Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The papal representatives in the Middle East are meeting in the Vatican from 2 to 4 October, at the Holy Father's behest, to discuss the presence of Christians in the region, due to the grave situation that has prevailed in recent months. The meeting began this morning at the Secretariat of State and was attended by the Superiors of the Secretariat of State and the Roman Curia directly linked with the issue, as well as the Holy See Permanent Observers at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the apostolic nuncio to the European Union.
The meeting demonstrates the Holy Father's closeness and interest in this important question. He opened the meeting, thanking the participants convened to pray and reflect together on what to do to approach the dramatic situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East, along with other religious and ethnic minorities who suffer as a result of the violence that continues to rage throughout the region. With heartfelt words the Holy Father demonstrated his concern regarding the situations of conflict currently in progress in many areas, and for the phenomenon of terrorism, which holds human lives to have no value. The Pontiff also mentioned the problem of arms trafficking that is the basis of many problems, as well as the humanitarian drama experienced by many people forced to leave their countries. In emphasising the importance of prayer, the Holy Father expressed his hope that multi-level initiatives and actions may be identified in order to manifest the solidarity of all the Church towards the Christians of the Middle East and also to involve the international community and all men and women of good will, to respond to the needs of the very many people who suffer in the region.
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin illustrated the importance and aim of the meeting. Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, offered a complete report on the situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East, presenting different aspects of the question and opening up dialogue with the participants. The papal representatives in Syria and Iraq then went on to provide information on the conditions of Christians in their respective countries, and finally, Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, spoke on the role of the Church in facing the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
This afternoon, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will speak on religious dialogue with Islam, and the challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East. This will be followed by a presentation by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, on his recent visit to Iraq as the Holy Father's special envoy. After the debate, the session will close with Vespers.