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The Cross and the Church

Benedict XVI's Visit to Cyprus was a memorable success, as the Pope himself said in taking his leave of the country. As always, his words were chosen carefully and do not only refer to the Visit's external success, which is undeniable, but above all to its deepest meaning.

In fact, the 16th international Journey of the Pontificate – explicitly presented as a continuation of the Visit to the Holy Land – was important first and foremost for the large Mediterranean Island that is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Independence and is still suffering from an unnatural division. This was clear from the location of the Nunciature, where the Pope stayed in these days, which stands in the buffer zone controlled by United Nations soldiers in the heart of a divided capital.

But the importance of this Visit to an Orthodox country is historic. This is explained by the further rapprochement to an authoritative and venerable Sister Church, which, under the guidance of Archbishop Chrysostom ii, is committed with determination to the ecumenical process. An interior process in the Christian confessions that also constitutes an indicator and looks to the future of a region – such as the Near and Middle East, tormented and all too often bathed in blood – where the only realistic route for a real and enduring peace is the threefold exchange between Christians, Muslims and Jews.

It is taking place despite the continuing outbursts of violence in a state of tension that seems insurmountable and before the shadow of terrible episodes, such as the massacre and assassination of a defenceless man, Bishop Luigi Padovese, a brave witness of truth and of Christ's peace.

It is the mystery of the Cross of which Benedict XVI spoke in an unforgettable Homily, recalling first of all that man cannot save himself from the consequences of his sins.

The Cross, therefore, is not so much a sign of suffering and failure as the most eloquent symbol of what the world needs. This is precisely because it expresses Christ's triumph over all evil – including the last enemy which is death, – the true hope that does not disappoint. And today in the Near and Middle East, the Pope said – with his gentle strength – this hope is resplendent in every Christian who embraces the Cross and entrusts himself to its mystery, not abandoning – despite the mounting wave of difficulty and persecution – the places where the Church was born and flourished in the first centuries.

In accordance with a tradition that actually dates back to the Apostles, Catholics and Christians – but also anyone who has human rights at heart, starting with freedom of conscience and of religion – must not forget their brethren who dwell in this part of the world.

To them will be dedicated the upcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, whose working document the Pope consigned to the Catholic communities. It is a text that confirms the realism of the Church and her willingness to build societies where peaceful coexistence is truly possible. Thanks to the mystery of the Cross, the sign of hope, carried by Christ and witnessed to by the Church for the world.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 21, 2019

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