On Thursday, Pope Francis met with the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) at the conclusion of their 86th Plenary Assembly.
ROACO is a committee of funding agencies from around the world that provides various forms of assistance to areas in need ranging from worship buildings to health care facilities.
The Holy Father began his address by thanking the organization for the work they have carried, particularly for the Eastern Churches.
“As my Predecessors, I wish to encourage and support you in the exercise of charity, which is the only reason to boast for the disciples of Jesus,” the Holy Father said. “This charity flows from the love of God in Christ: the Cross is the summit, luminous sign of the mercy and charity of God towards all, which was poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Emphasizing the importance of charity, the Pope called on the members of ROACO to join him in “the task of joining faith to charity.” The Holy Father also reminded them that their work will only be effective if it is “rooted in faith, nourished by prayer, especially by the Holy Eucharist” which he described as a “Sacrament of faith and charity”.
The Pope also encouraged the organization to carry out their work while never forgetting that the projects they work on are a profession of the love of God.
Concern for the Middle East
During the audience, Pope Francis expressed his concern for the current situation in various parts of the Middle East, particularly in Syria where violence continues to surge between the government forces of President Bashir Al-Assad and rebel forces. The 76 year old Pontiff said that the current situation revived in him an “intense ecclesial concern for the condition of so many brothers and sisters who live in a situation of insecurity and violence” that does not spare the weak and the innocenet.
“Requested of us believers is constant and confident prayer, that the Lord may grant the longed-for peace, unity in sharing and concrete solidarity,” the Holy Father said. “ I would like to address again from the depth of my heart an appeal to the leaders of peoples and the international organizations, to believers of every religion and to men and women of good will, so that an end will be brought to all sorrow, all violence, all religious , cultural and social discrimination.”
“May the clash that sows death give way to the encounter and reconciliation that brings life. To all those who are suffering I say forcefully: never lose hope! The Church is on your side, she supports and sustains you!”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis asked the ROACO to do everything possible to relieve the needs of those affected by violence, especially those effected by the situation in Syria. “Saint Ignatius of Antioch,” the Pope reminded them, “ asked the Christians of Rome: remember in your prayer the Church of Syria … Jesus Christ will watch over her and your charity”
“I entrust to the Lord of life the innumerable victims and I implore the Most Holy Mother of God for all those who are in the “great tribulation”.