Pope Benedict will arrive in Cyprus, a part of the diocese of Jerusalem, in just a few days. What is the place of Cyprus in the history of salvation?
The only book in the Bible to mention Cyprus is the Acts of the Apostles but it is interesting to note the importance of Cyprus in this book.
The first time that Cyprus is mentioned is in chapter 4:36-37 when the subject is the exemplary disciple, Barnabas: "There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet". It is interesting to note the Joseph Barnabas, who is the patron saint of Cyprus, is mentioned in a parallel with Ananias and Sapphira, the two lying disciples in Jerusalem who bring death into the community in Jerusalem because of their lie (see Acts 5:1-11). Thus, the fidelity of Barnabas from Cyprus stands against the treason of Ananias and Sapphira from Jerusalem. Such parallels are well known in Luke's writings, also in the Gospel he wrote (for example the parallel between Zachariah in Jerusalem and Mary in Nazareth).
The second time Cyprus is mentioned in Acts is in chapter 11:20, when the subject is the revolution in Antioch: "But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Greeks also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus". In Antioch, for the first time, a mixed community of Jews and Gentiles is established, a community that is called for the first time "Christians" – believers in Jesus Christ. The new body, where the wall of enmity between Jews and Gentiles has been removed, marks the peak of the activity of spreading the Gospel in Acts and Cypriots play a central role. Barnabas, Cypriot himself, came to Antioch and was overjoyed to discover the new reality and it was he who went to bring Saul from Tarsus to Antioch to lead the community. Later, he accompanied Paul on the first journey.
The third time Cyprus is mentioned is in Acts, chapter 13:4. There Cyprus is a destination on Saul's first missionary voyage and he is accompanied by Barnabas the Cypriot. It isd important to note that Saul takes on another name on the island – in 13:9: "Saul, also known as Paul"/ It is not correct, it would seem, that Paul was the name of Saul after his meeting with Jesus Christ. The fact that only in Cyprus he is mentioned as Paul allows us to understand that Saul/Paul used the two names according to the community he addressed. The fact that the name Paul is mentioned only in Cyprus hints that Paul was the name he used when he spoke to Gentiles. It is interesting to point out that the governor of the island at that time was "Sergius Paul" (13:7).
One can add that in addition to these three mentions of Cyprus in Acts, there is also the fact that, on his last voyage to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested and sent to Rome, Paul first resided in the home of Mnason, a Cypriot by origin (21:16). He also stopped in Cyprus on his way to Rome (27:4).
In short, Cyprus is an important station in the spreading of the Gospel in Acts of the Apostles. Cypriots play a central role in bring the Gospel to the Gentiles so that they too can know the fidelity of God.