The island of Cyprus has a rich and complex history, with its cultural and religious landscape deeply influenced by various civilizations over the centuries. One of the most interesting religious institutions in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia is the Holy Cross Catholic Church. This church holds a unique place both in the country’s religious ecosystem and in the broader Catholic Church. In this article, we delve into some fascinating facts about the Holy Cross Catholic Church and explore how it bridges divides in a city that has been politically and ethnically divided for decades.
Fun Fact 1: A Multi-ethnic Congregation Reflecting the Church Universal
A Truly Catholic Experience
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Nicosia is its multi-ethnic congregation. Here, you can find believers from different countries, cultures, and languages gathered together in worship. This aligns with the Catholic Church’s universal character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation” (CCC 830). In a divided city, the Holy Cross Catholic Church becomes a space where unity in diversity is manifested.
A Reflection of Early Christian Communities
The multi-ethnic nature of the congregation also echoes the early Christian communities that were often made up of diverse groups. St. Paul, in his letters, often emphasized the unity of believers irrespective of their backgrounds, as he said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Fun Fact 2: Bridging Divides in a Divided City
A Geographical Conundrum
Nicosia is the only divided capital city in Europe, with the northern part under the control of Turkish Cypriots and the southern part governed by Greek Cypriots. The Holy Cross Catholic Church serves as a bridge between these divided communities, offering spiritual services and social programs that are open to all.
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The church’s name—Holy Cross—has a symbolic weight in a divided city. The cross in Christian tradition is not just a symbol of sacrifice but also one of reconciliation. St. Paul speaks about this in his Letter to the Ephesians: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).
Fun Fact 3: A Rich Liturgical Tradition
Eastern and Western Liturgical Practices
The Holy Cross Catholic Church in Nicosia is known for incorporating both Eastern and Western liturgical practices. This blending serves as another layer of bridging divides, not just among the local communities but within the universal Church itself. The Second Vatican Council’s decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, highlights the importance of preserving Eastern traditions as a treasure for the whole Church.
Fun Fact 4: A Church with an Apostolic Foundation
The Legend of St. Lazarus
Cyprus claims an apostolic foundation, with the biblical figure St. Lazarus—the man resurrected by Jesus—said to have become the first bishop of Kition, an ancient city in Cyprus. While the Holy Cross Catholic Church is not directly linked to this apostolic tradition, the broader Christian legacy of Cyprus gives the church a historical depth and significance. It also links back to the Catholic understanding of the Church as “apostolic,” as described in the Catechism (CCC 857).
Fun Fact 5: Social Outreach Programs
Serving the Least of These
The Holy Cross Catholic Church engages in various social outreach programs aimed at serving the needy, irrespective of their religious or ethnic background. This reflects the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
The Holy Cross Catholic Church in Nicosia is more than just a building or an assembly of believers. It represents a microcosm of the universal Church, a place where the rich traditions of Eastern and Western Christianity come together, and most significantly, a beacon of unity in a city that is otherwise divided. It reminds us of the transformative power of faith to bring people together under the banner of love and peace.
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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.