Dedicating this morning’s Consistory of Cardinals to the Middle East, and particularly the region’s Christians, Pope Francis has called on the international community to do their part as well as his fellow prelates to protect those suffering in the war-torn region.
Addressing the Consistory of Cardinals convened this morning at the Vatican just one day after the close of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis said, “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East without Christians, who for 2,000 years have professed the name of Jesus.”
“From this meeting today,” Francis said he expects “that valid reflections and suggestions may come forth to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering and also confront the tragedy of the decrease of the Christian presence in the land where it was born and where Christianity was spread from.”
The Pope reaffirmed the Church’s desire for peace in the region while calling on the international community to find a solution to the conflict throught “dialogue, reconciliation and political commitment.”
At the same time, he noted, “we would like to give the greatest possible support to the Christian communities, to maintain their stay in the region.”
The 77 year old Pontiff also expressed his concern and worry with the current conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
“We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism in an unimaginable dimension,” the Pontiff said, recalling how many are being persecuted and forced to flee brutally.
“It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost, it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed for other interests,” the Pope said. “All of this,” he continued, is “unfortunately because of the indifference of so many.”
Fr. Lombardi on Consistory
In a briefing at the Holy See Press office, Vatican spokeman Fr. Federico Lombardi, spoke on the consistory, and the addresses made by the Holy Father and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He also confirmed the presence of 86 cardinals, patriarchs, and superiors of the Secretariat of State at this morning’s consistory.
Fr. Lombardi stressed their call upon the international community, particularly to provide, to the Christian refugees, the opportunity to return to their homes as soon as possible, implementing the “security zones”, for example in the Nineveh Plain.
These interventions echoed the theme of the Vatican meeting, called for by Pope Francis, of Middle Eastern nuncios and diplomatic representatives held at the Vatican October 2 to 4.
His remarks, echoed by a communique issued by the Holy See today, also “called for an appeal to all the people kidnapped in the Middle East, so that the world will not forget them.”
Soon after, thirty interventions were given by the cardinals and patriarchs present in the Synod Hall.
The Patriarchs of Churches in the Middle East, in particular, have described situations and the main problems of the respective Churches in their respective countries, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Generally, the interventions focused on certain principles: the need for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, the defense of religious freedom, and support for local communities, the importance of education to create new generations capable of dialogue between them, and the role of the international community.
Regarding the first point, Fr. Lombardi explained, it was stressed that the Middle East has an urgent need to redefine its future.
The importance of Jerusalem as “the capital of the faith” for the three great monotheistic religions was underscored, as well the need to arrive at a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Syria.
Moreover, the spokesman reiterated their reaffirmation that, “In the face of violence perpetrated by ISIS, it was confirmed that you cannot kill in the name of God.”
The Vatican spokesman noted that freedom of religion and conscience, is a “fundamental human right,” one which is “innate and universal” for all mankind.
In addition to this right, the cardinals also stressed the need for Christians to recognize all the civil rights of other citizens, especially in countries where religion is not currently separated from the state.
Turning to how to support local communities in the region, Fr. Lombardi said: “It was confirmed that a Middle East without Christians would be a great loss for all, since they have a vital role in maintaining the balance of the region and for the great effort in the field of education.”
The communique noted that, “It is therefore essential to encourage Christians to remain in the Middle East and persevere in their mission, because they have always contributed to the well-being of the countries in which they live.”
Migration of Christians
Reflecting on the issue of migration of Christians, the consistory confirmed that those migrating “must find acceptance in the churches and in the States to which they migrate with the hope to also have adequate pastoral structures for the different rites.”
Furthermore, it was required to continue the delivery of humanitarian aid in the Middle East, that Christians are encouraged to stay on site and cultivate the various manifestations of solidarity possible by the churches in other countries, even with travel and pilgrimages.
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Pope’s Address to Consistory: