Summary of Pope Francis’ Sermon on the Thirty-fifth Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece
Monsignor Joji Vadakara, Vatican City
Pope Francis began his first sermon in Cyprus with the words, “I am glad to be with you.” The pope thanked him for the kind words he received and for the presence of his esteemed fathers, and for the services of all who came together there, especially those who work in the field of education.
In the land of the apostle Barnabas
Exodus Acts chapter 11 verse 23 tells us that, like St. Barnabas, the son of this nation, he came to this land to encourage you to see the works of God’s grace in your church and in this land, to rejoice with you in the wonderful works of God, and not to be discouraged, nor to lose faith.
Various individual assemblies
Pope Francis pointed out the presence of various churches in the soil of Cyprus and first addressed the members of the Maronita Church. The pope recalled that the church, which had grown up in Cyprus for centuries, had gone through many hardships but remained steadfast in their faith. The pope did not hide his concern about Lebanon and said he was praying for peace there, remembering the suffering of the people of that country. The pope said that like the cedars in Lebanon, which are often mentioned in the Scriptures as examples of beauty and glory, you too were rooted and transplanted to Cyprus to spread the fragrance and beauty of the gospel.
The pope then addressed the Latin Church, which has existed in Cyprus for millennia. The pope said the church, which has seen its children grow in faith, has become a multicultural nation due to the presence of many immigrants who have come here, adding that it is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. The pope said that in fact, the Catholic Church reflects its commitment to Cyprus on the European continent, but made it clear that the Catholic Church is a universal, by the grace of God, an open place that welcomes everyone with an invitation to love. The pope said there were no walls in the church and that it should not be so, adding that it was a common home and a place of coexistence of relationships and diversity.
Barnabas, the man of patience
The pope then delivered his sermon in connection with St. Barnabas, the mediator of Cyprus.
The pope said Barnabas was a great man of faith and patience who was chosen by the church in Jerusalem to visit the church in Antioch. He looked upon converts from other religions as an explorer and sought to understand their zealous but weak faith. Barnabas showed patience in trying to see the works of God, and in studying other cultures and traditions, without rushing to evaluate innovation, and at the same time holding them by the hand without breaking their faith.
A church of patience
“We need a church that is patient today,” he said. The church should not be disturbed by change, but welcome the new and evaluate the situation in the light of the gospel. The pope said the work of the church in Cyprus was valuable, adding that you were called to be patient, faithful and visible signs like Barnabas. The pope said that Cyprus, which welcomes people with open arms, is also a message to the Church in Europe that it should read the signs of the times and crises and move forward. The pope called on bishops and clergy to seek God more and to be more patient in their encounters with others. The pope said that you need to be able to hear and understand the differences of your people and to understand the different spiritualities, and that the Church does not want to unite all, but through the ongoing synodal process. .
Brotherly friendship between Barnabas and Paul
The pope’s second mention of Barnabas was his fraternal friendship with Paul of Tarsus. That is what enabled the two to move together in their God-given mission. In connection with the ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the pope reminded Paul that it was Barnabas who had taken Paul with him in front of people who feared persecution of Christians. The pope said that Christ had gathered his disciples and the man who had fallen in the way of the good Samaritan, and explained that to gather was to add to the burdens of others. This is what we call brotherhood.
Debates and discussions in the church
The pope said that Barnabas and Paul traveled together in the midst of persecution against the church, and that they had effectively preached the word in Antioch and Cyprus because they had lived their lives according to the commandment of love, as brothers, in the name of God, in their own lives, rather than their own human qualities. But the pope reminded them that, as the Acts of the Apostles chapter fifteen says, there were disagreements even between them, and the two were separated, but they made it clear that they were separated, not for personal reasons, but for ministerial reasons. Although St. Paul was initially reluctant to bring St. Marcos as Barnabas wished, the Pope later in his epistle to St. Timothy said that Paul himself was asking for Mark to be brought in, and urged the fraternity in the Church to do the same. The pope made it clear that the church has the freedom to discuss different ideas and philosophies, but reminded that mutual discussion is not about imposing one’s own ideas, but on living in the spirit of the Holy Spirit, and that we should continue to be brothers while having discussions.
The church should be an instrument of brotherhood
The pope reminded us that we need a church that is a tool for peace in the world. The pope said that Cyprus has a wide variety of spiritual, ecclesiastical, and indigenous customs and traditions, but urged that diversity should never be considered a threat to their very existence. “If that happens, it will lead to fear, fear to disbelief, disbelief to doubt, and then to war,” he said. The Pope said that you have a Mediterranean beach with many stories and many cultures, and reminded that it is still a land where people from many cultures and countries come and go. Therefore, we must remind all of you, especially Europe, of your brotherhood to work together to build a better future, and we must travel together as brothers and sisters, “he said.
Thank you and prayer
The pope thanked everyone for their service to the gospel, reminding them that this is the way the apostles Paul and Barnabas taught. Pope Benedict XVI prayed for his blessings and prayed for him to be a church that is always patient, discerning, able to follow people together, to be a brother, to make room for others, and to continue to be a united church while negotiating with each other.