06/19/2008, 00.00
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May the Middle East be offered its much-longed-for peace, stability and religious freedom, says Pope

In his address to the participants of the ROACO assembly, Benedict XVI speaks of his closeness to and solidarity with Eastern Catholic Churches and of the “signs of hope” that are visible in the Holy Land.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI said he has “immense hope” in “some signs of peace” that are visible in the Holy Land, which he hopes to visit, and much hope that Lebanon may once again be a “sign” of peaceful coexistence. He also appealed to leaders of nations “to give the Middle East, especially the Land of Jesus, Lebanon and Iraq their much-longed-for peace and social stability, fully respecting the fundamental rights of the person, including that of real religious freedom.”

Benedict XVI took advantage of today’s meeting with the participants to the assembly of the Aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches (ROACO) to discuss the various situations in which the latter find themselves as minorities. For him their “everyday life and special mission, especially at the ecumenical and the inter-religious level, must be supported by the entire Catholic Church.”

Looking at their various circumstances, the Holy Father praised the communities of Armenia and Georgia which, “by living humbly and fraternally with other Christian Churches, and by generously serving the poor, [. . .] small though they are, can express in a very practical manner the communion of love proper to the universal Catholic Church.”

Turning his attention to Lebanon, the Benedict XVI spoke of his "gratitude and relief" at the fact that the country has apparently "found the path of dialogue and understanding", and reiterated his hope that "Lebanon may respond decisively to her vocation to be—for the Middle East and the entire world—a sign of the real possibility for peaceful and constructive coexistence between human beings.”

He then went on to mention Fr Jacques Ghazir Haddad who will be beatified next Sunday in Beirut, speaking of his hope that the example of the new blessed “may touch the hearts of young Lebanese, showing them the sweetness of an evangelical life at the service of the poor and the weak, and bringing them to become faithful witnesses of the Catholic faith in the Arab world.”

As for the Church of the Holy Land, so “vital for the entire Church,” he said that he shared the “trials” of its local communities, as well as “their hopes and fervently pray that I may be able to visit them in person, just as I pray that certain signs of peace, which I greet with immense hope, may soon be put into effect.”

I appeal to the leaders of nations,” he added, “that the Middle East, in particular the Land of Jesus, Lebanon and Iraq, may be offered longed-for peace and social stability, while respecting the fundamental rights of the person, including that of real religious freedom.”

“Peace,” he insisted, “is the only way to face the serious problem of displaced people and refugees and halt emigration, especially Christian emigration which affects the Oriental Churches so deeply.

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