Pope Benedict: Human Life Must Always Be Defended

The Holy Father Addresses Representatives of the Eastern Churches

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI today met with members of the Committee of Aid Agencies for Eastern Churches (ROACO). The committee unites funding agencies from various countries around the world for the sake of providing assistance in different areas of life such as worship buildings, scholarships, and social and health care facilities.

The Holy Father thanked those present and assured those representing the Churches in Europe and America for their support of the Church in the east. He then began to explain the effect that the current economic crisis has had on the Eastern churches. «The East, the motherland of ancient Christian traditions, is especially affected by this process, which engenders uncertainty and instability that also has an impact on the Church and in the ecumenical and interreligious fields,» he said.

The Pope explained that such factors would reopen wounds that «have a damaging effect on dialogue and peaceful cohabitation among peoples.» The weakening of respect for human rights, particularly those regarding religious freedom, he warned, was at risk. 

Addressing the representatives of the Middle Eastern churches, Pope Benedict reaffirmed his sympathy for the men, women and innocent children suffering in the current conflict in Syria. «May our prayer, our commitment and our active brotherhood in Christ, as an oil of consolation, help them not to lose sight of the light of hope in this moment of darkness, and obtain from God wisdom of heart for all in positions of responsibility so that bloodshed and violence, that only bring pain and death, may cease and give way to reconciliation, harmony and peace,» he said. 

The Pontiff reiterated the Holy See’s stance of a wider intervention in Syria to deal with the conflict. «Every effort should be made, including by the international community, to bring Syria out of the present situation of violence and crisis, which has already lasted a long time and risks becoming a wider conflict that would have highly negative consequences for the country and the whole region,» he said. «I also issue an urgent and heartfelt appeal, in view of the extreme need of the population, that the necessary humanitarian assistance be guaranteed, and extended to the many persons who have been forced to leave their homes, some of them becoming refugees in neighbouring countries.» 

«The precious gift of human life must always be defended,» the Holy Father said. 

Pope Benedict concluded his address by inviting those present to look at the upcoming year of Faith as an aid to the eastern churches in remaining a presence of the love of God in the region. He also invoked the Virgin Mary to protect him in his forthcoming visit to Lebanon for the closing of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. «I look forward to offering the Lebanese Church and Nation my paternal and fraternal embrace,» he said.

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