Pope Francis to visit Cyprus in 2020

Nicosia (AFP) –


Pope Francis will visit Cyprus next year and his arrival will coincide with the republic celebrating 60 years since independence, Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday.

Anastasiades made the announcement after meeting the pope on Monday during an official visit to the Vatican.

"I had the opportunity to invite the Pope to visit Cyprus, something that he accepted with great satisfaction," said Anastasiades in a statement. He did not give an exact date for the visit.

He added: "The visit will be arranged for next year, which coincidentally marks the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus and 10 years since the last visit by Pope Benedict."

Pope Benedict XVI was the first pontiff to visit the east Mediterranean island which is of predominantly Christian Greek Orthodox faith.

Cyprus was the first stop on Saint Paul's travels to spread Christianity in the 1st Century A.D. and he converted the island's then Roman governor Sergius Paulus to the faith.

The island gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960.