Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Pope and Cyprus

Pope Benedict XVI, often under fire for political missteps on foreign trips, is heading into a potential diplomatic storm when he visits Cyprus this week, a pilgrimage to a divided island that could 'anger' Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world (although for the Muslem world; it's none of their business!!) . Divisions between Greeks and ethnic Turks, splits in the Orthodox Christian community, and concerns over damaged Christian and Muslim houses of worship will be come under scrutiny during Benedict's three-day trip starting Friday.The pope's linking of Islam to violence during a speech in Germany led to outrage in the Muslim world, nearly forcing cancellation of a trip to Turkey in 2006.
Cyprus police say that although they are aware of possible protests by some religious groups against the pope's trip, there have been no credible threats to his safety.
Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent republic in the north in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and maintains 35,000 troops there.
Officially, the island's division is not on the pope's agenda. Benedict has no plans to visit northern Cyprus, said Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. He declined to anticipate what the pope might say on the issue.
Innstead, the trip was designed around Cyprus' location as a bridge to the Middle East, a role Turkey likes to play. He will meet with leaders from Catholic churches in the region to draw up proposals for a major meeting of Middle Eastern bishops at the Vatican in October.
Still it will be hard to ignore Cypriot tensions.

a) the Turkish Embassy to the Holy See said it regrets the pope will not visit the north, insisting he would be welcome there and saying it hopes Benedict won't ignore the Turkish community in his speeches. There is a tiny Catholic community with three churches in the north, the embassy said.
A government official in Ankara said Turkey would be watching the visit closely and may comment if there is indication of political support for the Greek Cypriots or any allusion to the alleged destruction of churches in the north - during a 2006 Vatican audience, the late Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos gave the pope an album of photographs of destroyed churches in the north under the Turkish occupation and of others converted to restaurants, shops or other secular uses. While most of the former Ottoman buıildings in the South are in good shape, something the Turkish government don't like to admit.
b) There are problems between Cypriot Catholics and Orthodox Christians, who are dominant in the south. Some hardline Orthodox clerics, who view the pope as a heretic, say Benedict should stay in Rome to avoid provoking the island's 800,000 Orthodox. Doctrinal, theological and political differences caused the Orthodox and Catholic churches to formally split in the 11th century. Officials from both churches have been engaged in talks in recent years to heal "The Great Schism," but opposition to reconciliation still lingers.

Benedict is to hold an ecumenical prayer service shortly after arriving. He will also meet with the president and diplomatic corps as well as the island's small Maronite and Roman Catholic communities. But none of the Turkish Cypriots are invited.
I don't know if this visit is a smart move.

Day Opening - May 30

The living room, the hall and the bedroom of an house made under Mexican architecture, Mexico DF