12/01/2018, 02.44
IRAQ
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Patriarchs of the East say young people are the hope for the future of Christians in the Middle East

The 26th Conference of the Patriarchs of the East, held for the first time in Iraq, came to an end yesterday. Participants called on the faithful to hold fast onto their faith and contribute to the region’s development. In their final statement, the prelates look at the situation of each country and its challenges. The next meeting is set for November 2019 in Cairo.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Patriarchs of the East held their 26th Conference from 26 to 30 November, in Baghdad, a first for the Iraqi capital. In their final statement, they note that young people are a sign of "hope" for the future of Christians and the whole Middle East, a region increasingly facing pressing "challenges". Following Pope Francis’s example, Christian leaders expressed their "commitment" to ensure "the foundations" of the future of the Christian presence "in their land".

In their message sent to AsiaNews for information, the leaders of the Eastern Churches urge young people to "hold fast onto their faith" and "contribute" to the region’s development from a perspective centred on peace, love and justice.

The patriarchs’ meeting sought to strengthen Christian unity in the East and meet the many challenges that threaten the survival of their communities, most notably persecution, extremism and emigration.

The gathering brought together Maronite Patriarch Card Beshara al-Rahi, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Youssef Absi, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the representative of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Mgr William Hanna Shomali and the host, Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako, who delivered the opening address.

At the venue, Christian leaders showed their concern for young people in a solemn Mass in Baghdad’s Cathedral of St Joseph. During the service, young people shared questions, concerns, fears, aspirations and challenges for their future with the cardinals, bishops and priests.

The meeting also saw the patriarchs and leaders of the Eastern Churches meet with the President of the Republic of Iraq Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi,

The 26th Conference ended this morning with a solemn Eucharistic concelebration in the capital. During the service, the final message was read. In addition to addressing young people, it also summarised the situation in various countries.

The statement expressed "satisfaction" for the progressive stabilisation of many parts of Syria as well as hope that the nation as a whole can find peace. It also issued an appeal for a "quick return" of displaced people and refugees to boost "national unity".

With respect to Iraq, the Patriarchs expressed their "appreciation" for the "positive" atmosphere that is beginning to emerge, as a guarantee of further "stability" even though this requires action against extremist ideologies that have not yet been completely eradicated. The prelates also called on young people to "stay" in order to contribute to reconstruction.

Concerns were raised about the prompt formation of Lebanon’s new government, which is called to deal with the country’s problems and meet the needs of its citizens. Christian leaders note and praise the country’s great efforts to help displaced people and refugees from neighbouring war-torn Syria.

The final statement also expressed solidarity with Palestine and its people, who continue to suffer under Israeli occupation in a situation that appears "frozen". The prelates reiterated their "total refusal" to view Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or accept the opening of foreign embassies in the city.

"Stability" and "coexistence" in Jordan were praised, as were efforts in Egypt to renew the “religious discourse” through the elimination of hatred and the recognition of equality based on the principle of "citizenship".

Finally, the Patriarchs announced the date of the next meeting set to take place in Cairo (Egypt) under the auspices of the Coptic Patriarchate from 25 to 29 November 2019. They also issued an appeal to all heads of state and government of the Middle East to ensure respect for the human rights of all citizens, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

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