Today Francis arrives in Nicosia, on Sunday the visit to the refugees of Lesbos: “The Mediterranean, with its open ports, reminds us that the sources of living together are in mutual acceptance”
VATICAN CITY – A journey “to the ancient sources of Europe”, five days between Cyprus and Greece, from the first stage of the first voyage of St. Paul to Athens and Lesbos, the island of the aeolian opera of Sappho and Alceo, to recall the Old Continent to the foundations of its own civilization, beyond divisions, rejections and walls. From this afternoon the thirty-fifth international journey of Francis, “pilgrim to the sources of fraternity and humanity”, returns to that Mare Nostrum in recent years it has become “a great cemetery”, the Mediterranean “which connects many lands and invites us to navigate together, not to divide ourselves, each one on our own, especially in this period in which the fight against the pandemic still requires a lot of commitment and the climate crisis it hangs heavily “, explained the Pope in his message on the eve of departure:” The sea that many peoples embraces, with its open ports reminds us that the sources of living together lie in mutual acceptance “.
Francesco leaves at 11 this morning from Fiumicino and lands in Larnaca three hours later, the ancient Phoenician city which according to tradition had Lazarus as its first bishop, the friend of Jesus resurrected in the Gospels. He will stay in Cyprus for two days and will reach Athens on Saturday. Meetings with the Cypriot and Greek authorities, the heads of the Orthodox Churches Chrysostomos II and Ieronymos II and with the small Catholic communities, for which he will celebrate two masses in Nicosia and Athens. But the heart of the trip are the encounters with those who suffer “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe after the Second World War”, as he said in Lesbos five years ago, and the most awaited moment will be the return of Francis to the Greek island, Sunday, and the visit to refugees from the “Reception and Identification Center” in Mytilene, the camp that replaced that of Moria, not far away, destroyed by a fire in September 2020. The Pope had gone to Moria on April 16, 2016 and returned shocked: ” What I saw, the children… Today it was to cry ». But also in Cyprus, on Friday, Francis will participate in the church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia in an “ecumenical prayer” with migrants, who have multiplied on the island in recent years: African refugees have been added to the Middle Eastern refugees, today most , people fleeing from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria who arrive through Turkey and Cyprus, from the part of the island occupied by the Turks in 1974, try to reach Europe by crossing the border that divides Nicosia, the last remaining wall in a European capital, only to get stuck because it is very difficult to reach the continent from Cyprus. So today on the island there are three refugee camps and at least ten thousand people waiting. It is likely that Francis has a group of refugees transferred from Cyprus, through the “humanitarian corridors”, a bit like he did from Lesbos in 2016, in that case taking them with him by plane.
The Pope’s words will be addressed to all of Europe. On Sunday, after the Angelus, Francis recalled “how many migrants are exposed, even in these days, to very serious dangers, and lose their lives at our borders”, to the point of saying: “I feel pain for the news about the situation in which so many of them find themselves: of those who died in the English Channel; of those on the borders of Belarus, many of whom are children; of those who drown in the Mediterranean. So much pain thinking about them. Of those who are repatriated to North Africa, they are captured by traffickers, who turn them into slaves: they sell women, torture men … Of those who, even this week, have tried to cross the Mediterranean looking for a land of well-being and finding, instead, a tomb; and many others. To the migrants who find themselves in these situations of crisis I assure my prayers, and also my heart: know that I am always close to you ”. Pray and do, he exhorted: “I renew my heartfelt appeal to those who can contribute to the resolution of these problems, in particular to the civil and military authorities, so that understanding and dialogue finally prevail over any kind of exploitation and direct the wills and efforts towards solutions that respect the humanity of these people ”.