07/07/2018, 08.32
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Metropolitan Hiiarion: Together in Bari to find way out of Middle East catastrophe

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The millions of refugees in Lebanon, rebuilding Syria, the drama of migrants, collaboration between the Churches: an interview of the "Secretary of State" of the Moscow Patriarchate a few hours after the ecumenical prayer meeting in Bari, together with Pope Francis and the patriarchs of the East.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Today at the Bari meeting between Pope Francis and the Eastern Patriarchs, the Russian Church will be represented by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), the "Secretary of State" of the Moscow Patriarchate. In recent days, in a television interview with the channel Russia 24, and published excerpts on the official patriarchate website. They concern the situation in the Middle East and the drama of migrants.

When asked by the journalist whether the Russian Church "will participate in the negotiations on July 7" with Pope Francis, Hilarion stressed that "a real humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in the Middle East: millions of people are outside the borders of their own states, they have become refugees. Lebanon alone has welcomed one and a half million Syrian refugees, in a country of four and a half million inhabitants ... imagine the consequences for their economy, and what stress all these refugees must be feel". The metropolitan invited everyone to unite the efforts, spiritual and material, to prevent the tragedy from becoming irreversible.

Commenting on the conditions of the refugees, Hilarion distinguished between those who flee from wars from those who seek better economic conditions, observing that in the latter case "the states to which they are directed morally have the right to stop them and send them back ". At the same time, according to the metropolitan, there are situations in which compassion must prevail, as in the case of the separation of children from families on the US-Mexico border, or of ships that have been refused ports in the Mediterranean, or when " Italian ships have refused to go to the rescue of troubled Libyan refugees: all those in need must always be helped ".

The other big question, remarked on by the prelate during the interview, is "the post-war reconstruction of Syria", which has been bombarded by several military coalitions for years, so "in many cities there is no stone left standing". The reconstruction must be decided together, and political issues will also have to be addressed, because "the situation created in the Middle East is the direct consequence of Western politics in that area, characterized by an unwanted and unsolicited interference. ". According to Hilarion it is necessary to "stop the nightmare", to stop the flow of refugees, allowing them to return to their homes, and above all to make sure that "Christians feel safe".

The meeting in Bari will gather the representatives of all the ancient Eastern and Orthodox Churches in prayer; the Pope will be joined by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, that is the heads of the "pentarchy" of the ancient Church, the "five fingers of the hand of God". Added to these are the modern national patriarchates, beginning with that of Moscow in 1589, and above all with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, when the "international question" was raised that remains unresolved even today.

During the ecumenical prayer, the "double lamp" of St. Nicholas in the shape of a boat (see picture 2) will be lit, symbol of the union between the Church of the East and the West, and at the same time rescue in sea ​​between the ships of migrants and host countries.

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