“The visit by our Custos encourages us in our mission and expresses unity with the Church of Jerusalem.” This is how Br. Jerzy Kraj, guardian of the Franciscan convent of Nicosia, and Patriarchal Delegate and Delegate of the Custos in Cyprus, commented on Fr. Francesco Patton’s visit. The Custos spent a week in Cyprus (from April 9 to 16) for the canonical visit to the fraternities of the Custody of the Holy Land, to the area’s chapter and to the Assembly of the Catholic Priests of the Holy Land. During his canonical visit, which takes place every three years, the Custos is expected to visit all of the houses and structures and to have a personal dialogue with each friar. This is what took place in Cyprus, with the support of Fr. Marcelo Cichinelli, who acted as secretary for the visit.
“The island of Cyprus is historically linked to the Custody of the Holy Land and even St. Francis passed through here,” explained Br. Jerzy. “This was an opportunity to let the Custos know where Francis landed.”
The visit began Monday, April 9, with a meeting of all the friars on the island at the Nicosia monastery with the Liturgy of the Word, a conversation that included everyone and lunch. On Monday, April 16, the visit ended at the monastery in Limassol with the formational meeting of the area chapter, with the celebration of Holy Mass and with fraternal agape.
The Custody of the Holy Land is present in Cyprus with three monasteries: one in Cyprus and then the two satellite homes in Lanarca and Limassol, all of which count nine friars.
The highlights of the Custos’ visit included mass with the African community in Famagusta, where Fr. Francesco expressed satisfaction for their service rendered by the friars to foreigners and to migrants from Nigeria. “The Custos encouraged us to serve foreigners, given that the Latin community in Cyprus is made up of 90 percent of foreign migrants,” said Fr. Jerzy. “The number of locals are low compared to Filipinos, Indians, Sri Lankans and Africans.”
Regarding the area chapter, Br. Jerzy explained that it was a formational chapter and there were talks about proposals for the custodial chapter of 2019: “We talked about the activities we carry out every day; we touched on the topic of a personal and community life project. This was a realization of who we are and what we should do. The guardian of the Nicosia monastery had a positive opinion of the week, and continued, “It was encouraging for the work we carry out. Our activity commits us with all the strength we have. We are here to guard not only the historical memories of Franciscan life, but above all to promote the Gospel.”
The work of the Custody in Cyprus is pastoral, educational-formational and charitable in nature. In fact, the friars manage four parishes in the southern part of the island, in the Greek part of the Republic of Cyprus, and there are two chapels in the northern Turkish part of the island. “As for our charitable work, we collaborate with Caritas Cyprus and the Maronite Church for this,” continued Br. Jerzy. “We also have a school, which is the oldest one in Cyprus, whose ecumenical dialogue the Custos appreciated.” Terra Santa College of Nicosia is attended not only by the Latin Christians, but also by Orthodox, Maronites and Armenians. As a patriarchal vicar and as vicar of the Custos, Br. Jerzy Kraj is also included in the ecumenical dialogue for the great project of the reunification of the island, being a member of the small council of religious church leaders, which also includes the Muslim mufti. “The group, as an image of dialogue also with the Muslim side, is very appreciated,” concluded the friar. “Recently we held a meeting with over 40 ambassadors, to whom we indicated that religions are in vanguard with regards to dialogue. Let us open the roads, and let us build bridges for what may later become political decisions.”