This morning, Pope Francis met with Patriarch Youhanna X Yazigi, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East. The Syrian prelate informed the Holy Father of the continuing suffering of Christians in the nation.
The situation is of particular difficult for the Patriarch whose brother was one of two bishops kidnapped in Syria. On April 22, Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek-Orthodox Bishop Boulos al-Yazigi were kidnapped by unknown abductors during a humanitarian mission.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Patriarch Yazigi expressed his gratitude for the Holy Father’s concern for the people of Syria.
“I bear in my heart all the pain of our people in Syria, in Lebanon, in the Middle East, and we consider the attitude of His Holiness towards our people, our Church in the Middle East, in Syria and Lebanon especially to push, to find solutions, to establish a peace through dialogue, not in war,” he said.
Pope Francis’ recent call for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria, he said, was an important message to all, especially to world leaders to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Regarding the kidnapping of his brother and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios, the Patriarch have been unable to obtain any new information on their whereabouts nor on who is responsible for their abduction.
Patriarch Yazigi stated that he spoke not only on the abduction of his brother and the situation in Syria but also of the continuing dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
“We talked about our progression towards unity, Christian unity as you know, dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,” the Patriarch told Vatican Radio.
“We try, we want to do what we can do, all together – this is the desire of His Holiness, and our desire. And about this political situation, about the presence of Christians in the Middle East – it’s a very important issue now, because a lot of our people are leaving Syria or Lebanon for other countries, and we cannot accept the Middle East without the face of Christ.”
Speaking on a peaceful solution to the crisis, the Syrian prelate called on world governments, especially Russia, the U.S. and in Europe to help push for a solution in Syria through peaceful dialogue.
Concluding his interview, Patriarch Yazigi stated that although he does not fear for his safety, there are still areas where it is difficult to minister or hold liturgies in Syria, especially in Aleppo and Homs.
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On the NET:
For Vatican Radio’s interview with Patriarch Yazigi, go to: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/09/27/orthodox_patriarch_of_antioch_shares_pain_of_syrian_people_with_pope/en1-732303