Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation to visit Cyprus next year, the government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Vatican announced today. It will be the first ever visit to the country by a pontiff.
According to informed sources quoted on the Web site Terrasanta.net, the main purpose of the visit, scheduled for June 4-6, 2010, will be to deliver to Church leaders from the Middle East a summary of issues to be discussed at the special synod of bishops on the Middle East. The Pope called for the synod, scheduled to take place in Rome Oct. 10-24, 2010, to address the hardships Christians face in the region, which have caused them to emigrate in large numbers.
Benedict XVI has in recent years received several invitations to visit from local Cypriot Catholics, the Orthodox archbishop, Chrisostomos II, and the country's government. The president of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, issued a personal invitation when he met the Pope at the Vatican in March this year.
There is still no official program, and plans need to be finalized. A Vatican committee will be traveling to Nicosia, the country's capital, in December to organize an itinerary. Benedict XVI will be staying in the city and is almost certain to make a stopover in Paphos where St. Paul preached. Pilgrims from across the region are expected to join him.
John Paul II also wished to visit Cyprus, the second largest Mediterranean island after Sicily and Sardinia, and stop in Paphos. It was hoped the visit would take place during his Jubilee pilgrimage to Greece, Syria and Malta (May 4-9, 2001). However, the project was shelved as he already an intense itinerary and adding a further leg to the journey was a risk to his health.
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