“I assure you of my constant closeness in prayer: that the Risen Lord will be near you and accompany you in the mission entrusted to you,” Pope Francis said February 12, 2018, when meeting at the Vatican with members of the Greek Melkite Synod gathered in Rome.
The Holy Father explained that his prayer “cannot be dissociated from that for the beloved Syria and for all the Middle East, a region in which your Church is deeply rooted and performs a precious service for the good of the People of God.”
He continued by pointing out that the Melkite presence “is not limited to the Middle East, but has extended, for many years now, to those countries where many Greek-Melkite faithful have moved in search of a better life. My prayer and my affectionate remembrance goes also to those faithful in the diaspora and to their Pastors.”
Calling the current times a “difficult historical period,” Francis noted that Christians in the Middle East must “live their faith in the Lord Jesus in the midst of many hardships.” He cited the “testimony of life” given by Greek-Melkite bishops and priests, who “can encourage the faithful to remain in the land where Divine Providence wished them to be born.”
Recalling the words of his June 22, 2017, letter granting “Ecclesiastica Communio” to His Beatitude Youssef Absi, newly elected to head the Greek Melkites, Pope Frances said, “pastors are called upon to manifest communion, unity, closeness, solidarity, and transparency before the suffering People of God”. The Holy Father also reminded those present of the February 23, 2018, day of prayer and fasting for peace he recently announced.
“On that occasion, I will not fail to make special mention of Syria, afflicted in recent years by unspeakable suffering,” he promised.