Pope Asks Assistance for Christians of Holy Land and Iraq

Receives Members of Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to Catholics to do everything possible to help the beleaguered Christians in the Holy Land and Iraq.

The Pope made his appeal on Thursday when he met with 70 members of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO), composed of 19 aid organizations of the United States, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria.

The purpose of this institution is to give financial support to Eastern-rite Catholic communities, as well as to some countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, coordinated by the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The Pope said that this institution’s work is particularly important given the violence in the Holy Land, the war in Iraq, and the famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the four countries on which ROACO will concentrate its aid.

The Holy Father voiced the need of the peoples of the Holy Land for a «stable and lasting peace,» as the region «unfortunately, continues to be the theater of conflicts and violence.»

«The Catholic communities present there suffer and are in need of being supported and helped in many emergencies,» he said.

Noting ROACO’s goal of helping the Christians of Iraq, the Pope said, «I pray to God that peace will be consolidated as soon as possible and that the peoples, who have suffered so much in part because of long international isolation, may finally live in harmony.»

«I am convinced that your interventions, oriented to carrying out pastoral and social works in support of believers, will help to give life to a better future for the whole nation,» he said.

He added, however: «Along with structures and buildings, though indispensable, it is sometimes more important to form consciences and to safeguard the faith inherited from the parents.»

«This calls for an adequate catechesis, attention to the liturgy proper to the Church one belongs to, attention to the formation of the clergy and the laity, an enlightened openness to ecumenism, and a prophetic presence in support of the poor,» the Pope concluded.

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