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Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Most privileged among us play the victim card for the Pope

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FOR TWO days, we heard and saw nothing else but Pope Francis, being ferried from one place to the next, conducting services, meeting all types of people, from the humble and downtrodden to the not-so-humble and privileged. There was non-stop, live TV coverage of his every move, although I was a bit disappointed that this was interrupted when he went to bed.

It was quite amazing how excited people were by the visit, standing along the streets to watch his motorcade go by so they could tell their grandchildren that they once saw the Pope’s car. And they all belong to the Orthodox Church which has considered Catholics heretics for more than a thousand years ever since the East-West schism took place over a dispute about the Holy Spirit, which is too boring to go into.

This fascination with the Pope may have nothing to do with religion and more to do with the fact that he is a world celebrity and not a lot of those visit Kyproulla even though it is at the crossroads of three continents. Of course, seven top priests on the fanatical wing of the Orthodox Church snubbed the Pope, refusing to attend his meeting with the Holy Synod at the Archbishopric.

They just cannot forgive Rome for what happened in 1054, even though they had not snubbed Pope Benedict when he visited in 2010.

 

AT LEAST they were spared the embarrassment of listening to the fire and brimstone, welcoming address of Archbishop Chrys II, who sounded like he was reading a PIO (Press and Information Office) press release written in the 1980s. It was a bit unchristian.

He spoke about Turkey, which in 1974 “attacked barbarously” and “implemented a plan of ethnic cleansing.” He also referred to “200,000 Christians that she kicked out of the land of their fathers with incredible barbarity, replacing them with twice as many settlers it brought from the depths of Anatolia, destroying thus our classical civilisation.”

The “sacrilegious (Turks) desecrated” the Byzantine churches, “with incredible and unprecedented barbarity” and, “based on their heinous plans changed all the place-names so that nothing Greek or Christian remained.” Cyprus, he told the Pontiff, was going through a Golgotha for 47 years, the “church leadership and much-tortured people looking to the Lord for justice.”

He then asked for Francis’ help against the barbaric Turks. “In our holy and just struggle, your holiness, which our suffering people are carrying out with the guidance of their church and political leadership, we would like to have your active support.”

Francis’ message, in stark contrast, was one of unity, among the churches and among the people. He did not exclude the sacrilegious barbarians.

 

CHRYS II was not the only one playing the victim card in his address to the Pope. Prez Nik did the same in a more restrained way, in his gushing praise of Francis. “Your decision to visit a country small in size proves the greatness of your personality, that you attribute the deserved importance to people that are suffering in countries subjected to the violation of international law, regardless of size,” he said.

This pitch about much-tortured and suffering Cypriots is, to put it mildly, laughable. While I do not want to sound insensitive, I just cannot think of us Cypriots as a people that is suffering. Some suffer because they cannot afford to buy a new BMW or get job in the public service, or because they have to repay their bank loan, but this is not conventional suffering.

Not to mention the fact that when the tortured Greek Cypriots had the chance to return to the land of their fathers and end their suffering, they turned it down.

 

THE ONLY suffering and human pain Francis spoke about was that experienced by migrants, who left their homes chasing their dream, many of them perishing at sea trying to reach their destination.

His message was one of love, compassion, tolerance and reconciliation, but I will stop there because this is going to start reading like a church sermon. He also castigated the “culture of indifference” and the disregard for human tragedy which he described as “a very serious illness, for which there is no antidote,” a habit that we should fight.

The plight of migrants and refugees is a big issue for Pope Francis, who was to take 50 migrants, 10 of whom were serving a prison sentence for being here illegally, back to Rome. Fifty is just a token, if he took 500 or 1000 we would have awarded him the Grand Cross of Makarios III.

The pope also displayed a sense of humour, probably unintentionally, referring to the Cyprob. “May this island, marked by painful division, become by God’s grace, a workshop of fraternity.” It will take a lot more than God’s grace to turn this island into a workshop of fraternity. Even if there was divine intervention to end the division we would accuse the Almighty of being pro-Turkish.

 

UNDERCOVER presidential candidate Nicos Christodoulides surpassed himself in the hypocrisy and insincerity stakes, last week, when he snubbed a meeting of the Disy political bureau that was to discuss the party policy on the presidential elections.

Being a cowardly, behind-the-scenes operator, terrified of confrontation, the Paphos upstart, sent a letter to the Disy chief Averof instead, in which he argued that the party followed the path that suited his own presidential ambitions. Of course, he is too insincere to put it so bluntly, so he resorted to self-righteousness.

It was “premature” to start internal party proceedings for the elections he wrote, noting that limiting the pre-election period was a “basic principle of Disy.” If the party started dealing with elections from now, “this would undoubtedly work against the implementation of the government programme.”

The start of party election proceedings, “will negatively affect our common goal for the successful dealing with the multiple challenges facing the government as well as continuation of the implementation/completion of the government programme.”

The hypocrisy is on an industrial scale. This is a guy that started prematurely campaigning for the presidency six months ago, and currently spends more time arranging his election appearances than on his job, for which the taxpayer is paying him handsomely.

But he is genuinely concerned that party election proceedings will negatively affect the implementation of the election programme, which he personally has no time for because he is out gathering votes.

 

THIS letter was not written for those attending Wednesday’s meeting, because the participants all know the churchgoing minister’s agenda. All his ministerial colleagues have got his number.

The letter was for the benefit of the voters, which is why it was posted on social media before it had reached Averof – so he could impress people with his principled stand, which had nothing to do with personal interest, but a zealous commitment to the implementation of the government’s programme.

What the letter really said was: “I would like to carry on collecting my ministerial salary while campaigning for the presidential elections, because I have four kids and need the money. Apart from the money, being a minister guarantees me maximum exposure, which is essential for a successful campaign. It would be in my interest if you delayed the party election proceedings for another eight months as this would allow me to gather so many votes, boost my popularity and Disy would be obliged to back my candidacy.”

 

ANOTHER possible presidential candidate has appeared in the last few days. Politis.com.cy reported that Nicosia University professor Andreas Theophanous “is the recipient of appeals by many citizens to stand as a candidate in the presidential elections of 2023.”

The source of this scare story could only be Theophanous himself, whose self-promotion skills are a given. How would the writer know the professor was being urged by citizens (members of his family probably) to stand? They weren’t urging him to do so on television, nor did they hold a public rally, chanting ‘Theophanous stand.’

The giveaway was in the next paragraph. “The same information says that, at this stage, some informal consultations between Theophanous and party officials are taking place….” Who else but the professor could have been the source of this info?

This is followed by five paragraphs giving a detailed account of the professor’s career as if he were applying for the job of presidential candidate. As so many citizens are urging him to stand, I am sure there will more than one party wanting him as a candidate in order to cash in on the professor’s popularity among citizens of his family.

 

WE ARE not there yet, but the health minister has not ruled out the possibility of mandatory vaccinations, especially after the President of the European Commission advised member-state to look at this option. If he chose to go down that path. I fear bombs of much bigger intensity than the one that exploded in a school on Thursday, would be planted by nut-job parents.

The new measures announced on Thursday were tolerable – PCR tests for everyone arriving from abroad, work from home for 20 per cent of staff in services, and a ban on Christmas events at malls – prompting Phil to complain that the government was “continuing conservatively.” This view was also endorsed by one of the Covid zealots on CyBC radio.

What did they want? The government to be more radical with its measures? Impose a festive lockdown or perhaps postpone Christmas and New Year for a couple of months, until everyone is triple vaccinated and Omicron mutates to Omega?

 

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