Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Speaking today to the representatives of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), Pope Francis said that “Further efforts are needed to eliminate the seemingly tacit agreements whereby the lives of thousands and thousands of families – women, men, children, seniors – seem to weigh less on the scale of interest than oil and weapons as some proclaim peace whilst tolerating the actions of traffickers of death” in the Middle East.
"We would have all wished that the the seed of reconciliation would have borne greater fruits,” said Francis, as he noted that the previous ROACO meeting had occurred a few days before his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his subsequent plea for peace. “Other events that have further shaken the Middle East, which has been marked by years of conflict, have made us feel the cold of a winter and a frost in the human heart that never seem to end.”
“The ground in these regions is marked by the footprints of those who seek refuge and soaked with the blood of many men and women, including numerous Christians persecuted for their faith. It is the daily experience of the sons and daughters of the Eastern Churches and of their pastors, who share the suffering with many other people.”
“In the recent trip to Iraq by one of your delegations, you met real faces, in particular displaced people from the Nineveh Plain, but also small groups from Syria. You brought them the Lord’s gaze and blessing. At the same time, you felt in those eyes, which asked for help and pleaded for peace and for a return home, [the presence] of Jesus Himself Who looked at you, asking for the charity that makes us Christians.”
“As I wrote in my Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Mercy, every kind of assistance must always be reborn from the blessing of the Lord who reaches us when we have the courage to look at the situations and the brothers before us. This way we do not to fall into the trap of efficiency for its own sake or that of mere aid that does not promote people or nations.”
Instead, “‘Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity. Let us recognise that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, friendship, and fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!’ (n. 15).”
At present, “the world seems to have become aware of recent tragedies, opening its eyes to the millennial presence of Christians in the Middle East. Many initiatives have been undertaken to raise awareness and offer aid to them and to others who have been unjustly affected by violence.”
However, “Further efforts are needed to eliminate the seemingly tacit agreements whereby the lives of thousands and thousands of families – women, men, children, seniors – seem to weigh less on the scale of interest than oil and weapons as some proclaim peace whilst tolerating the actions of traffickers of death in those countries. I therefore encourage you, as you perform your service of Christian charity, to condemn all that tramples human dignity.”
“Together with the Holy Land and the Middle East, you are also set to devote particular attention to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Armenia."
"You can help these ancient Christian communities to feel that they are members in the evangelical mission and offer them some prospects of hope and growth, especially the young. Without this, it will not be possible to stop the migratory flow in which so many of the region’s children set out to reach the Mediterranean coasts, at the risk of their lives.”
“Cradle of the first nation to receive the baptism, Armenia too has a great history, rich in culture, faith and martyrdom. Supporting the Church in that land contributes to the journey towards the visible unity of all believers in Christ. ‘Only in this way will new generations open themselves to a better future and will the sacrifice of so many become seeds of justice and peace’ (Message on the 100th anniversary of ‘Metz Yeghern’ and proclamation of St Gregory of Narek as a Doctor of the Church, 12 April 2015).”
“Let me conclude with the words of St Ephrem, so as to invoke the Lord’s blessing through the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God for the Eastern Catholic Churches and each of you present here: ‘Receive, our King, our offering, and give us in return our salvation. Bring peace to devastated lands and rebuild burnt-down churches so that, when there will be great peace, we may weave a great crown of flowers from all places, and the Lord of peace may be crowned’ (St. Ephrem, Hymn on resurrection).