A high-level meeting to discuss the future of Christians in the Middle East is to be held in Cyprus, with the president meeting patriarchs ahead of the symposium.

President Nikos Christodoulides met with Bechara Boutros, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, and Ignatius Joseph Yonan, the Syrian-Catholic Patriarch, at the presidential palace for about 40 minutes on Thursday.”We are not immigrants in the countries of the Middle East,” Patriarch Ignatius said, but “people of these blessed lands, as in Cyprus”.

Speaking after the meeting, the patriarch said that they are pleased to meet President Christodoulides whom, it was added, “cares about democracy, inter-religious dialogue, being true Christians in our own countries”.

He said the meeting was attended by patriarchs from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jerusalem, who are in Cyprus for a symposium on the situation and future of the Middle Eastern churches in the region.

About 250 people, including clergy, nuns, and others, are taking part in the symposium, the patriarch said, “to talk about the future and our presence in the Middle East”.

The symposium takes place in Nicosia from Thursday to Sunday, and is under the auspices of the Vatican.