04/26/2018, 09.53
VATICAN-MIDDLE EAST
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The Pope and the Churches of the Middle East in Bari for peace

The gathering of "reflection and prayer" set for July 7th. The leaders of the Christian Churches of the East will be present. Concern for the "dramatic situation in the Middle East that afflicts so many brothers and sisters in the faith". A phone call with the patriarch of Moscow Kirill.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - On July 7, Pope Francis will go to Bari for "a day of reflection and prayer on the dramatic situation in the Middle East that afflicts so many brothers and sisters in the faith", reports Vatican Press Office reports in a statement released yesterday afternoon. The communique specifies that "at this ecumenical meeting for peace he intends to invite the Heads of Churches and Christian communities of that region".

The choice of Bari is significant, and in the Vatican statement the city is called a "window on the East". Bari is in fact the place where the remains of the bishop Saint Nicholas are venerated, much loved also in the Christian East and in particular in Russia.

It is not yet clear who and how many patriarchs and bishops of the region will be able to participate.

The situation in the Middle East, from Syria to Yemen, from Lebanon to Iran, to the Holy Land, continues to deteriorate, creating victims, refugees and every day misery affecting populations and Christian communities.

On April 15, after the US, French and British bombardment against Syria, at the Regina Caeli, Francis said he was "deeply disturbed" by the lack of "common action in favor of peace in Syria" and denounced the "Difficulty in agreeing joint action" on the part of "the international community", despite having "tools available".

The day before he had spoken on the phone with the Moscow Orthodox patriarch Kirill and other Middle Eastern patriarchs. Kirill explained to journalists: “We took this initiative, knowing that Christians cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in Syria ... It was a very meaningful dialogue in favour of peace. We shared our common concern about the situation in Syria, and we talked about how Christians should influence this situation, to stop violence, war and so many tragic victims, such as we have seen in these days".

In yesterday's statement it is stated that "from now on Pope Francis exhorts us to prepare for this event with prayer".

On February 23rd, Pope Francis had already proposed a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, South Sudan and Congo. Also in 2013 he launched a prayer vigil for Syria.

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