THE NEW Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi and the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos arrived in Cyprus yesterday on separate official visits.
“We are very happy to get to know the culture of Cyprus a lot better and the values that Cyprus holds dear so that we may be able to cultivate the friendship between us,” said the Maronite Patriarch.
Undersecretary to the president Titos Christofides welcomed the Patriarch and said that his visit would ‘contribute towards the further strengthening of relations between the two communities.’
He also met President Demetris Christofias during his visit however no statements were made.
The Patriarch stressed that despite the fact that his visit was mainly pastoral, he was also keen to meet Archbishop Chrysostomos and ‘develop the already good, ecumenical relationship with the Orthodox church.’
Quizzed on whether his visit could be deemed as political also he pointed out: “We encourage our people to be faithful to this country that has hosted them and welcomed them so well,” he said.
The Patriarch said that he will also be visiting Maronite villages in the north to do mass.
Meanwhile, an official reception and mass was held yesterday at the Archbishopric to welcome a visit by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos.
Archbishop Chrysostomos expressed his admiration for the fact that the Patriarch manages to ‘follow his spiritual path in a place where the majority are Jews and Muslims.’
During his visit, Chrysostomos said, the Patriarch will not be able to visit religious monuments such as St. Barnabas’ tomb and the Ayios Mamandos Byzantine church in Morphou. “This is because Ankara’s military regime forbids it for almost 38 years now,” he said.
“We hope that one day God will make it so that we don’t visit an island that’s divided but one that’s united with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots living in peaceful co-existence,” said the Patriarch.
He also said that his visit was a chance to continue the good relations between the two churches.