“Let us feel ourselves always living stones close to Christ, Who is the cornerstone!”
Pope Francis’ stressed this to members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) on Thursday, June 22, 2017 in the Vatican, who have been holding their 90th plenary assembly in Rome this week.
Church leaders from across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Asia are participating together with donor organizations which raise funds for Christians in the Eastern-rite Churches, reported Vatican Radio.
After thanking them for their constant effort of charity and solidarity, Pope Francis recalled the decades that witnessed a succession of dramatic events, particularly the Oriental Churches, which were “often assailed by terrible waves of persecutions and travails, be it in Eastern Europe as well as in the Middle East.”
He lamented that strong emigrations weakened their presence in territories where they had flourished for centuries.
“Now, thank God,” he said, “some of them have returned to freedom after the painful period of totalitarian regimes, but others, especially in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, see their children suffer because of the continuance of war and the senseless violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.”
“All these events,” he noted, “have made you go through the experience of Jesus’ Cross: it is the cause of disturbance and suffering but, at the same time, it is source of salvation.”
The Pope recalled that in his homily after being elected Bishop of Rome, he said: “If we walk without the Cross, if we build without the Cross and if we confess a Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.”
The Oriental Churches, the Pontiff said, hold so many venerable memories, churches, monasteries, places of men and women saints. “They are kept and preserved thanks also to your aid, thus favoring the pilgrimage to the roots of the faith,” he said.
Nowadays, the Pope observed, Christians–“it does not matter if they are Catholics, Orthodox or Protestants –shed their blood as seal of their witness.”
“May the Oriental faithful, if constrained to emigrate, be able to be welcomed in places where they arrive, and be able to continue to live according to the ecclesial tradition proper to them. In this way, your work,” he told those present, “will be a bridge between the West and the East, be it in the countries of origin, be it in those from which you yourselves come.”
Pope Francis concluded, blessing them ‘from the heart,’ and reminding them to pray for him.
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