Today Pope Francis received in audience participants in the Assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO).
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.
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I welcome you and I thank Cardinal Sandri for the words with which he introduced our meeting; I greet each one of you from my heart and the Communities to which you belong. I am grateful to you all for the zeal you put in carrying forward the mission entrusted to you and for your attention to the needs of our brothers of the East. Taking part in your works are Pontifical Representatives in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq and Jordan, and in Ukraine, who support the life of the Church and of the people of those countries, rendering the Pope and the Holy See close, through meetings but also with gestures of concrete charity, in coordination with all the organizations involved in the Roman Curia.
I also greet, with a fraternal greeting, Father Francis Patton, who succeeded Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa as Custos of the Holy Land; and I take the occasion to express my affection and gratitude to all the Friars Minor, who for centuries have guaranteed the maintenance of the Holy Places and the Shrines, also thanks to the Good Friday Collection that is renewed every year, stemming from the happy intuition of Blessed Paul VI. May the Lord protect you and give you peace! I hope that, with the generous aid of so many, the works of restoration of the Basilica of the Nativity and of the aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher have come to an end, also with the contribution of the other Christian Communities.
I have been told that precisely in the course of the restorations at Bethlehem, there has come to light on a wall of the nave a seventh Angel in mosaic that, together with the other six, forms a sort of procession towards the place that commemorates the mystery of the birth of the Word made flesh. This event makes us think that the face of our Ecclesial Communities might also be covered with “incrustations” due to different problems and sins. However, your work must always be guided by the certainty that under the material and moral incrustations, also under the tears and blood caused by war, by violence and by persecution, under this stratum that seems impenetrable, there is a luminous face like that of the Angel of the mosaic. And all of you, with you projects and your actions, have cooperated in this “restoration,” so that the face of the Church reflects visibly the light of Christ the Incarnate Word. He is our peace, and He knocks on the door of our heart in the Middle East, as He does in India and in Ukraine, country, the latter, that I wanted the extraordinary collection to be allocated, proclaimed last month of April among the Churches of Europe.
The reflection that in these days you wished to dedicate to the presences of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches in the territories of India, outside of Kerala, makes me hope that one can proceed according to the indications of my Predecessors, in respect of each one’s right, without a spirit of division, but fostering communion in witnessing the only Savior Jesus Christ. This communion, in every part of the world where Latin and Oriental Catholics live side by side, needs the spiritual riches of the West and of the East, from which the young generations of priests, men and women religious, and pastoral workers can draw, in keeping with what Saint John Paul II affirmed: “The words of the West are in need of the words of the East, so that the Word of God manifests ever better its unfathomable riches. Our words will meet forever in the Heavenly Jerusalem, but we invoke and want that meeting to be anticipated in the Holy Church that is still walking towards the fullness of the Kingdom” (Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, 28).
While I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon you, I ask you to pray for me, who in a few days will go as a pilgrim to an Eastern land, Armenia, first among the Nations to receive Jesus’ Gospel. Thank you from my heart. May Our Lady protect and accompany you.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]