Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

Holy Father,

It is the highest honour for the State, for myself personally and for the entire people of Cyprus, to welcome you today to the Republic of Cyprus.

Your visit, the second official one of a Primate of the Roman Catholic Church, to our country, constitutes a historic moment, brings feelings of great emotion and at the same time sincere joy.

Cyprus was defined as a stop in the footsteps of the great missionaries and one of the first links in the Christian chain, and determined the route of Christianity.

At the same time, our hospitable island has always been a point of peaceful encounter between peoples and part of a wider geographical area, in which cultures and religions are in a constant dialectic relationship, interweaving a diverse and multicultural environment.

At a time filled with challenges and many problems that plague mankind, your presence here today sends messages of inspiration, courage and also hope.

Messages similar to those also targeted by the multifaceted international diplomatic and wider activity of the Holy See.

An irreversible multifaceted activity based on a series of initiatives it undertakes and implements, with the main objective of:
• The peaceful coexistence of citizens regardless of their diversity, race, religion or gender.
• The promotion of the dialogue between states, religions and cultures.
• Good and harmonious neighbourly relations.
• The peaceful resolution of bilateral or multilateral disputes, without the use of force and military power.

It is in this long tradition and contribution that the Holy See has established over time, the important role it plays internationally. A role that your Holiness has strengthened through pastoral work, bearing your own seal in its course.

A seal that reflects the particular care you have shown, immediately after your election, in the reform and renewal of the Church, through the reorientation of the theological and cultural character of Catholicism.

With a deep commitment to Christianity, you promoted and promote the principles and values it stands for, in response to any form of blind fanaticism and intolerance. Principles and values that go beyond the individual and nationalist interest and create a anthropocentric society.

And the characterization that is rightly attributed to you as “the Pope of the Poor”, Holy Father, is not accidental, since it is proven through your actions, your special sensitivity and care towards the preservation and support of our distressed fellow human beings worldwide, beyond any religion and origin.

Indicative of your clear vision is the importance you attach to a human and tolerant Christianity, as a powerful means for the prevalence of the values of peace, solidarity and brotherhood between peoples.

A vision that aims to:
• The defence of human rights.
• The eradication of poverty and the achievement of a sustainable development for the benefit of vulnerable population groups.
• The fight against terrorism, religious fundamentalism and racism.
• The violent displacement of millions of people.
• The management of climate change.

Holy Father,

I would like to assure you that we, as the Republic of Cyprus, share the same vision, by achieving – through the contributions, proposals, and the important spectrum of regional cooperation that we are developing – to make Cyprus a strong pillar of stability, security, peaceful coexistence and prosperity in our region.

At the same time we share your deep concern about the imminent environmental disaster, as reflected, among other things, in your Circular “Laudato si” [let it be blessed].

Recognizing the consequences of climate change, we have taken a regional initiative aimed at bringing together leading scientists and decision-makers from the countries of the region, aiming at developing practical and feasible solutions that will reduce or eliminate the risks of a potential disaster.

Holy Father,

During your recent visit to the Jesuit reception centre in Rome, you reported to the migrants and refugees living there: “You know well what it means to live without rights and freedom. Very often you are faced with total lack of humanity and indifference”.

The people of Cyprus have lived through to the greatest extent and are well aware of the pain of uprooting and becoming refugees from their ancestral homes.

As is characteristically mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, it is in Cyprus that the persecuted students also found refuge, after the stoning of the First Martyr Stefanos.

Just as your philosophy “We accept, protect, promote and integrat”’, as Government we show full respect for the protection of the human rights of immigrants.

However, I must confess that Cyprus became the first country of destination, in proportion to the population in receiving refugees, but also large flows of illegal immigrants, through the occupied areas, facing excessive difficulties in managing them and in managing the demographic composition.

It is for this reason that as state, we would like to express our gratitude for the initiative to transfer 50 immigrants from Cyprus to Italy. And I warmly thank you for this.

Your symbolic initiative is, above all, a strong signal for the necessity and the necessary revision of the EU’s migration policy, so that both the management of the problem and the living of immigrants in the Member States can become more equitable.

Holy Father,

It is an irreconcilable fact, from what I have just mentioned, that we share common concerns and visions. The Holy See and the Republic of Cyprus, since the establishment of our official diplomatic relations in 1973, have been working constructively on a number of issues.

Our strong will and ambition, as I pointed out to you during my visits to the Holy Chair in 2014 and 2019, was and remains the further strengthening and deepening of the excellent links that characterise our bilateral relations and our mutually beneficial cooperation.

The decision taken by the Council of Ministers last week to lease state land to the Vatican Government for the construction of an embassy in Nicosia is also part of this framework.

Holy Father,

As noted, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, in the “Common Message for the Protection of Creation”, you issued with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury:

“The rapid spread of the infection meant that we depended on each other in our efforts to remain safe,” and continue by suggesting that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” because “by our actions we really influence each other”.

If something has been demonstrated by the coronavirus pandemic, it is that the impact of both this or other such crises goes beyond state borders, so it is of the utmost importance that coordinated action be taken at international level and a common path in a spirit of solidarity and fraternity.

Holy Father,

I could not but mention the problem that my little country, the Republic of Cyprus, is facing and in which, I am pleased to see that you are very interested.

Unfortunately, the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Latins and Armenians, have been suffering for 47 years as a result of the Turkish invasion and continued occupation of 36 % of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

I couldn't help but mention the presence of 35,000 Turkish occupying troops, the displacement and of 170 000 Greek Cypriot refugees, including members of the island’s religious groups.

I couldn't help but mention the drama and the anguish of the relatives of those who are still missing.

Nor, of course, knowing your sensitivities, would I omit the reference to the desecration of cultural and religious monuments in the occupied territories, which brutally violate the universal principles of humanity.

Holy Father,

Two years ago in Abu Dhabi, together with the Great Imam of Al-Azhar, you spoke “in the name of the peoples who lost their security, peace and the ability to live together, falling victims of the destruction of war”, thus sending a strong message for brotherhood to prevail between states and peoples for the sake of peace.

In this direction for 47 years, despite the painful retreats of the Greek Cypriot community, the determination and political will that we have demonstrated in order to achieve a functioning and sustainable solution that would lead to a state fully in line with the European ideals, to a state free of occupation troops, anachronistic guarantees or dependencies of others, unfortunately, due to Turkish intransigence, we remain the only divided country in Europe.

The worst, Holy Father, is that despite the United Nations Resolutions, the interventions of the international community and the EU, instead of achieving the reunification of our homeland, which is the desired solution, we observe an exacerbation of Turkish intransigence which, by abandoning the basis of a solution as the United Nations Resolutions dictate, seek to consolidate partition by demanding the creation of two independent states.

An intransigence that manifests itself through an unprecedented aggression that leads to the questioning of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, whether on the ground or at sea, on the one hand by violating the protection status of the enclosed city of Famagusta and on the other by violating the international law of the sea, challenging 40 % of the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, to the detriment not only of Greek Cypriots, including religious groups, but also of Turkish Cypriots, and generally the whole of our people.

At the same time, we observe a further militarisation of the occupied areas and a rhetoric that Cyprus is allegedly part of the Ottoman Empire.

Holy Father,

As recently, in the context of the Interreligious Meeting on Peace, you said: “We cannot allow the lives of entire peoples to become merely pawns in a power game”.

Allow me to add that we cannot allow the arrogance created by the power of the strong to adapt the international law to narrow state interests.

What I would like to assure you is that, despite Turkey’s intransigent attitude over time, we will continue our struggle for the restoration of human rights and the rule of peace and fraternity between all the people, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, and all our brothers of the Maronite, Latin and Armenian religious groups on the island.

Our vision is to make Cyprus a model of a state of peaceful coexistence and co-creation, successfully overcoming a traumatic past, with full respect for the human rights

A truly sovereign and independent state in which democratic institutions, human rights, the principles and values of the European ideal and the United Nations are applied and respected.

Holy Father,

Your globally accepted leadership and Your presence here stimulates and strengthens our efforts to solve our national problem.

In addition to the decisive attitude we expect from the international community, we look forward, and we are confident of this, to the support of the Holy See and to your own, personal, strong intervention, in order to achieve a fair, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus issue.

We believe in your intervention as a Spiritual Leader, as a Man dedicated to the rule of world peace,

Holy Father,

Today, perhaps more than ever before, the international community, international relations, political and social life need real ethical values and standards, which will effectively contribute to improving and promoting transnational, inter-religious, inter-social and interhuman relations.

In the midst of generalised decline, individualism, materialism as well as moral degradation and obsolescence, your wider action goes back to the most powerful model.

Your coming from Rome to Cyprus, from the land where the tomb of Apostle Peter and the tomb of Apostle Paul lie, to the land where the tomb of the Apostle Varnavas lies, the land where they walked and taught together the principles and values of Christianity, is of high symbolism.

Symbolism that guides our path in their own steps.

Supporting each other by faith, as they did, we must continue to work with full devotion in order to achieve our common goals for the future of Christianity, Europe and the whole of humanity, regardless of religious beliefs.

Only a few days before the great celebration of Christianity, at a time when divisions, tensions and conflicts are afflicting our world, let us see the newborn Christ in the face of every persecuted and afflicted person, every man next to us.

Holy Father,

I feel the need to express personally and on behalf of the Cypriot people, once again, our deep gratitude and sincere thanks for the distinguished honor of your visit.

I welcome you and warmly thank you for your presence here.