Vatican City, 12 December 2014 (VIS) – “Through you, I greet your communities throughout the world, and express my encouragement in particular to those in Iraq and Syria, who are living through a time of great suffering and fear in the face of violence”, said the Pope this morning, as he received His Beatitude Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians, accompanied by the bishops and faithful of the Syriac-Catholic community.
The Holy Father, who expressed his solidarity and compassion for this community, assuring them of his prayers, reiterated that the difficult situation in the Middle East continues to cause an exodus of the faithful of this Church to the Eparchies of the diaspora, and creates new pastoral needs. “It is a challenge”, he said; “on the one hand, of remaining faithful to origins, and on the other, of entering different cultural contexts, working in the service of the 'salus animarum' and the common good”.
“This movement of the faithful towards countries that are considered safer empoverishes the Christian presence in the Middle East, the land of the prophets, the first preachers of the Gospel, the martyrs and many saints, the cradle of the hermits and monasticism. All this requires you to reflect on the situation of your Eparchies, which need zealous Pastors as well as courageous faithful, capable of bearing witness to the Gospel in the dialogue, at times not easy, with people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Many have fled from the inhumanity that throws entire populations onto the streets, leaving them without means of subsistence”.
The Pope invited the bishops to coordinate their efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs, both of those who stay at home and those who flee to other countries, and in this regard he recalled that during their meeting in Rome the Syriac Church had asked to be able to hold a Synod outside the patriarchal territory. This request was accepted immediately in order to facilitate the meeting, intended to acknowledge the pressing needs of the Church and to respond to the spiritual expectations of the faithful. In particular, the Syriac Church has undertaken the process of reform of the Divine Liturgy, in the service of the Word of God, which should allow new devotional zeal. This has required “intense examination of the Tradition and great discernment, knowing how sensitive the assembly of the faithful is to the great gift of the Word and the Eucharist”.
“Now, as you return home, you are refreshed by this experience of communion at the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul; a communion that finds particular expression here today, as we raise to the Lord along with the Successor of Peter a prayer of gratitude and supplication”. He concluded, “Dear brothers, I exhort you to continue your pastoral efforts and your ministry of hope in the service of the venerable Syriac-Catholic Church. I greet with affection the faithful who accompany you, in whom I see the different communities you represent. I invite you to transmit to all the expression of my closeness and my prayer to the Lord”.