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Pope's Cyprus visit fuels anger

Trip comes amidst talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders

  • AP
  • Published: 00:00 May 31, 2010
  • Gulf News

Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI, often under fire for political mishaps, could be heading into a diplomatic storm when he visits Cyprus this week.

The Pope is making a pilgrimage to a divided island that could anger Muslims not just in Turkey but across the world.

Divisions between Greeks and ethnic Turks, splits in the Orthodox Christian community and concerns over damaged Christian and Muslim houses of worship will come under scrutiny during Benedict XVI's three-day trip which begins on Friday. The visit will be a key test of whether the pope has found his diplomatic feet.

Already his linking of Islam to violence during a speech in Germany led to outrage in the Muslim world, nearly forcing a trip he was planning to Turkey in 2006 to be cancelled.

Other controversies arose from his remarks on a visit to Africa when he said that condoms could make the continent's Aids epidemic worse. His remarks in Brazil that Latin America's native people wanted to become Christian even before Europe's conquerors arrived caused further controversy.

Peace talks

The Pope's Cyprus trip comes just days after the island's leaders — Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and the newly-elected president of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Dervis Eroglu resumed peace talks after a two-month break. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the rival leaders to ensure that the re-unification talks do not fall apart, warning that time is working against them.

Cyprus police are aware of possible protests by religious groups, but say there have been no credible threats, so far, to the Pope's safety.

"We're continuing our planning regarding the pope's safety and all necessary measures will be taken to ensure that not even the slightest incident will take place," said police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos

Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent republic in the north in 1983, but only Turkey recognises it.

Gulf News
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