the time when Abraham set out from Ur of the Chaldeans in obedience to the Lord’s call, right up until the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s saving work was accomplished through particular individuals and peoples in your homelands. Since then, the message of the Gospel has spread all over the world, but Christians everywhere continue to look to the Middle East with special reverence, on account of the prophets and patriarchs, apostles and martyrs to whom we owe so much, the men and women who heard God’s word, bore witness to it, and handed it on to us who belong to the great family of the Church.
The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, convoked at your request, will endeavour to deepen the bonds of communion between the members of your local Churches, as well as the communion of the Churches themselves with each other and with the universal Church. This Assembly also wishes to encourage you in the witness of faith in Christ that you are bearing in the countries where this faith was born and developed. It is likewise well known that some of you endure great trials due to the current situation in the region. The Special Assembly is an opportunity for Christians in the rest of the world to offer spiritual support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East. It is an opportunity to bring out the important value of the presence and witness of Christians in the countries of the Bible, not only for the Christian community on a global scale but also for your neighbours and your fellow-citizens. You contribute in countless ways to the common good, for example through education, care of the sick and social assistance and you work to build society. You wish to live in peace and harmony with your Jewish and Muslim neighbours. You often act as peacemakers in the difficult process of reconciliation. You deserve recognition for the incalculable role you fulfil. I seriously hope that all your rights will be increasingly respected, including the right to freedom of worship and religious freedom, and that you will no longer suffer discrimination of any kind.
I pray that the work of the Special Assembly will help to focus the attention of the international community on the plight of those Christians in the Middle East who suffer for their beliefs, so that just and lasting solutions may be found to the conflicts that cause so much hardship. On this grave matter, I reiterate my personal appeal for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed.
With these thoughts, I now present to you the text of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. God bless your work abundantly! God bless all the peoples of the Middle East!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am very pleased to make this visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Graces. I thank Archbishop Youssef Soueif for his kind words of welcome on behalf of the Maronite community in Cyprus, and I cordially greet all of you with the words of the Apostle: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co 1,3)!
As I visit this building, in my heart I make a spiritual pilgrimage to every Maronite church of the island. Be assured that, moved by a father’s care, I am close to all the faithful of those ancient communities.
This Cathedral church in some way represents the very long and rich – and sometimes turbulent - history of the Maronite community in Cyprus. Maronites came to these shores at various times throughout the centuries and were often hard-pressed to remain faithful to their distinct Christian heritage. Nevertheless, in spite of their faith being tested like gold in a fire (cf. 1P 1,7), they remained constant in the faith of their fathers, a faith which has now been passed on to you, the Maronite Cypriots of today. I urge you to treasure this great inheritance, this precious gift.
This Cathedral building also reminds us of an important spiritual truth. Saint Peter tells us that we Christians are the living stones which are being “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1P 2,4-5). Together with Christians throughout the world, we are part of that great temple which is the Mystical Body of Christ. Our spiritual worship, offered in many tongues, in many places and in a beautiful variety of liturgies, is an expression of the one voice of the People of God, united in praise and thanksgiving to him and in enduring communion with each other. This communion, which we hold so dear, impels us to carry the Good News of our new life in Christ to all mankind.
 This is the charge I leave with you today: I pray that your Church, in union with all your pastors and with the Bishop of Rome, may grow in holiness, in fidelity to the Gospel and in love for the Lord and for one another.
Commending you and your families, and especially your beloved children to the intercession of Saint Maron, I willingly impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The time has now come for me to leave you, after my brief but fruitful Apostolic Journey to Cyprus.
Mr President, I thank you for your kind words and I am happy to express my gratitude to you for all that you, your Government and the civil and military authorities have done to make my visit such a memorable and successful one.
As I depart your shores, like many pilgrims before me I am reminded again of how the Mediterranean is made up of a rich mosaic of peoples with their distinctive cultures and their beauty, their warmth and their humanity. In spite of that reality, the Eastern Mediterranean is at the same time no stranger to conflict and bloodshed, as we have tragically witnessed in recent days. Let us all redouble our efforts to build a real and lasting peace for all the peoples of the region.
Together with that general objective, Cyprus can play a particular role in promoting dialogue and cooperation. Striving patiently for the peace of your own hearths and for the prosperity of your neighbours, you will then be well placed to hear and understand all sides of many complex issues, and to help peoples to come to a greater understanding of one another. The path that you are taking, Mr President, is one which the international community looks to with great interest and hope, and I note with satisfaction all the efforts that have been made to favour peace for your people and for the whole island of Cyprus.
As I give thanks to God for these days which saw the first encounter of the Catholic community in Cyprus with the Successor of Peter on their own soil, I also recall with gratitude my meetings with other Christian leaders, in particular with His Beatitude Chrysostomos the Second and the other representatives of the Church of Cyprus, whom I thank for their brotherly welcome. I hope that my visit here will be seen as another step along the path that was opened up before us by the embrace in Jerusalem of the late Patriarch Athenagoras and my venerable predecessor Pope Paul the Sixth. Their first prophetic steps together show us the road that we too must tread. We have a divine call to be brothers, walking side by side in the faith, humble before almighty God, and with unbreakable bonds of affection for one another. As I invite my fellow Christians to continue this journey, I would assure them that the Catholic Church, with the Lord’s grace, will herself pursue the goal of perfect unity in charity through an ever deepening appreciation of what Catholics and Orthodox hold dearest.
Let me also express again my sincere hope and prayer that, together, Christians and Muslims will become a leaven for peace and reconciliation among Cypriots and serve as an example to other countries.
Finally, Mr President, let me encourage you and your Government in your high responsibilities. As you well know, among your most important tasks is that of assuring the peace and security of all Cypriots. Having stayed these past nights in the Apostolic Nunciature, which happens to be in the United Nations buffer zone, I have seen for myself something of the sad division of the island, as well as learning of the loss of a significant part of a cultural heritage which belongs to all humanity. I have also listened to Cypriots from the north who wish to return in peace to their homes and places of worship, and I have been deeply moved by their pleas. Surely truth and reconciliation, together with respect, are the soundest foundation for the united and peaceful future of this island, and for the stability and prosperity of all her people. Much good has been achieved in this regard through substantive dialogue in recent years, though much remains to be done to overcome divisions. Let me encourage you and your fellow citizens to work patiently and steadfastly with your neighbours to build a better and more certain future for all your children. As you do so, be assured of my prayers for the peace of all Cyprus.
Speeches 2005-13 42610