Canada In Cyprus, the small Catholic community in turmoil before the arrival of Pope

17:20  30 november  2021
17:20  30 november  2021 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  A Chypre, la petite communauté catholique en effervescence avant l'arrivée du pape © AFP

E scalier church repainted, choirs develop, update vaccinations Covid ...: the excitement reigns in communities Catholic and Cypriot Maronite where Pope Francis is expected Thursday.

This two-day visit on the Mediterranean island, the second by a pope to Cyprus after the arrival of Benedict XVI in 2010, is eagerly awaited by some 25,000 members of the country most of the Catholic community of one million predominantly Orthodox (80%).

For 5 to 7,000 faithful of the Maronite Church, one of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Pope's visit is a sign of hope, especially for those from Lebanon and Syria, neighboring countries in crisis, but also for those who want a peaceful future for the divided island.

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"Many Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Maronites have lost their land because of the war," recalls Neophitou Christofou, a Maronite Cypriot who hoped the papal visit could steer the island towards "reunification".

Cyprus has been divided since its invasion by the Turkish army in 1974 in response to a coup by Greek Cypriot nationalists wishing to connect to the Greece. The Republic of Cyprus --membre Union européenne-- exercises its authority in the south. In the north, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), self-proclaimed, is recognized only by Turkey. Need

hope The small Maronite community is present on the island for centuries, with the descendants of Christian merchants from Syria and Lebanon arrived in the eighth century.

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A replica of a Maronite cross discovered in the north of the island should also be offered to the pontiff.

recent months, a deep economic and social crisis in Lebanon has again pushed its members to the Mediterranean island.

Pope Francis recently increased the messages of support to the Cedar country and has expressed its intention to go there.

"We need some hope," said Maroun Azar, a Lebanese Maronite who recently moved to Larnaca (South). For him, Lebanon "need a miracle."

"I feel a great joy, as many who are eagerly waiting to receive the Pope," rejoices in Nicosia Archbishop of Notre Dame Maronite Selim Sfeir, adding that the visit "is also of appearance humanitarian quintessential ".

Pope Francis should celebrate Friday afternoon ecumenical prayer with refugees at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Nicosia. The migration issue is an important issue in Cyprus which records the highest number of first-asylum seekers per capita in the European Union.

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"open Cathedral"

Latin Catholic community of Cyprus -today composed mainly of Asian migrant workers (Philippines, India, Sri Lanka) and refugees African- also in the fever of the preparations.

Rhose, a Filipina nanny based in Cyprus for 18 years, said he asked his employer to allow him to get to the stadium. "Even if it's only for two or three hours, I'm so happy," she told AFP, on the forecourt of the Holy Cross Church.

Before D-Day, the choir members, bringing Latin and Maronite are in full rehearsal. During the Mass, details on the event's preparations are communicated between prayers and songs.

For high mass on Friday morning, held in the largest stadium in Nicosia, on the outskirts of the capital, up to 7,000 people are expected, says Jerzy Kraj, Archbishop of the Holy Cross Church, which belongs to the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem and coordinator of the papal visit to the Maronite Church.

"We want the stadium became a cathedral in the open," he said.

Onyigbko Ik, a Nigerian refugee 40 years, is not quite ready: "I look forward to see the Pope but my challenge is to get vaccinated before." A PCR test or a vaccination certificate is required to participate in the event.

But on the divided island, members of the small North Catholic minority can not all go to the southern part where ceremonies take place.

"Only those with a European passport, not a Turkish visa can come (...) The time is very short and it is difficult to obtain a permit," laments Dr. Kraj.

11.30.2021 11:59:42 - Nicosia (AFP) - AFP © 2021

Indigenous papal visit postponed to 2022 over concerns about Omicron COVID-19 variant .
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