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Pope in Cyprus

June 4, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in Cyprus for a three day visit – his first ever to a majority Orthodox country. It comes the day after a leading bishop in Turkey was murdered.

Pope waving as he gets on the plane to Cyprus
The trip was marred by the murder of a bishop in TurkeyImage: AP

Pope Benedict XVI said on Friday he hoped Cyprus' divided Greek and Turkish communities could find "the desire to live in harmony" to reach peace.

The island has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to a Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.

President Demetris Christofias, who heads the Greek Cypriot community, told the pontiff that the island was "in need of your prayers."

"Cyprus is in need of your words of peace, given the difficult situation the island is facing in its occupied are," Christofias added.

The three-day trip is Benedict's first to a majority Orthodox country, and comes amid desires to warm relations between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Bishop’s murder should ‘not harm Islam dialogue’

During his visit, the Pope will present a working document on regional issues, ahead of a meeting of Middle East bishops in October.

Among the bishops scheduled to attend the synod was Luigi Padovese, a leading Catholic bishop in Turkey who was murdered on Thursday. The Pope spoke of his "profound sadness" over the stabbing.

He said the killing should not be allowed to hurt dialog with Islam or stain the image of Turkey and its people.

"We must not attribute this to Turkey or to Turks ... the certain thing is that it was not a political or religious assassination. It was a personal thing," Benedict said.

Editor: Rob Turner