Pope Francis will hold an open-air mass at the GSP stadium in Nicosia during his visit to Cyprus in December, with authorities drawing up security plans to shield the head of the Catholic Church.
The Pope will be in Cyprus on 2-4 December for a three-day visit on his Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece.
Authorities have already drawn up their action plan to shield the Pope during his visit, in consultation with his guard.
Hundreds of police officers are expected to be assigned to special duties during the Pope’s visit.
The Pope, who will be accompanied by a strong guard from the Vatican, has already said he won’t be moving around in his special vehicle, which allows him to greet people.
Reportedly, the Pope has expressed his wish not to travel with the special vehicle, which allows him to greet the crowds behind a shielding screen.
The Vatican usually ships out the ‘Popemobile’ during state visits, but Nicosia has made appropriate arrangements.
The police have already prepared a draft for the security measures, while the Pope will be awarded the honours of a head of state.
High-ranking Vatican officials have recently visited Cyprus to discuss the pontiff’s visit with Foreign Ministry officials.
The delegation from the Vatican inspected several indoor areas and the GSP and decided on the 23,000-capacity stadium of the capital so a large crowd could gather without the risk of overcrowding while sticking to COVID-19 measures.
A plan B has been drawn up in case of bad weather prohibiting an open-air mass.
In 2010, when Pope Francis’ predecessor Pope Benedict visited Cyprus, a mass took place at the indoor Eleftheria Stadium.
Pope Francis was invited by President Nicos Anastasiades back in 2019 when the president had visited the Vatican.
Anastasiades is expected to welcome the Pope at the Presidential Palace.
The Pope had scheduled a visit in 2020 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The head of the Catholic Church will also be meeting with the head of Cyprus Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II.
Pope Francis returns to Rome from Athens on December 6; he departs from Cyprus for Greece on December 4.
The next day, he makes a day trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, where in 2016, he visited the Moria camp and returned to Rome with a dozen Syrian refugees.
Thousands of Catholic people living in Cyprus, the occupied north of the island and neighbouring countries are expected to make the journey to the GSP stadium to pray along with the Pope.
Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was the first pontiff to travel to Cyprus in 2010.
Primarily Greek Orthodox, Cyprus has a small but vibrant Latin community of more than 2,400 people who can trace their roots to Crusaders who settled on the island after the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in the 12th century.
Cyprus was the initial stop on Saint Paul’s first journey to spread Christianity in the 1st Century AD, and he converted the island’s Roman governor Sergius Paulus to the faith.
The island is also linked with Saint Lazarus — the man who, according to Christian scriptures, was resurrected by Jesus.
Fearing persecution, Lazarus fled to Cyprus and was appointed a bishop.