Says that people of Cyprus know well the pain of leaving their ancestral homes ...
During a speech delivered on December 2, 2021 at the presidential palace in Nicosia, the president of Cyprus, Níkos Anastasiádis, expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for his “initiative to transfer 50 immigrants from Cyprus to Italy.”
The terms of this operation – carried out at the request of the Pontiff – are not yet known.
“The Cypriot people have lived extensively, and know better than anyone, the pain of the uprooting and expulsion from their ancestral homes,” the Cypriot president told Pope Francis, referring to the invasion of the north of the country by the Turkish army in 1974.
He recalled that Cyprus had been a place of refuge for the apostles after the stoning of the first martyr, Saint Stephen.
While saying that he was in agreement with the principles of the Pontiff in favor of migrants – “to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate” – he nevertheless admitted that Cyprus had encountered “innumerable difficulties in managing them.” He recalled that the island is the most important destination for migrants today in proportion to its population in Europe.
Denunciation of the situation of the north of the island
During his speech, Anastasiádis also denounced the “illegal occupation” of 36% of its territory by Turkey, the displacement of 30% of its population who had become refugees, the problem of “missing” people as well as the looting of cultural and religious monuments in the occupied territories.
He asked the Pontiff for a “strong intervention” with international actors in favor of a “just solution” to these problems.
The Cypriot president also denounced the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in Istanbul by the Turkish authorities. He noted as an example of dialogue with the Muslim world the Document on fraternity signed by the Pontiff and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb.