12/11/2021 Cyprus (International Christian Concern) – Pope Francis recently returned from a five-day trip to Cyprus and Greece, where he focused on immigrant and refugee ministry and conversation. Though Catholics do not comprise the majority of Cyprus’ Christian community, Catholic aid organizations are active on the island and hopeful to represent a new champion for refugees in Pope Francis with German Chancellor Merkel’s exit.
According to some aid agencies, locals were hopeful that the pope would take migrants back to Italy with him, as he had done in 2016 in Greece, despite no announcement towards such action. AP News did later report that 12 migrants were transferred from Cyprus to Italy while the Pope was en route to Greece. While in Cyprus, Pope Francis led a mass at a 22,00-seat stadium and a prayer with migrants and refugees at a local church. “With the pope coming, the people in Cyprus will understand that they are not alone,” commented a Catholic agency.
A local Catholic humanitarian worker commented on Cyprus’ struggle with the 20,000 migrants and refugees saying, it “is a small island that feels very insecure about its identity, so any influx of other peoples and nationalities naturally creates fear.” Northern Cyprus was invaded by Turkey in 1974 and the island nation has remained divided since, despite no international recognition of the Turkish-linked government in the north. As recently reported by ICC, Turkish invasion and influence has suffocated the historically Christian nation.
Pope Francis’ time in Greece focused on similar issues and events, allowing the Pope time to engage with the local and migrant populations.