In the audience with participants to the ROACO meeting, Francis talked about the difficult situation of a region torn by war and violence. “I ask you to pray, and invite others to pray, for our meeting on 1 July with the Heads of the Christian Churches in Lebanon, that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and guide us,” he said.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met participants attending the plenary session of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO).
In his address, the pontiff spoke about Syria, but also Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Eritrea, countries touched by violence, where it is necessary to rebuild homes and cathedrals but even more “the living stones who have been wounded and dispersed.”
The audience provided the pontiff with the opportunity to express his concerns for a region whose fate is close to his heart and to reiterate his solidarity with the Churches that operate in places connected to Jesus’ earthly life. Francis also mentioned his trip to Iraq, about which he spoke for the first time during the ROACO meeting of 2019.
“Despite the pandemic, you have had additional meetings over the past year to face the situation of Eritrea, but also to follow that of Lebanon following the terrible Beirut port explosion of 4 August last. In this regard, I thank you for your efforts to support Lebanon in this grave crisis, and I ask you to pray, and invite others to pray, for our meeting on 1 July with the Heads of the Christian Churches in Lebanon, that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and guide us.”
The Pope also expressed his concern for the Holy Land, for Israel and Palestine, “peoples who we hope and pray will see the bow of peace that God showed to Noah as a sign of the covenant between heaven and earth, and of peace among peoples. For all too often, even lately, those skies have been darkened by missiles bringing destruction, death and fear!”
“The pleas for help rising from Syria are never far from God’s heart, yet do not seem to have touched the hearts of leaders in a position to affect the destiny of peoples. We think of the continuing scandal of ten years of conflict, millions of internally and externally displaced persons, the victims and the need for reconstruction, all held hostage to partisan thinking and the lack of courageous decisions for the good of that war-torn nation.”
Speaking about places affected by violence, the pontiff said that he was “following with apprehension the situation arising from the conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia, knowing that it is also affecting nearby Eritrea. Beyond religious and confessional differences, we come to see the essential importance of the message of Fratelli Tutti, whenever differences between ethnic groups and the resulting struggles for power become systemic.”
“I would also like, through you, to extend my gratitude to all those who support and make possible your projects: ordinary members of the faithful, families, parishes and volunteers who understand what it means to be ‘brothers and sisters all’ and who devote a portion of their time and resources to assisting you in the services you provide. I have been told that the income from the 2020 collection for the Holy Land was only about half of that received in previous years.
“Certainly, this was due in part to the long months when attendance at church services was reduced, but also to the economic crisis generated by the pandemic. While the crisis may have encouraged us to focus on what is essential, we cannot remain indifferent when we think of the deserted streets of Jerusalem and the loss of those pilgrims who go there to strengthen their faith, but also to express concrete solidarity with the local Churches and their people.
“Once again, I ask everyone to appreciate the significance of this form of charity, which Saint Paul refers to in his letters, and Saint Paul VI restructured in his 1974 Apostolic Letter Nobis in Animo, whose continued timeliness and validity I reaffirm."
Francis ended with a thought for the Caucasus. “At the conclusion of my Apostolic Journey in Armenia in 2016, Catholicos Karekin II and I released doves into the sky as a sign of hope for peace in the entire Caucasus region. Sadly, in recent months that hope has once more been disappointed. For this reason, I am grateful for the concern you have shown for the situation in Georgia and Armenia, in order to enable the Catholic community to continue to be a sign and leaven of evangelical life.”