Responding to Pope Francis’ call and concern, papal nuncios in the Middle East have gathered in the Vatican to discuss the difficult situation of Christians in the war-torn region.
Briefing journalists in the Vatican press office this afternoon, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office, underscored the presence and importance of the dialogue taking place between the diplomats.
Due to the grave situation that has prevailed in recent months, the Holy Father requested this three-day meeting of the Middle East’s papal representatives.
Though Fr. Lombardi said a full text of the Holy Father’s remarks would not be released, he did share the following information:
Demonstrating his closeness and interest in this matter, Pope Francis opened the meeting. He thanked the participants convened to pray and reflect together on what to do to approach the dramatic situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East, along with other religious and ethnic minorities who suffer from the region’s ongoing violence.
When he spoke to the diplomats, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of prayer. He expressed his hope that multi-level initiatives and actions may be identified, during this meeting, in order to manifest the solidarity of all the Church towards the Christians of the Middle East and also to involve the international community and all men and women of good will, to respond to the needs of those suffering.
Francis also addressed the problem of arms trafficking that is the basis of many problems, as well as the humanitarian drama experienced by many people forced to leave their countries.
The meeting began this morning at the Vatican Secretariat of State. In attendance were the Superiors of the Secretariat of State and the Roman Curia directly linked with the issue, as well as the Holy See Permanent Observers at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the apostolic nuncio to the European Union.
In addition to Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who illustrated the importance and aim of the meeting, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, offered a complete report on the situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East. He presented different aspects of the issue and opened up dialogue with the participants.
To this end, the papal representatives in Syria and Iraq then went on to provide information on the conditions of Christians in their respective countries.
Finally, Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, spoke on the role of the Church in facing the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
This afternoon, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is to speak on religious dialogue with Islam, and the challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East.
Next, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will make a presentation on his recent visit to Iraq as the Holy Father’s special envoy. After the discussion, the session will close with Vespers.