The Vatican has expressed satisfaction with the resumption of talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus after 40 years, with President Nicos Anastasiades saying that his proposals for confidence building measures were met with understanding by Pope Francis.
On his first official visit after agreeing to a joint declaration that will become the framework for talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervish Eroglu, Anstasiades said that the aim was to raise awareness in the Cyprus process, especially among states that have a role or some influence over matters.
"Considering that on 27 March Mr. Obama, the President of the United States of America, will be at the Vatican, but also the influence that the Vatican, in general, exercises on many government that have a say and have a role to play, you realize that the meetings were useful in an important way at this particular time," he said after his meeting with the Pope.
Other issues raised in the Vatican, both with the Pontiff and the Prime Minister of the Holy See, included the protection of religious and cultural heritage.
Anastasiades said he raised issues that concern the latest developments on the Cyprus problem "and the need to support the efforts that are taking place, but also with regard to the misinterpretations that are being made, the issue of the missing persons, the issue of the pillage of civilization, whether it is called religious or cultural."
We are absolutely aligned, he added, with the positions of Pope Francis that an inter-religious dialogue must respect and protect the civilisation of any citizen wherever that person belongs.
He said that he brought up problems "faced by our Maronite, Armenian and Latin fellow citizens, and above all the problems that concern the 200,000 refugees".
The President was accompanied by First Lady Andri Anastasiades, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, Energy and Trade Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides, the Ambassador of the Republic to the Holy See Yiorgos Poullides, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Christos Patsalides and the Director of the Diplomatic Office of the President Nicos Christodoulides.
According to a statement issued by the Press Office of the Holy See, the Pope and the President held cordial discussions in which they covered a number of topics, including the role of religion in society and the importance of religious liberty. The leaders, it added, expressed satisfaction with the resumption of negotiations on the Cyprus problem.
Moreover, the press release noted, “the parties indicated their concern regarding the political instability affecting the region of the Near and Middle East, which leads to great suffering on the part of civilian populations, and shared their hope that the Christian communities in the various countries may continue to offer their contribution to building a future of material and spiritual well-being.”
President Anastasiades presented the Pope with an icon of Apostle Andreas, who was the first of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ who visited Cyprus during the persecution of the disciples – noting that a monastery in the Turkish occupied areas is dedicated to him.
The President underlined the importance of the monastery as a religious site, for all the people of Cyprus, adding that for both Christians and Muslims, it is something which proves the important role of religion for peace, co-existence and love among people, as well as the importance of inter-religious dialogue.
Furthermore he said that a project, funded by the Church of Cyprus, the people of Cyprus, including Turkish Cypriots, and the US government, has been undertaken to restore the monastery.
Pope Francis gave the President a large bronze medal depicting the Angel of Peace, which, as the Pontiff said “destroys in us the demon of war.”
The President noted that “this is what we need right now in Cyprus”.
Later on Anastasiades met the Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and the Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States Dominique Mamberti.
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