“As was announced, Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus from December 2-4, visiting the city of Nicosia, and to Greece from December 4-6, visiting Athens and the Island of Lesbos,” confirmed Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, today, November 5, 2021.
“The Holy Father will visit the countries at the invitation of the local Civil and Ecclesiastical Authorities. The trip’s program will be published in due course,” said Bruni in a press release.
Although the Bishop of Rome acknowledged that he is “very” curious to see it, he clarified that “my option up to now of travel to Europe is the small countries. He first went to Albania and, after that, visited small countries. Planned now is Slovakia, then Cyprus, Greece, and Malta. I wanted to take that option: to <visit> the smallest countries first,” he said to Herrera.
Second Visit of a Pontiff
This will be the second visit to Cyprus of a Pontiff. Francis will be following in the steps of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who went on an Apostolic Journey to that Mediterranean Island in 2010.
According to the English edition of “Vatican News,” the great majority of Cypriots identify themselves as Greek Orthodox. The Latin Rite community numbers some 2,400 Catholics. Many of them go back to the Crusaders, who settled there after the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th century.
Saint Paul arrived in Cyprus in the 1sr century A.D. and converted the Roman Governor of the Island, Sergio Paulo, to Christianity. Tradition holds that Saint Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected from the dead, fled to Cyprus in fear of persecution and was ordained Bishop of Kition by the Apostles Barnabas and Paul. His tomb is located under the Byzantine church of Saint Lazarus, in the city of Larkaka, informs “Vatican News.”
Return to Lesbos
This will be the Pope’s second visit to Greece, as on April 16, 2016, he went for a day to the Greek Island of Lesbos. On that day, he visited the Moria refugee camp with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Jeronimo II. On his return flight to the Vatican, the Holy Father was accompanied by three Syrian refugee families, offering asylum to all 12 of them, six of whom were children.
The Moria refugee camp closed in September 2020, due to a fire that destroyed most of it.