Vatican City, 15 June 2015 (VIS) – The lands of the Middle East, marred by years of conflict, are also “marked by the footprints of those who seek refuge and soaked with the blood of many men and women, including numerous Christians persecuted for their faith”, said the Holy Father as he received in audience the members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), a year after their pilgrimage and Francis' plea for peace in the region, when all hoped that “the seed of reconciliation would have borne greater fruits”.
Recalling the recent trip to Iraq by a delegation of the ROACO, during which they met with displaced persons from the Nineveh Plain and with small groups from Syria, the Pope affirmed, “in those eyes that asked for help and pleaded for peace and to return home there was Jesus Himself Who looked at you, asking for that charity that makes us Christians. Every form of assistance, so as not to fall into the trap of uncompromising efficiency or mere aid that does not promote persons or peoples, must always be reborn from this blessing of the Lord Who reaches us when we have the courage to look at the situations and the brothers before us”.
Nevertheless, “the world seems to have become aware of the tragedy of recent months, and has opened its eyes, taking account of the millennial presence of Christians in the Middle East. Initiatives for raising awareness and offering aid to them to to others unjustly affected by violence have flourished. However, further efforts must be made to eliminate what would appear to be tacit agreements by which the lives of thousands and thousands of families – women, men, children, elderly – in the balance of interests appear to weigh less than petroleum and weapons, and while peace and justice is proclaimed, it is accepted that the traffickers of death act in those lands. I therefore encourage you, as you carry out your service of Christian charity, to condemn all that tramples human dignity”.
The Holy Father mentioned that in these days ROACO is dedicating special attention to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Armenia. “The first two, from this year, canonically constitute two separate realities, inasmuch as they are metropolitan sui generis Churches, but they remain profoundly linked by their common Alexandrian-Gheez tradition”. He urged the ROACO “to help these ancient Christian communities to feel that they are members in the evangelical mission and to offer, especially to the young, prospects of hope and growth. Without this, it will not be possible to stop the migratory flow in which so many sons and daughters of the region set out to reach the Mediterranean coasts, risking their lives”. Armenia, “cradle of the first nation to receive baptism, also has a great history rich in culture, faith and martyrdom. Support for the Church in that land contributes to the path towards the visible unity of all believers in Christ”.
The Pope concluded by dedicating to the Oriental Catholic Churches some words from St. Ephrem's Hymn of Resurrection: “Accept, our King, our offering, and give us in return our salvation. Pacify devastated lands and rebuild the burned-down churches so that, when there will be great peace, we may weave a great crown from flowers from all places, so that the Lord of peace may be crowned”.