04/24/2008, 00.00
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Pope: in the Caucusus, a "small flock" has grown, in spite of difficulties and violence

The situation remains difficult for Catholics who live in contact with believers of other religions and who have the problem of seeing the erosion by "insidious forms of pressure" of their identity, which communism was not able to eliminate.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The pope has encouraged the "small flock" of Catholics living in the countries of the Caucusus, which has witnessed sometimes violent opposition, even in the recent past, and continues to live between difficult social challenges and contact with other religious communities.

After the fall of communism, among the current problems for the Catholic Church, to which Benedict XVI made reference while receiving this morning the bishops of the southern Caucasus, is that of obtaining recognition of legal personality in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, which is necessary to "prevent that, where communism was not able to erode Catholic identity, insidious forms of pressure might weaken in some the sense of ecclesial belonging ".

"After the fall of the Soviet Union", the pope observed, "your populations witnessed significant social changes along the road of progress, but difficult situations still remain: there are many poor, unemployed, and refugees whom the wars have driven away from their homes, leaving them in a precarious state.  The tormented events of the past century have not, however, extinguished the flame of the Gospel, which through the generations has found fertile ground in the Caucusus, although violent opposition has not been lacking, both inside and from the outside, causing many victims, among which the Church counts not a few martyrs of the faith".

"Your pastoral activity", he added, "is therefore carried out in a territory where many social and cultural challenges remain, and where the Catholic community constitutes a 'small flock', which lives its faith in contact with other Christian faiths and other religions: there coexist, in fact, Catholics of the Armenian, Latin, and Chaldean rite, together with Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jews, and Muslims.  In such a multireligious context, it is important that Catholics should continue and increasingly intensify their collaboration with other Churches, and also with the followers of other religions, as already happens in many places".

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