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Faith conquers fear

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With international media focused on the papal visit, reporting on Pope Francis’ views on migration, climatic and health issues currently plaguing the planet, Cyprus basked in the attention given to the leader of the world’s largest faith.

Cyprus benefitted from the large entourage accompanying the Pontiff, the local faithful, and those from neighbouring countries who visited the island just for the day to be present at the historical Holy Mass in Nicosia.

As a humanitarian gesture and act of humility that best describes Francis, the Pope is returning home with 50 migrants who ended on the shores of Cyprus, with a similar action from the refugee camps on his visit to Greece.

He also made significant statements, calling for dialogue to resolve regional tension and describing Cyprus as a pearl, rising from the dark and hardship of conflict on this island.

He did not refer to Turkey by name, but the message was clear, perhaps even clearer than speeches that last several times longer.

Judging from Benedict’s pastoral visit in June 2010, Cyprus was in the spotlight, albeit briefly, as the first Pope to visit the island, which he described at the time as being on the path of the apostles.

Politicians in Cyprus need to understand the art of communication, embrace this island’s diversity, and not hide it.

Due to its location, Cyprus, and the Cypriot people, praised in the past for their hospitality, ought to take advantage of such visits, even though the vast majority of the population disdain the Catholic faith, arguing that the Orthodox are the “true Christians”.

However, Cyprus could also play a significant inter-faith role, as it has done with its key participation in the Middle East Council of Churches and then in the World Council of Churches.

This has been achieved with the active involvement of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who has been at the forefront of showing compassion and tolerance to other faiths, especially with the Turkish Cypriot Mufti.

On the one hand, there is an opportunity for the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus to help further mend an ideological and political rift between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East that dates back nearly a millennium.

There is an intra-Orthodoxy rift that is widening due to Russia’s aspirations to take control of the Orthodox Church, undermining the historical authority of Patriarch Bartholomeus in Constantinople, encouraging the Church in Ukraine to break free from Moscow.

By showing traits of trust, tolerance and love, Cyprus could also improve an image tarnished by shady property investments and the golden passports scheme.

It makes it difficult for foreign powers, geopolitical or economic, to pay any attention to the Cyprus Problem or the energy boiling pot in the eastern Mediterranean.

All one needs is faith.