The Pope has been in Cyprus. Something to do with ecumenism, an expression of support for beleaguered Christians in the Middle East, and a pilgrimage in the footsteps of saints Paul, Mark the Evangelist and Barnabas – all heavily associated with the spread of Christianity in Cyprus (and elsewhere) and the formation of the Cyprus church.
Cyprus’ communist president used the occasion to make points about the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, as did Archbishop Chrysostomos, who repeatedly made reference to the deliberate destruction of Cyprus’ Greek and Christian heritage in the Turkish occupied part of the island. Cyprus’ Roman Catholic population is small, consisting of Maronites, Latins and immigrants from Sri Lanka and the Philippines. There was minor controversy when some senior Orthodox clerics – including the bishops of Limassol and Kyrenia – expressed opposition to the Pope’s visit, declaring that the pontiff was a ‘heretic’ and they would be boycotting events held to honour him.
While on the island, Benedict said he regarded Cyprus as part of the Holy Land and even though the island doesn’t market itself as such, given the pivotal role of Cyprus in early Christianity and the demonstrable devotion of Cypriots for the last 2,000 years to the Greco-Judaic faith, I suppose it is. Ironically, Cyprus markets itself as the Island of Aphrodite, who reached the rest of the Hellenic world via Cyprus, a stronghold of the goddess of love, beauty and sexuality, said to have been born from the sea foam (aphros) off Paphos – but whose cult was ultimately deposed and eliminated by the Christians, and their cult of sin, shame and pain.