VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Paphos was an "optimal" place to begin Benedict XVI's visit to Cyprus, said a Vatican spokesman, because Paul and Barnabas arrived here on one of their first evangelization missions.
"It is an extremely significant place in the history of evangelization," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, in a Vatican Radio interview on Saturday.
"The Pope also came here truly as a pilgrim to continue the itinerary that he followed in the Holy Land and that he also followed in Malta on the Pauline anniversary," he added.
"So," the priest said, "it is a place of great suggestiveness and density of inspiration for all the themes of evangelization in the world, because the world that Paul evangelized was not a Christian world; it was a pagan world."
Even in the current world, he pointed out, "we feel in many ways the need to return to the root of the spirit of evangelization, for a world that truly does not accept or does not know the Gospel's message well and to which we must still bring it."
The spokesman also recalled that Cyprus "is currently, with its Orthodox Church and Archbishop Chrysostomos in particular, one of the realities that is most active in the ecumenical field."
"We are in a place that was strategic for the history of the routes of the Christianity that was born and that evangelized, but that now is also strategic for the routes of ecumenism in our time," he remarked.
The Orthodox Church of Cyprus, for example, has "an optimal relationship" with the Russian Orthodox Church, Father Lombardi explained.
He added that it therefore has "an important role in the dialogue between the Orthodox Churches," and as such "it is also a bridge and a place of meeting with the Catholic Church and with other Christian communities."
In the same way, Cyprus is a "crossroads in the Middle East," the priest said, "the only place where there can be a confluence without difficulties from all the different countries" of the region.
For these reasons, he affirmed, the Mediterranean island is "a place in which it is natural to come together to begin this synodal road that will lead to Rome in the month of October."
"We have here in these days representatives of the communities of the Eastern Catholic and Latin Catholic traditions, sent by the Pope to grow in communion, to rediscover the meaning, the enthusiasm of their being community in the world of today [so as] to be able to give their witness, to be able to feel mutually encouraged and supported too, being communities that are mostly minorities and in difficult situations," Father Lombardi said.
He continued, "They have their message that they should be proud of and that can be a great contribution also to the dialogue with other persons of other faiths, in the society in which they live, whether they are Muslims or Jews or persons of good will."