Grace and Daniel have been stuck in Cyprus’ buffer zone for more than six months after they fled Cameroon. / Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
As a sign of Pope Francis’ concern for migrants, the Vatican announced Friday that it is helping to arrange the transfer of about 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy.
Among the migrants that Pope Francis is helping to bring to Italy are Grace, 24, and Daniel, 20, Christians who fled Cameroon after schools were shut down due to the Anglophone Crisis, provoked by tensions between the English-speaking minority and French-speaking majority.
The two migrants met after paying the same smuggler to help them cross from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus to the Greek-speaking south, where they hoped to find asylum in the European Union.
“We were misled,” Grace said. The smuggler told them where to cross over the 16-foot-high wall that divides the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, but they were promptly taken into custody by the United Nations forces stationed in the demilitarized buffer zone.
“The most scary moment in my life so far,” said Grace, who injured her leg after jumping from the wall.
Since crossing over the wall last May, Grace and Daniel have been stuck in the buffer zone that divides Cyprus, which is also called “no man’s land,” living in a tent for more than six months.
In an interview with EWTN News ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Cyprus, Grace said that faith in God helped to give her strength in the difficult times in Cyprus. She hopes for a better future in which she can find work.
Daniel, a Catholic, said that he would like to be able to continue his studies once he receives asylum in Europe.
“That’s what is keeping us strong because, like our faith, we believe that in any circumstances that you find yourself, never give up in life, so that saying has been keeping us strong and I believe God can do something,” Grace said.
Elizabeth Kassinis, the executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, told EWTN that the numbers of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus “have been really dramatic.”
“Cyprus right now receives more asylum seekers per capita than anywhere in Europe,” Kassinis said.
“It is a frontline state … all of the local systems are overwhelmed,” she added.
Recently, Kassinis has noted the arrival of people from Lebanon, which is in the midst of an economic crisis, in addition to the flow of migrants from Syria and African countries.
The Caritas Cyprus migrant services center in Nicosia receives about 300 people requesting assistance each day.
“Most of the numbers that we’re getting now are people who’ve just arrived,” she said.
Pope Francis is currently in Cyprus, where he met on Dec. 3 with a group of migrants, who shared their stories with the pope in an ecumenical prayer service in Nicosia.
“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage … but at the same time … in the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to hope, to greater human companionship,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Leronymos look at the sea from Lesbos on April 16, 2016. / L’Osservatore Romano.
Vatican City, Nov 5, 2021 / 06:40 am (CNA).
The Vatican officially announced on Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus and Greece on Dec. 2-6.
The four-day trip to the two Mediterranean countries will include stops in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, Athens, the Greek capital, and the Greek island of Lesbos.
The pope will visit Cyprus on Dec. 2-4 before flying to Athens on Dec. 4 and Lesbos on Dec. 5.
It will be Pope Francis’ second trip to Lesbos, also known as Lesvos, an island that is home to the infamous Moria refugee camp that was damaged in a fire last year.
The pope made a daylong visit in 2016 together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians, to draw attention to the plight of migrants on the island.
The logo for the pope’s apostolic journey to Greece is “a ship traversing the troubled waters of our world, with the cross of Christ as its mast and its sails driven by the wind of the Holy Spirit,” a statement released by the Vatican on Nov. 5 said.
“As Greece feels the effects of the pandemic and the recent financial crisis, the motto expresses the hope that the Pope’s visit will bring a ray of light for the future of Greece, a country of deeply rooted faith and an illustrious past,” the Vatican statement said.
Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Cyprus after Benedict XVI traveled to the Mediterranean island in 2010.
The official theme of the pope’s trip to Cyprus is “Comforting each other in faith”. It was inspired by the name of the Apostle Barnabas, which can mean son of consolation, according to the Vatican.
Both Cyprus and Greece have populations that are majority Greek Orthodox. Around 72% of people in Cyprus are Christians and 25% of the population is Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center.
The Mediterranean countries are also linked as St. Paul traveled to both places. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.
Today, Cyprus has about 11,000 Catholics, according to its national statistical service, and Greece is home to about 50,000 Catholics (0.5% of the population).
The apostolic journey will be the pope’s third trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. His previous trips were to Iraq in March and Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The 84-year-old pope, who underwent colon surgery in July, has expressed his desire to travel to Canada, Congo, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor in the coming year.
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