10/26/2008, 00.00
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Eastern Christians, victims of intolerance and cruel violence, says Pope

Benedict XVI launches a fresh appeal on behalf of the Church in Iraq and India so that Christians can be guaranteed, not privileges, but the dignity of living in and working for their own country. He calls upon civilian authorities “to spare no effort” to uphold the law, and calls on religious authorities to take “explicit” steps of friendship towards Christians. He mentions his upcoming plans for Africa in 2009. He mentions a Franciscan missionary, martyred in China.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In referring to the Bishops’ Synod on the “Word of God in the life and mission of the Church” Benedict XVI dedicated his last remarks to the situation of persecution of the Church in Iraq and India. Speaking before the Angelus prayer in front of tens of thousands of pilgrims who had gathered in St Peter’s Square he made his own the appeal launched two days ago by the patriarchs of Eastern Churches at the end of the Synod, reminding the international community, religious leaders and every man and woman of good will “about the tragedy that is being perpetrated in every country of the East, where Christians are victims of intolerance and cruel violence; killed, threatened and forced to abandon their homes and wander the land in search of refuge. [. . .] I am thinking especially about Iraq and India.”

“I am certain that the ancient and noble populations of these nations have learnt through centuries of respectful coexistence to appreciate the contribution made by the small but hard-working and skilled Christian minorities to the development of their common homeland. They do not ask for privileges; they only want to continue to live in their own country alongside with their fellow countrymen and women, as they have always done.”

In Iraq and India, violence appears to be spreading also because of the silence and inaction of political authorities. For this reason the Pontiff said: “I call upon the concerned civilian and religious authorities to spare no effort so that legality and civil coexistence be restored and honest and loyal citizens count on an appropriate level of protection by government institutions. I hope that those in charge of civil and religious affairs, cognizant of their role as leaders and as a reference for the populations, can take significant and explicit steps of friendship and consideration towards Christian and non-Christian minorities, and make it a point of honour to defend their legitimate rights.”

Benedict XVI also mentioned his future plans for Africa, to which he had already alluded during the Mass celebrated a few hours earlier in St Peter’s Basilica, at the end of the Synod.

“In October of next year the 2nd Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa will take place in Rome. Before that, God willing, I shall travel to Africa in March, visiting Cameron first, where I shall hand over the Synod’s Instrumentum laboris to the continent’s bishops. Afterwards I shall be in Angola for the 500th anniversary of the evangelisation of the country.”

By way of conclusion the Holy Father said: “I entrust the hitherto mentioned suffering as well as the hopes that dwell in our hearts, in particular for the African Synod, to the intercession of the Holiest Mary.”

Following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he mentioned the faithful of Velletri-Segni, who came with Bishop Mgr Vincenzo Apicella to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Servant of God Father Ginepro Cocchi, Minor Friar, priest and missionary to China, where he died, faithful to Christ, in 1939.”

“May Father Ginepro’s example,” noted the Pope, “always be for you an incentive and a courageous witness of the Gospel.”

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