Latin rite Catholics in Cyprus are an integral and vital part of the social fabric

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As Pope Francis undertakes an apostolic visit to Cyprus and Greece, the representative of the Latin community in the Cypriot Parliament speaks about relations with the Maronite and Armenian Catholic communities of the island and the specific role and identity of her own. community.

By Tracey McClure and Christine Seuss

“I am very happy that this visit was greeted with great enthusiasm not only by the Catholics of the island but by the population in general.” Antonella Mantovani, Latin Catholic representative in the Cypriot Parliament, told Christine Seuss of Vatican News that she was certain that the mass the Pope will celebrate on Friday at the GSP stadium in Nicosia will include “a lot of non-Catholics” because “it is an event. also important for Cyprus and I am very happy that he has a very unifying and positive response from everyone on the island and we are grateful to the Cypriot government and the Orthodox Archbishop for inviting His Holiness to come to Cyprus – and we are also very happy that he accepted the invitation.

Listen to the interview with Antonella Mantovani

Catholics in Cyprus

Although Catholics, including Maronites, Armenians, locals and temporary residents represent a small community, “we are probably around 30,000 to 40,000, so not a high number, but because we are in. the periphery, ”says Mantovani,“ it’s good to have this encouragement and support from the Church. [so that we realize] We are not alone. So it’s a nice message for everyone.

Latin Rite Catholics, one of the island’s three main Catholic communities, trace their community’s origins in Cyprus to 1192 with the arrival of Richard the Lionheart, Mantovani recalls, noting that they currently list an oral history of the Latin families who have formed their community over the centuries. “People are getting older and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to record the origins of the current community.”

Mapping the oral history of the Latin community is just one of many projects the Church and her office are undertaking to shine the spotlight on Latin Rite Catholics so that the people “know we exist,” says Mantovani. They have also embarked on a project with the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics for ‘community-based research of social groups’ to determine the ethnic origins of the Latin community in Cyprus – as part of a larger program ongoing with other social groups on the island. Such initiatives aim to strengthen the bonds between members of the Latin community and to continue to make it “a relevant and dynamic part of the social fabric of Cyprus today”.





Migrants wait for help outside Holy Cross Catholic Church in Nicosia

The island’s Christian heritage

While the island’s long Christian presence was interrupted at times, particularly by the Ottoman conquest in 1571 when the Catholic population declined “dramatically”, Mantovani notes that European Catholics began to return to Cyprus from from 18e century. Until modern times, Catholics from Europe arrived on the island to trade, and as maritime agents, doctors and engineers, establishing the Latin community over several hundred years, she recalls.

The Latin community

Indeed, the important contributions of the Latin community to the heritage of the island were in large part the reason it was recognized as a separate and distinct group in the Cypriot constitution of 1960 which protects religious freedom, says Mantovani.

Its parliamentary office serves as a link between the Latin Catholic community and the government and focuses on civil interests in educational, cultural and religious fields, among others. The government, she said, has strengthened cooperation between officials and the state through the office of the Presidential Commissioner, responsible for facilitating relations between religious groups and government ministries. And, it is important to note that the Holy See is setting up an embassy in Cyprus, she said.

Preparations for the Holy Mass presided over by Pope Francis at the GSP stadium in Nicosia




Preparations for the Holy Mass presided over by Pope Francis at the GSP stadium in Nicosia

Asked about how his office interacts with the Maronite and Armenian Catholic communities. Mantovani observes that everyone has very different characteristics and interests. Being part of the diaspora, she points out, Armenians have their own language and a very strong sense of their ethnicity. The Maronites also have their own language which is recognized by the Cypriot government. “They also have villages in the northern area occupied by the Turks. “

Integration and collaboration

As Latin Catholics, she says, “we are very well integrated into urban Cypriot society with a lot of mixed marriages. So we all have our own agendas. But we also collaborate on projects. Here, Mantovani cites a recent series of short films produced by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation which focuses on each of the three groups and is linked to common themes such as their history and the French and Italian influence on the Cypriot dialect.

Education

One of the Latin Church’s greatest contributions to Cypriot society, she points out, has been in the field of education. The Terra Santa College, founded by the Franciscan Order of the Holy Land in 1646 in Nicosia, is the oldest educational institution in Cyprus still in operation, she points out. In Limassol, the Sainte-Marie school was founded in 1923 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart; they will soon be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Institutione anniversary, Mantovani observes. These schools continue to deliver educational excellence from kindergarten through high school. “There were other schools in the past, but what is important to note is that these schools bring a European culture to Cyprus. They were the forerunners in the teaching of modern European languages ​​in Cyprus, also in the education of girls as some started as girls’ schools. And they promote multiculturalism on the island because they accept students of any nationality and any religion, so they really are the seeds of multiculturalism. Not only do they help graduates find good jobs and enter the universities of their choice, but they also strive to instill strong ethical values ​​in their students, Mantovani emphasizes.

Filipinos attend mass at the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia




Filipinos attend mass at the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia


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