Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Solidarity, compassion," remembrance in prayer and encouragement to the Syrian Catholics "of Iraq and Syria, who are living moments of great suffering and fear in the face of violence" was expressed today by Pope Francis during a morning meeting with Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, accompanied by bishops and faithful of the Syriac Catholic Church during the annual Synod of their Church, held in Rome from 8 to 10 December.
"The difficult situation in the Middle East - the Pope said - provoked and continues to provoke in your Church the displacement of faithful to eparchies in the diaspora, and places you before new pastoral demands. "It is a challenge: on the one hand, being faithful to one's origins; on the other, inserting yourselves into different cultural contexts at the service of the salus animarum and of the common good. This movement towards countries considered to be safer impoverishes the Christian presence in the Middle East, land of the prophets, of the first preachers of the Gospel, of the martyrs and of many saints, cradle of the hermits and of monasticism. This obliges you to reflect on the situation in your eparchies, which need zealous pastors, as well as courageous faithful, capable of witnessing to the Gospel when in discussions, sometimes not easy, with people of different religions and ethnicities."
"Many have fled to seek shelter from an inhumanity that throws entire populations out into the streets, leaving them without any means of survival," he said. "With the other Churches, seek to coordinate your efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs, whether of those who remain in their homelands or of those who have sought refuge in other countries."
"Returning to your Churches, you are refreshed by this experience of communion at the of the Apostles Peter and Paul; a communion which today finds particular expression here, in raising a prayer of gratitude and petition to the Lord, together with the Successor of Peter."
"I urge you - he concluded - to continue in your pastoral commitment and ministry of hope in the service of the venerable Syriac Catholic Church. I greet with affection the faithful who accompany you and in whom I see represented the different communities you serve. I invite you to bring to all the assurances of my closeness and my prayer to the Lord."