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Cypriot Orthodox Rattled by Pope's Unity Push

06/01/2010 Comments (4)

A woman touches a crucifix at a church in Nicosia, Cyprus, May 9. Ecumenism and the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East will be the main focuses of Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Cyprus June 4-6. (CNS photo/Andreas Manolis, Reuters)

It seems sadly to be the fashionable thing to try to victimize the Holy Father 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 because they are against ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church, the two groups have called on the attorney general to arrest the Holy Father as soon as he sets foot in the country.

Like the ‘new atheists’ who are vowing to do the same when he visits Britain in September, they believe he should be arrested for covering up pedophile crime by priests, even though no evidence has come to light to indict the Pope of such a charge.

Some loud protests are likely, according to the Franciscan website My colleague on the publication, reporting from Nicosia, says the protesting Orthodox do not belong to a lunatic fringe 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 important guest and has threatened sanctions if they don’t. Chrysostomos II has reminded them that the majority of the Synod approved of inviting 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” because of his willingness to reach out to the Orthodox. Bishop Athanasios was once tipped to become head of the Cypriot Orthodox church.

Their reaction is the result of the great strides Benedict XVI has made towards unity with the Orthodox; they fear the ongoing dialogue is aimed at submission of their church to the See of Peter.

The apostolic nuncio 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. But most Cypriots, especially the Catholic minority, are eagerly looking forward to the visit, according to this article by the Patriarchal Vicar of Cyprus in Oasis magazine.

As always when the Holy Father meets his detractors, he has a knack for disarming them and appealing to their better, more reasonable natures. And with the latest violence in the Middle East breaking out not far from the coast of Cyprus, his presence in the region and his expected appeals for peace will be timely and much needed.

Filed under benedict xvi, cyprus, orthodox

About Edward Pentin

Edward Pentin
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Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of "The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family", published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin