The Holy Father's itinerary and the groups with whom he will be meeting today was dictated by the ecumenical, political and pastoral needs of the area, says S+L Cyprus coverage co-host Rita Sawaya, who lived in Cyprus several years ago. Rita also explained that the Holy Father's schedule was obviously carefully crafted by the organizers with the precariousness of the geopolitical situation of Cyprus in mind.
This morning, the Holy Father had a closed-door meeting
with Demetris Christofias, the President of Cyprus
wherein they discussed "the painful military occupation of more than 36 percent of its territory," since the Turkish invasion of the Republic of Cyprus beginning in 1974. Christofias said he was seeking a "just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem" by means of of a "bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality for the two communities."
After his meeting with the President, the Holy Father addressed various diplomats and government officials. Here , he was serenaded with a troupe of young violinists before delivering his first official address of the day:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful that, as part of my Apostolic Journey to Cyprus, I have this opportunity to meet with the political and civil authorities of the Republic, as well as the members of the diplomatic community. I thank President Christofias for the gracious words of greeting which he expressed in your name and I willingly reciprocate with my own respectful good wishes for your important work.
I have just laid a wreath at the memorial of the late Archbishop Makarios, the first President of the Republic of Cyprus. Like him, each of you in your lives of public service must be committed to serving the good of others in society, whether at the local, national or international level. This is a noble vocation which the Church esteems. When carried out faithfully, public service enables us to grow in wisdom, integrity and
personal fulfilment. Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics gave great importance to such fulfilment – eudemonia - as a goal for every human being, and saw in moral character the way to reach that goal. For them, and for the great Islamic and Christian philosophers who followed in their footsteps, the practice of virtue consisted in acting in accordance with right reason, in the pursuit of all that is true, good and beautiful.
From a religious perspective, we are members of a single human family created by God and we are called to foster unity and to build a more just and fraternal world based on lasting values. In so far as we fulfil our duty, serve others and adhere to what is right, our minds become more open to deeper truths and our freedom grows strong in its allegiance to what is good. My predecessor Pope John Paul the Second once wrote that moral obligation should not be seen as a law imposing itself from without and demanding obedience, but rather as an expression of God’s own wisdom to which human freedom readily submits (cf. Veritatis Splendor, 41). As human beings we find our ultimate fulfilment in reference to that Absolute Reality whose reflection is so often encountered in our conscience as a pressing invitation to serve truth, justice and love.
At a personal level, you as public servants know the importance of truth, integrity and respect in your relationships with others. Personal relationships are often the first steps towards building trust and – in due course – solid bonds of friendship between individuals, peoples and nations. This is an essential part of your role, both as politicians and diplomats. In countries with delicate political situations, such honest and open personal relationships can be the beginning of a much greater good for entire societies and peoples. Let me encourage all of you, present here today, to seize the opportunities afforded you, both personally and institutionally, to build these relationships and, in so doing, to foster the greater good of the concert of nations and the true good of those whom you represent.
The ancient Greek philosophers also teach us that the common good is served precisely by the influence of people endowed with clear moral insight and courage. In this way, policies become purified of selfish interests or partisan pressures and are placed on a more solid basis. Furthermore, the legitimate aspirations of those whom we represent are protected and fostered. Moral rectitude and impartial respect for others and their well-being are essential to the good of any society since they establish a climate of trust in which all human interactions, whether religious, or economic, social and cultural, or civil and political, acquire strength and substance.
But what does it mean in practical terms to respect and promote moral truth in the world of politics and diplomacy on the national and international levels? How can the pursuit of truth bring greater harmony to the troubled regions of the earth? I would suggest that it can be done in three ways.
Firstly, promoting moral truth means acting responsibly on the basis of factual knowledge. As diplomats, you know from experience that such knowledge helps you identify injustices and grievances, so as to consider dispassionately the concerns of all involved in a given dispute. When parties rise above their own particular view of events, they acquire an objective and comprehensive vision. Those who are called to resolve such disputes are able to make just decisions and promote genuine reconciliation when they grasp and acknowledge the full truth of a specific question.
A second way of promoting moral truth consists in deconstructing political ideologies which would supplant the truth. The tragic experiences of the twentieth century have laid bare the inhumanity which follows from the suppression of truth and human dignity. In our own day, we are witnessing attempts to promote supposed values under the guise of peace, development and human rights. In this sense, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, I called attention to attempts in some quarters to reinterpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by giving satisfaction to particular interests which would compromise the Declaration’s inner unity and move away from its original intent (cf. Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 18 April 2008).
Thirdly, promoting moral truth in public life calls for a constant effort to base positive law upon the ethical principles of natural law. An appeal to the latter was once considered self-evident, but the tide of positivism in contemporary legal theory requires the restatement of this important axiom. Individuals, communities and states, without guidance from objectively moral truths, would become selfish and unscrupulous and the world a more dangerous place to live. On the other hand, by being respectful of the rights of persons and peoples we protect and promote human dignity. When the policies we support are enacted in harmony with the natural law proper to our common humanity, then our actions become more sound and conducive to an environment of understanding, justice and peace.
Mr President, distinguished friends, with these considerations I reaffirm my esteem and that of the Church for your important service to society and to the building of a secure future for our world. I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and perseverance in the fulfilment of your duties. Thank you.
Pope Benedict then made his way to St. Maron School, a small Catholic school in Nicosia, where he met with members of the Cyprian Catholic community. In his address to the tiny community of Roman Catholics on the Mediterranean isle, he told those present that their "unique predicament" afforded them the opportunity to "search for greater unity in charity with other Christians and dialogue with those who are not Christians". "Given your circumstances," the Holy Father said, " you are able to make your personal contribution to the goal of greater Christian unity in your daily lives".
See complete text of the Holy Father's address on the sports field at St. Maron's School:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
 It gives me great joy to be with you, the representatives of the Catholic community in Cyprus.
I thank Archbishop Soueif for his kind words of welcome on your behalf and I thank in a special way the children for their beautiful presentation. I also greet His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, and salute the great and patient work of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in the person of Father Pizzaballa, here with us today.
On this historic occasion of the first visit of the Bishop of Rome to Cyprus, I come to confirm you in your faith in Jesus Christ and to encourage you to remain of one heart and one soul in fidelity to the apostolic tradition (cf. Acts 4:32). As the Successor of Peter, I stand among you today to offer you the assurance of my support, my affectionate prayers and my encouragement.
We have just heard from the Gospel of John how some Greeks, who had learned of the great works which Jesus was performing, approached the Apostle Philip and said, “We wish to see Jesus” (cf. Jn 12:21). These words touch all of us deeply. Like the men and women in the Gospel, we wish to see Jesus, to know him, to love and to serve him, with “one heart and soul”.
Furthermore, like the voice from heaven in today’s Gospel which testified to the glory of God’s name, the Church proclaims his name not simply for her own sake, but for the good of humanity as a whole (cf. Jn 12:30). You too, Christ’s followers of today, are called to live your faith in the world by adding your voices and actions to the promotion of the Gospel values handed down to you by generations of Cypriot Christians. These values, deeply embedded in your own culture as well as in the patrimony of the universal Church, should continue to inspire your efforts to promote peace, justice and respect for human life and the dignity of your fellow citizens. In this way, your fidelity to the Gospel will surely benefit all Cypriot society.
Dear brothers and sisters, given your unique circumstances, I would also like to draw your attention to an essential part of our Church’s life and mission, namely the search for greater unity in charity with other Christians and dialogue with those who are not Christians. Especially since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has been committed to advancing along the path of greater understanding with our fellow Christans with a view to ever stronger ties of love and fellowship among all the baptized. Given your circumstances, you are able to make your personal contribution to the goal of greater Christian unity in your daily lives. Let me encourage you to do so, confident that the Spirit of the Lord, who prayed that his followers might be one (cf. Jn 17:21), will accompany you in this important task.
With regard to interreligious dialogue, much still needs to be done throughout the world. This is another area where Catholics in Cyprus often live in circumstances which afford them opportunities for right and prudent action. Only by patient work can mutual trust be built, the burden of history overcome, and the political and cultural differences between peoples become a motive to work for deeper understanding. I urge you to help create such mutual trust between Christians and non-Christians as a basis for building lasting peace and harmony between peoples of different religions, political regions and cultural backgrounds.
Dear friends, I would invite you to look to the profound communion that you already share among yourselves and with the Catholic Church throughout the world. With regard to the immediate needs of the Church, I encourage you to pray for and to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As this Year for Priests draws to a close, the Church has gained a renewed awareness of the need for good, holy and well-formed priests. She needs men and women religious completely committed to Christ and to the spread of God’s reign on earth. Our Lord has promised that those who lay down their lives in imitation of him will keep them for eternal life (cf. Jn 12:25). I ask parents to ponder this promise and to encourage their children to respond generously to the Lord’s call. I urge pastors to attend to the young, to their needs and aspirations, and to form them in the fullness of the faith.
Here in this Catholic school, let me also address a word to those working in the Catholic schools of the island, especially the teachers. Your work is part of a long and esteemed tradition of the Catholic Church in Cyprus. Continue patiently to serve the good of the whole community by striving for educational excellence. May the Lord bless you abundantly in the sacred trust which is the formation of almighty God’s most precious gift to us - our children.
I now address a special word to you, my dear young Catholics of Cyprus.  Be strong in your faith, joyful in God’s service and generous with your time and talents! Help to build a better future for the Church and for your country in placing the good of others before your own.
Dear Catholics of Cyprus, foster your own harmony in communion with the universal Church and with the Successor of Peter, and build up your fraternal bonds with each other in faith, hope and love.
With these few words, I entrust all of you to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the intercession of Saints Paul and Barnabas.
 God bless you all!
Photo credits: CNS photo/Tony Gentile , Reuters; CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters,