After the Pope landed in Cyprus today, Archbishop Chrysostomos II (Demetriou) went off in a rage against Turkey asking him to protect Northern Cyprus’s Christian heritage, thinking perhaps his new buddy would back him up. Good luck with that, Benidict XVI won’t even speak a ill word against against a Turk killing one of his own, Bishop Luigi Padovese, who was suppose to arrive in Cyprus to greet him as well. After all, the bishop’s murderer did say that God ( his, Allah ) told him to do it, and the Pope would never question a direct order from God or Allah , would he ?
The archbishop was speaking shortly after Benedict arrived to start a three-day visit to this Mediterranean island, which has been overshadowed by the killing on Thursday of a leading Roman Catholic bishop in Turkey who was supposed to have participated in the ceremonies surrounding the pope’s stay in Cyprus.
On his plane from Rome, the pope said his journey to Cyprus was religious in nature, rather than political, and he insisted that blame for the murder of the bishop, Luigi Padovese, should not be placed on Turkey or Turks in general. “The certain thing is that it was not a political or religious assassination” (but if it was God who told him to do it, wouldn’t that make it a religious assassination ?), the pope said. “It was a personal thing.”
“We must not give responsibility to Turkey or the Turks,” the pope said.
News reports from Turkey on Friday said that a 26-year-old man, Murat Altun, had been charged with murder and had confessed. His lawyer, Cihan Onal, said the killing was not politically motivated. “My client is suffering from mental problems,” he said.
“In his statement, at one point he said he killed him after receiving a message from God,” the lawyer said, according to The Associated Press. “He can’t explain why he committed the murder. In fact he is giving conflicting accounts.” Bishop Padovese was stabbed to death outside his home in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.
By coincidence, the pope’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean came as regional tensions ran high over Israel’s attack on a flotilla of ships trying to run its blockade of Gaza last Monday, in which nine activists — eight of them Turks and one an American citizen of Turkish descent — were killed by Israeli commandos who said they were acting in self-defense.
The confrontation brought widespread international condemnation of Israel and brought relations between it and Turkey to a perilous low.
Responding on his flight to pre-submitted questions from reporters, the pope called for continued efforts towards peace despite the killings.
“After all episodes of violence, we must not lost patience, we must not lose the courage and the generosity to start over again in the certainty that we can move ahead, that we can seek peace, in the certainty that violence is not the solution,” he said.
Later Friday, at an ecumenical service with Benedict at an Orthodox church in Paphos, Archbishop Chrysostomos used strong language reflecting the enduring passions provoked by the island’s continued division, 36 years after a Turkish invasion following a pro-Greek coup attempt. The archbishop called for the pope’s “active cooperation” in resolving Cyprus’s problems.
Referring to Turkey, the archbishop said, “Under the eyes of a supposedly civilized humanity, it continues to carry out its obscure plan which include the annexation of the lands now under military occupation and then conquest of the whole of Cyprus.”
He accused Turkey of carrying out a “plan of national destruction. It has turned the Orthodox Christians of Cyprus out of their ancestral homes, where they had lived for centuries” while populating northern Cyprus with “hundreds of thousands of colonists from Anatolia, radically altering the demographic character of the population of Cyprus.”
The archbishop appealed to the pope to protect Christian monuments and Cyprus’s cultural heritage, saying Christian art works in the north of the island had been “destroyed or sold by traffickers in antiquities.”
“They wish to make everything Greek and Christian disappear from occupied Cyprus,” he said.
The main purpose of the pope’s visit to Cyprus is the publication on Sunday for a synod of Middle Eastern Catholic bishops due in October at the Vatican
The archbishop’s words, however, focused attention more closely on the island’s profound communal antipathies. Earlier this year, Turkish Cypriots elected a new leader, Dervis Eroglu, with a reputation for opposition to the long-running international effort to reunify the island.
After he took office, however, Mr. Eroglu sought to quell fears that he would block United Nations negotiations to resolve the island’s status.