The Pope has begun a three day visit to Cyprus, his first to an Orthodox Christian country, and the first ever papal visit of any kind to the island.
He has met the Orthodox church leaders on Cyprus, and held an ecumenical mass in the first scheduled events of his trip. He also planted an olive tree at the airport to mark his arrival.
It is a visit taking place with a backdrop of renewed violence in the region, with Israel’s flotilla attack earlier this week, and the Pope made a plea for calm, patient work to establish a dialogue. He insisted it was essential, not just between the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity, but also between the Christian and Muslim churches.
Some in the Cypriot Orthodox church were critical of the papal visist, but they have been told to keep their opinions to themsleves by Archbishop Chrystomos the second of Cyprus, the Orthodox leader.