United in faith, Cypriot Christians have mission to console, pope says

NICOSIA, Cyprus (CNS) -- The hope, consolation and unity all Christians and all residents of Cyprus yearn for will be realized only with patience, commitment and collaboration, Pope Francis said.

Meeting Dec. 3 with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the pope heard a long litany of the offenses and atrocities Orthodox and other Christians of northern Cyprus have suffered at the hands of Turkish Cypriots and the Turkey military since the island nation was divided in 1974.

Still, the archbishop said, "We firmly believe in the peaceful resolution of our differences, whether they are civil or religious, and that the right path is only through a truly honest dialogue."

Without specifically mentioning northern Cyprus, Pope Francis assured Archbishop Chrysostomos that "your sorrows and your joys are also ours."

During the meeting with the Orthodox and later celebrating Mass at the GSP Stadium, the pope focused on how faith, while flowing from a personal encounter with Jesus, must be supported and lived out in community.

The church in Cyprus traces its origins to St. Barnabas, a Cypriot and early convert to Christianity, who traveled and evangelized with St. Paul.

"The name 'Barnabas' means both 'son of consolation' and 'son of exhortation,'" the pope said, adding that both consoling and exhorting or teaching are necessary in the proclamation of the Gospel.