Vatican City, 8 December 2013 (VIS) – “Let us pray with trust that in the Holy Land and in all the Middle East peace may always arise again from the all too frequent and often dramatic interruptions. Let let enmity and divisions cease for ever”. This was the Pope's appeal during the morning Mass in the Santa Marta guesthouse, concelebrated with the Partriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrik, as a public demonstration of the ecclesiastical communion sought by the Patriarch and conceded by Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis cited the prophet Isaiah, who “reawakened in our hearts the wait for the glorious return of the Lord”, commenting that “the encouragement to those with 'fearful hearts' we feel to be addressed to those in the beloved land of Egypt, who experience insecurity and violence, at times because of their Christian faith. 'Be strong; do not fear!' These are the words of consolation that find confirmation in fraternal solidarity. I am grateful to God for this encounter, which gives me a way of reinforcing your – and our – hope, which is one and the same”.
“The Gospel presents Christ, Who vanquishes the paralysis of humanity … the paralyses of the conscience are contagious. With the complicity of the moments of poverty of history, and our own sin, they can expand and enter into social structures and communities to the extent of blocking entire populations. But Christ's command can turn the situation around: 'Rise, be on your way!”.
“Let us pray for the rapid reinstatement of peace agreements, often paralysed by opposed and obscure interests. Let there finally be real guarantees of religious freedom for all, along with the right of Christians to live serenely where they are born, in the homeland they have loved as citizens for two thousand years, to contribute as always to the good of all. May the Lord Jesus, who experienced flight with the Holy Family and was received in your generous land, watch over Egyptians on their travels throughout the world in search of dignity and security”.
“And may we proceed, in search of the Lord, in search of new roads, new ways to reach the Lord. And should it be necessary to open up a hole in the roof so that we all might be closer to the Lord, let our imagination, creative in charity, lead us to this: to find and make new roads for encounter, roads of brotherhood, roads of peace”.
On his part, the Patriarch Sidrak emphasised that “in this delicate historical moment”, the Church in Egypt “needs to be supported by the paternal embrace” of the Holy Father. “In the time that we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of the Word”, he observed, “we cannot but recall the historical bond between my land and this mystery, from the moment in which the first place to welcome the Holy Family in flight from Herod's persecutions was none other than Egypt. This corner of land between the desert and the Nile has known, and still knows, the painful drama experienced by many people who wish to be listened to and received. Our Church is there, ready to welcome whoever knocks on the door, and to offer hospitality to whoever seeks help, to care for the needy and the abandoned, and to give witness to the Gospel”.
“May the light of the Holy Nativity be the star that reveals the road of love, of unity, of reconciliation and of peace, gifts my land greatly needs. We ask your blessing, Holy Father, and await you in Egypt”.