Vatican City (AsiaNews) - There is a terrorism of "previously unimaginable dimensions" in the Middle East and many Christians are being persecuted "in the general indifference of many. This unjust situation requires, in addition to our constant prayer, an adequate response even from the international community". This was the reflection with which Pope Francis opened the Consistory today dedicated to the situation of Christians in the Middle East, which also involves the patriarchs from the region.
The reflection on the Middle East was followed by the first part of the ordinary public consistory for the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz (priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory of the Miraculous Holy Cross in Goa and an apostle of Sri Lanka and India) and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception (Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Oblation Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament).
"We share - said the Pope - the desire for peace and stability in the Middle East and the will to encourage the resolution of conflicts through dialogue, reconciliation and political commitment. At the same time, we would like to give the greatest possible help to the Christian communities to support their permanence in the region. recent events, especially in Iraq and Syria are very worrying. As I have had occasion to reiterate several times, we cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have professed the name of Jesus. Recent events, especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted in a brutal way and have had to leave their homes. Awareness of the value of human life seems to have been lost, it seems that the human person no longer counts and can be sacrificed to other interests. And this, unfortunately, in the indifference of so many".
"This unjust situation requires, in addition to our constant prayer, an adequate response also from the international community. I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, today's meeting will produce valid reflections and suggestions in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering and to meet even the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where Christianity was born and from which it had spread".
The dramatic situation in the region and in particular of the Christians who live there, the need for international community's response to the terrorism of the Islamic State and a negotiated solution that gives to all the problems in the Middle East, from Israeli conflict Palestinian, were then outlined by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who reported on the meeting of the papal representatives in the Middle East held in the Vatican at the beginning of the month.
"Peace in the Middle East - said the cardinal - must be sought through
dialogue that leads to a 'regional' solution, not through unilateral decisions
imposed by force, without neglecting the interests of the parties involved. In particular,
the necessity and urgency was noted of promoting a political solution and just
and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a decisive
contribution to peace in the region and for the stabilization of the whole area.
"The role of Iran in resolving the crisis in Syria and in Iraq as well as in the struggle against the so-called Islamic State was also discussed. The involvement of Iran, through the multiplication and improvement of its relations with the international community to will contribute and facilitate a satisfactory solution to the nuclear question".
Special reference was made to the situation in Lebanon, which is heavily influenced by both the political situation in neighboring Syria and Israel and the entire region, particularly regarding the institutional instability with the vacancy of the Presidency of the Republic in May. "Considering that it is the only country in the Middle East, where the president is a Maronite Christian and where Christians typically take a leading role at institutional level, justifies the fact that Lebanon has been and continues to be of particular interest to the Holy See. "
Moving on to terrorist violence of ISIS Card. Parolin reiterated what he had previously stated in his September 29 speech at the UN, namely that "it is permissible to stop the unjust aggressor, always, however, in compliance with international law, as has also been stated by the Holy Father. Yet we have clearly seen that we cannot entrust the resolution of the problem to military response alone. The root causes which are exploited by this fundamentalist ideology need to be studied in greater detail. Regarding the so-called Islamic State, attention should also be paid to the sources that support its terrorist activities through a more or less clear political support, as well as through the illegal oil trade and the supply of weapons and technology. "
"In the specific case of violations and abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State of the international community, through the United Nations and its organisms that deal with emergencies, action must be taken to prevent possible and new genocides and to assist the large numbers of refugees. It seems appropriate that the states of the region be directly involved, along with the rest of the international community, in the actions to be undertaken with the knowledge that it is not to protect one or the other religious community or one or the other ethnic group, but people who are part of one human family, and whose fundamental rights are systematically violated. "
"Particular concern was manifested at the flight of Christians from the Middle East, an issue that has concerned us for some time and has worsened again in recent months. Thousands of Christians, afraid of what might happen to them, have been forced to leave everything: family, home, land, etc.. others have sold or almost sold their property in order to pay the 'traffickers' that help them arrive in Europe or in other countries. "
The cardinal also reported that an emphasis has been given to the "vital role" that "the religious leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities can and must play" to encourage interfaith dialogue and intercultural education for mutual understanding. "In addition, they must clearly denounce the manipulation of religion to justify violence. In the concrete case of the so-called Islamic State a particular responsibility lies with the Muslim leaders not only to reject their claim to be called 'Islamic State' and to form a caliphate, but also more generally to condemn the killing of others for religious reasons and any kind of discrimination".
"With regard to the situation in general in the Muslim-majority countries, the participants observed that there is an underlying problem that is the relationship and the unbreakable link between religion and politics, that is the lack of separation between religion and State, between the religious and the civil bond that makes life difficult for non-Muslim minorities and Christianity in particular. It would be important, therefore, to help mature the idea of the distinction between these two areas in the Muslim world".
In this regard, in the speeches of those present at the Consistory it was pointed out that in many Middle Eastern countries the school textbooks do not speak positively of religions different from that of the state and of the need for local institutions to reflect on this point. In this context, the need to foster interfaith dialogue with Muslims was highlighted, starting from the common basis of reason, and a lively ecumenical cooperation, so that all the Churches of the Middle East make themselves heard with one voice.