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Bible Society distributes 10,000 NTs during Papal visit to Cyprus

The Bible Society in Lebanon, in partnership with the Bible Societies of Greece and Cyprus, distributed 10,000 New Testaments during Pope Francis’ visit and Mass at GSP Stadium, Nicosia, on December 3, 2021.

It all started when the BS-Lebanon’s General Secretary & CEO, Dr. Mike Bassous, was making a cordial visit on November 10 to the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, HE Selim Sfeir, and asked about the preparations for the Papal visit to Cyprus and Greece December 2-6, 2021. Dr. Bassous shared how BS-Lebanon distributed 200,000 NTs during Pope Benedict’s visit to Lebanon back in 2012.

“Bishop Selim’s eyes lit up,” said Bassous. “He continued to say, ‘If this can be done in Cyprus, my dream as an Archbishop would be fulfilled, as there is nothing more valuable than the New Testament to remind us of the Pope’s visit’.”

“I took it upon myself to see if this ‘dream’ could become a reality at such a short notice,” explained Dr. Bassous. “His Eminence gave me the contact information of the Apostolic Nuncio, whom I contacted that same evening and emailed him the proposed initiative. A few days later, after exchanging several emails and information, we finally received the Vatican’s approval to print and distributed 5,000 NTs in Greek, mainly for the Cypriot Maronites, and 5,000 NTs in English for the expat communities, during the Papal Mass. About 15 days were remaining before this visit.”

What followed was nothing short of a miracle. The team at BS-Lebanon worked relentlessly to prepare the cover design, receive the Modern Greek and Good News Translation texts from the Greek and American Bible Societies, raise the money, print the NTs and air-transport the 10,000 copies to Cyprus, clear and deliver them one day before Pope Francis’ arrival to the island.

Despite the crises and challenges that Lebanon is going through, this project came as a beacon of hope in the midst of darkness. The CEO was featured on prime-time news on one of the prominent televisions to explain that despite the current challenges, there is always a way. He was also invited for a one-hour interview with the partner Christian Satellite television, SAT-7, to talk about this project and the Papal visit. The theme of the visit was: “Comforting each other in faith” inspired by the name of the Apostle Barnabas, a native of Cyprus.

Michalis Chatzigiannis, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Greece, also responsible for the work in Cyprus, traveled to Cyprus to participate in the Papal Mass. Also participating in the visit was the Patriarch of the Maronite Church, HB Cardinal Bechara Rai, who extended his stay to do parish visits of Maronite congregations on the island. His Beatitude commended the Bible Societies on their initiative and partnership across borders for effective Bible cause impact.

This project would have never been possible without the support of several partner Bible Societies who sponsored the project at such a short notice. “Unique distribution opportunities are always exciting,” added Dr. Bassous. “The sight of migrant and expat workers asking for copies of the NTs for their friends who could not come to the Mass was humbling.”

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