“Our meeting is marked by the suffering we share on account of the wars that beset various regions of the Middle East and in particular for the violence suffered by Christians and members of other religious minorities, especially in Iraq and Syria," said Pope Francis Thursday morning, as he received in audience His Holiness Mar Dinka IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.

“When we think of their suffering, it is natural to overcome the distinctions of rite or confession," the Pope continued; "in them there is the body of Christ that, still today, is injured, beaten and humiliated. There are no religious, political or economic factors that can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. We are deeply united in our prayers for intercession and in charity towards these suffering members of the body of Christ."

“Your visit is another step along the path of an increasing closeness and spiritual communion between us, after the bitter misunderstandings of previous centuries”, continued the Bishop of Rome.

"Twenty years ago, the joint Christological declaration you signed along with my predecessor, the Pope St. John Paul II, was a milestone in our path to full communion. In this declaration we acknowledged that we confess the sole faith of the apostles, faith in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, united in a single person, without confusion or alteration, without division or separation."

Finally, the Pope referred to the work of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

He said he accompanies their efforts with prayer “so that the blessed day may come in which we are able to celebrate at the same altar the sacrifice of praise, that will make us one in Christ. …

"What unites us is far greater than what divides, and for this reason we feel urged by the Spirit to share from now the spiritual treasures of our ecclesial traditions, to live, like true brothers, sharing the gifts that the Lord does not cease to give to our Churches, as a sign of His goodness and mercy”.