Nicosia, Cyprus, Sep 1, 2021 / 02:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis will visit Cyprus in December, according to a local official.
The Associated Press reported on Aug. 31 that an official said that the visit would take place on Dec. 2-3 and include a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
The Vatican has not confirmed the trip. But in an interview broadcast on Sept. 1, the pope said he hoped to visit the eastern Mediterranean island nation, which has a population of around 875,000 people, including approximately 10,000 Catholics.
The pope told Spain’s COPE radio station that since his election in 2013, he had chosen to visit “small countries in Europe.”
“First it was Albania and then all the countries that were small. Now Slovakia is on the program, then Cyprus, Greece, and Malta. I wanted to take that option: first to the smaller countries,” he said.
It is unclear whether a papal trip to Cyprus would be combined with a visit to neighboring Greece and Malta, an archipelago also located in the Mediterranean Sea.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told AP: “Some trip hypotheses are under study for the autumn but it’s premature to speak about them.”
In the interview, the pope also confirmed his intention to visit Glasgow, Scotland, for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, taking place on Oct. 30-Nov. 12.
“Yes, in principle the program is that I go,” he said. “It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there.”
Francis would be the second pope to travel to Cyprus, a majority Orthodox Christian country, after Benedict XVI, who visited the island on June 4-6, 2010.
If the trip is confirmed for Dec. 2-3, the pope would be arriving shortly after the feast of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, when the pope traditionally sends a greeting to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians.
The Cypriot president met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Nov. 18, 2019. Afterward, Anastasiades said that he had invited the pope to visit the island in 2020, the 60th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus and 10 years since Benedict’s visit. But the trip did not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Local media suggested that a papal visit to Cyprus would also include a meeting with Orthodox leader Chrysostomos II of Cyprus and an encounter with the Catholic community at a stadium.
Cyprus was the first stop on St. Paul’s inaugural missionary journey, as described in Acts 13:4-12. St. Barnabus, a companion of St. Paul, is the country’s patron saint.
The island is divided between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who live in the northeastern part of the island, on one side of a United Nations buffer zone. International efforts to resolve the dispute are ongoing.
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