Vatican City (AsiaNews) - This morning, at the extraordinary consistory, Pope Francis and the cardinals made a "special plea" for "the many Christians who, in various parts of the world, are increasingly frequently victims of acts of intolerance or persecution."
"To those who suffer for the Gospel," Vatican Press Office director Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement, "the Holy Father and the Cardinals wish to renew their assurance of their constant prayers, urging them to stand firm in their faith and to forgive their persecutors from their hearts, in imitation of Jesus Christ.
"Equally, the thoughts of the Pope and the Cardinals turned to those nations which in this period are riven by internal conflicts, or by serious tensions which have consequences for civil co-existence, such as South Sudan or Nigeria, in a climate of growing indifference. At this time there is particular apprehension with regard to the evolution of the difficult situation in Ukraine, where it is hoped that all violence will cease immediately and that harmony and peace will be re-established.
"Similarly, a great cause for concern is the continuing conflict in Syria, where it appears that the parties are still far from finding a lasting and peaceful solution, as well as the situation in the Central African Republic, which assumes greater proportions day by day. Initiatives on the part of the international community to promote peace and internal reconciliation, to guarantee the restoration of security and the rule of law, and to allow the indispensable access of humanitarian aid, are becoming increasingly urgent.
"Unfortunately, it is evident that many of the current conflicts are described as being of a religious nature, not infrequently surreptitiously placing Christians and Muslims in opposition, whereas in reality these conflicts have origins of a mainly ethnic, political or economic nature.
"The Catholic Church, on her part, in condemning every form of violence perpetrated in the name of religious belief, will not cease in her commitment to peace and reconciliation, through interreligious dialogue and the many charitable works which provide daily assistance and comfort to the suffering throughout the world."