Pope Francis has arrived in Cyprus.
His airplane arrived at the Larnaca airport at around 2.50pm.
House President Annita Demetriou and the cabinet members are at the airport to welcome the Pontiff.
Thirty children going to Catholic schools in Cyprus are waiting to greet the Pope.
At 4pm he will meet with priests, deacons and members of church associations at the Maronite cathedral of Our Lady of Grace.
Afterwards he will be officially welcomed at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, followed by a meeting with the President Nicos Anastasiades and a meeting with local authorities, civil society groups and the diplomatic corps.
On Friday at 8.30am local time the Pope will make a courtesy visit to Archbishop Chrysostomos II at the Orthodox archbishopric in Nicosia, followed by a meeting with the Holy Synod at the Orthodox cathedral in Nicosia.
Later in the morning, at 10:00am he will preside over a mass at the GSP stadium in Nicosia. In the afternoon he will hold a prayer service with migrants at the Holy Cross Catholic church in Nicosia.
“We feel incredibly blessed,” said Ester Beatty, chairperson of the Federation of Filipino Organisations in Cyprus.
The Philippines is one of the nations in Asia with the largest portion of the population professing the Catholic faith and has the third largest Catholic population in the world after Brazil and Mexico.
“Cyprus is a small country, but the number of Filipinos living here is huge and to be able to see two popes –Pope Benedict XVI in June 2010, and now Pope Francis – is extraordinary,” she said.
Over 500 police officers from multiple branches of the force will be deployed for Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Cyprus.
A rapid response unit (MMAD) will be on duty for the entire duration of the pope’s visit.
The pope will be accompanied by a police escort and a police helicopter will also monitor his movements throughout the entire visit.
Police have also said that precautions on Thursday and Friday will be stepped up, meaning road closures and diversions for motorists are to be expected.
Seventy-seven journalists are accompanying the pope, while over 200 journalists have been accredited to cover the papal visit in Cyprus.
During his regular weekly address to the Vatican on Wednesday, Pope Francis referred to Cyprus and Greece as countries “rich in history, spirituality and culture”.
“It will be a journey to the sources of apostolic faith and brotherhood between Christians of different faiths,” he said.
“I will also have the opportunity to meet several migrants and asylum seekers, people who have been wounded and that are suffering. Please join me in my prayers for them.”
The pope leaves Cyprus on Saturday morning and heads for Athens.