H.B. Card. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, visited the Catholic community in Cyprus, from Friday, November 17th, till Sunday, November 19th, 2023.
Despite the painful circumstances in the Holy Land and the cancellation of all the celebrations in the diocese, which were scheduled to welcome H.B. after his elevation to the rank of Cardinals in the Catholic Church. Yet, he felt the need to make a visit to Cyprus after his appointment, to express the country’s importance to the diocese of Jerusalem and its equal need for attention and care. Away from all expressions of celebrations, just a pastor gathered with his pasture. That’s what H.B. expressed during his homily last Sunday at the Holy Cross Church.
The first day of his pastoral visit was marked by a visit to the Presidential Palace, where H.B. Card. Pizzaballa met with His Excellency the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nikos Christodoulides. Then, he made his way to the the Greek Orthodox Archbishopric in the old town of Nicosia, where he met with His Beatitude Archbishop of Cyprus George II, head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. It was followed by a meeting with the Mayor of Nicosia, Mr Constantinos Yiorkatzi, who shared with H.B. some insights about the political and social situation of the city of Nicosia.
On Friday evening, H.B. Card. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, met with diplomats from various countries worldwide serving in Cyprus, the authorities of the government, and the Ecclesiastical authorities of Cyprus, during which they discussed the political situation of the Middle East and the role of the Church in it. The Cardinal talked about the situation in Jerusalem, being the most dramatic in the 35 years he has lived there leading to deep wounds between the different ethnicities. He said the church has a lot to do to heal these wounds following the current troubles. He also spoke about Cyprus, saying that it can be a different light of hope and inspiration in the Middle East and Europe, given the good working relationships between the different faiths on the island, although there are always areas that need some improvements.
Mr. Joseph S. Josephides, a resident of Cyprus and a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher, expressed his great joy at the decision of Pope Francis to elevate the Patriarch of Jerusalem to the Cardinal rank saying: “Cardinal Pizzaballa has been involved in a lot of dialogues for peace in the Middle East, ensuring the well-being of the Christian community in this area throughout all of his appointments as a Patriarch after he was a Custos of the Holy Land for twelve years and an Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Hence he has rich experience and knowledge of the situation. He knows how to deal diplomatically, even with the problems of the Catholics on the island. He met with the President of the Republic of Cyprus, and I am sure they will cooperate to bring peace to the region”. He also noted that having a Cardinal for the diocese of Jerusalem will help to support the continuous existence of the Catholic community in Cyprus, for it is a minority among the other communities.
The next day, on Saturday, 18 November, H.B. Card. Pierbattista Pizzaballa met with all the Catholic Clergy and religious of Cyprus at the Maronite Archbishopric of Nicosia. HE Selim Sfeir, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, first welcomed Cardinal Pierbattista, congratulating him on his elevation and calling on God’s mercy to end all wars and evil in the world. He also expressed his readiness and willingness to serve together in spreading the light of the Kingdom of God.
During the meeting, Card. Pierbattista, spoke of the status of Cyprus, saying despite its division, yet it is more positive-looking than other countries. He also spoke of the need to strengthen the unity between the Latin and Maronite Churches in Cyprus, to be one voice amidst divisions, as well as to strengthen the relations with other religions on the Island. He referred to the changes and upgraded presence of the Catholic Church in Cyprus with the Nunciature of the Holy See being established with a physical presence now in Cyprus as well as the Latin Patriarchate with the Patriarchal Vicariate of Cyprus. The meeting with all the Catholic clergy and religious was followed by a Mass at the Maronite church.
Sr. Theresa Yin Nyak, Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition, expressed her gratitude at the efforts of H.B. to visit and meet with them despite the burden of what’s taking place in Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a whole, saying: ” I felt closer to our brothers and sisters thereafter H.B. shared with us more about their deep pain and suffering, their condition and needs. He has also urged us to serve with a humble heart filled with faith, in order to have a positive impact on this country”. St. Joseph’s Sisters’ main mission is to work with the Refugees and asylum seekers. They have been hosting and caring for 12 unaccompanied minors at the St Joseph’s Home for Minors. In addition to offering Christian education in the parish and other services.
On Sunday, the third and final day of H.B.’s visit to Cyprus, he celebrated Mass at the Maronite Church and the Church of the Holy Cross, Nicosia, where he met with the parishioners.
He also met with the young parishioners, who are part of the Catechism group of the parish called “Come & See”. They presented him with a memorial card in which they showed their appreciation and gratitude. Ms. Elena, the catechist of the group, said: ” The group was created with the purpose of conveying to the children the fundamentals and morals of the Catholic faith. They are the future of the Catholic community in Cyprus. Upon learning of H.B.’s visit, they asked to participate in the Solemn mass. The children of the youth group were assigned as altar boys, and psalmists, and assisted with the offertory. His Beatitude has been very close with our parish and pays particular attention to the families and especially to the youth. This year, following his encouragement and assistance, the First Youth group from Cyprus went to Lisbon. His visit is a reinforcement of his commitment to the Catholic community in Cyprus”.
In his homily, Card. Pizzaballa pointed out the importance of the city of Jerusalem to the Christian faith and urged all the faithful to keep their hearts open to others to be the door for others to come to know the light of the faith. Commenting on the Gospel reading about the Parable of the Talents, he said: “We should share the graces and gifts we have received with others, to bear fruit and be a source of life amidst death. Do not act out of fear, for fear is the shadow of death. From the world’s perspective, the church is weak because it does not have any weapons, but we have the Word (Jesus) and in these difficult times we have to discern what to say, to be the light amidst darkness.”
At the end of the Mass, the students from Terra Santa College, as well as teachers and administrators gifted the Cardinal a handmade piece of art symbolizing peace, in addition to the financial donation they have collected for the children of Gaza.
By: Miral Atik, LPJ.org