Tags: Pentin | Pope | Cyprus | arrest

Cyprus Orthodox Groups Seek to Arrest Pope

Tuesday, 01 Jun 2010 10:11 AM

By Edward Pentin

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It seems to be the fashionable thing to try to victimize Pope Benedict XVI and call for his arrest.

The latest to do so — and risk making a foolish spectacle of themselves — are two Orthodox groups in Cyprus.

Opposed to the Pope’s visit later this week to the country on grounds that he should not be pursuing ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox church, the two groups have called on the attorney general to arrest Benedict XVI as soon as he sets foot in the country.

Like the polemical atheists Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who are vowing to do the same when he visits Britain in September, they believe he should be arrested for his alleged 'cover-up' of pedophile crime by Catholic priests, even though no evidence has come to light to indict the Pope of such a charge.

Some loud protests, however, are likely, according to the Franciscan website www.Terrasanta.net. Its correspondent in Nicosia says the protesting Orthodox do not belong to marginal groups but are rather 17 members of the Holy Synod, the self-governing body of the Orthodox church of the country.

Local media reports that at least five bishops have announced they won’t welcome the Pope when he arrives on Friday for a three day visit. Archbishop Chrysostomos II — the head of the Orthodox Cypriots who, together with the President of the Republic, Demetris Christofias, invited the Pope — has urged his brother bishops to show respect to their guest.

Appealing to them to use their reason, he said: “There is democracy and freedom of speech in the Church, but this does not mean that you can say the first thing that crosses your mind.” He has also threatened sanctions, such as the exclusion for one year from attending the Holy Synod for those who refuse to attend the welcome for the Pope.

Chrysostomos II has reminded them that the majority of the Synod approved of the invitation to the Pope. One of the most prominent and vocal opponents is the Bishop of Limassol, Athanasios, who, in an interview a few days ago, called the Pope a “heretic”. Bishop Athanasios was once a favorite to become head of the Cypriot Orthodox church.

The Pope’s ambassador to Cyprus, Archbishop Antonio Franco, has stressed that Benedict XVI has no intention of hurting or offending anybody and therefore there is no reason for opposing his visit.

Benedict XVI also faces political challenges during his trip to the Mediterranean island. Cyprus is divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-governed north, and has been the subject of tension and conflict for centuries.

The Pope will not be visiting the north, but he will be keen not to upset the Turkish-Cypriot minority as he sees Turkey as vital in his outreach to the Muslim world.

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