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Trip to Cyprus is religious, not political, Pope reminds reporters

Catholic World News - June 04, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that his trip to Cyprus is a pastoral rather than political visit, as he spoke with reporters who accompanied him on the June 4 flight from Rome.

Questioned about the divisions between Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus, the Holy Father declined to enter the political controversy. "I do not come with a political message but with a religious message," he said-- although he added that the religious message "should prepare more souls to find an opening for peace."

In response to another reporter's question on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla, the Pope made a similar comment, repeating that the Holy See avoids involvement in political controversies but stressing the desire for peace. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he observed, "the danger is that we will run out of patience and no longer want to search for peace."

Pope Benedict said that he was "deeply saddened" by the murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese in Turkey. But he expressed some relief that it was "not a religious or political assassination." The killing, he said, would not affect his trip to Cyprus.

The highlight of that trip will be the release of the working document, the instrumentum laboris, for the Synod on the Middle East, which will be held this October. The Pope said that the Synod would be an occasion to bring public attention to the Christian presence in the region, "so the world can see that there is a great and ancient Christianity in the Middle East." He spoke of the importance of dialogue among the different Christian churches of the region-- including the different rites of the Catholic Church-- and continuing efforts to promote peaceful coexistence with Islam.

In his informal press conference, the Pope spoke with enthusiasm about recent developments in ecumenical talks with the Orthodox world. "This is not just a coalition of political morality," he said, "but it is really something profoundly rooted in faith." He said that Catholics and Orthodox are drawn together by their common reliance on the Scriptures, the Christian tradition, and the "profession of faith drawn up by the ancient councils."

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