Pontiff Defends Christians of Iraq, India

Urges World Leaders to Solidarity With Minorities

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is asking religious and civil leaders of the world to express solidarity with persecuted Christians.

The Pope made this appeal today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

He said he was joining his voice to a plea from the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, made at the end of the world Synod of Bishops, which concluded today.

Their appeal aimed to «bring the attention of the international community, of religious leaders and of all men and women of good will, to the tragedy that is being lived in the countries of the East, where Christians are victims of intolerance and cruel violence, slain, threatened, and forced to abandon their homes and wander in search of refuge. I am thinking especially in this moment of Iraq and India,» the Holy Father said.

He added: «I am sure that the ancient and noble populations of these nations have learned, over the course of centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contribution that the small, but qualified and hardworking Christian minorities give to the growth of the common homeland.

«They do not ask for privileges, but only want to continue living in their nation with their countrymen, as they have always done.»

The Bishop of Rome asked civil and religious authorities to make every possible effort «so that legality and civil coexistence are again re-established and honest and loyal citizens can know that they can count on adequate protection from the institutions of the state.»

«I also hope,» he added, «that the civil and religious leaders of all countries, aware of their roles as guides and reference points for the people, make significant and explicit gestures of friendship and consideration for Christian minorities or those of other religions, and that they make of the defense of their legitimate rights a question of honor.»

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