Pope Pays Tribute to Christians of Middle East


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(25 Jun 10 - RV) On Friday Pope Benedict XVI received members of ROACO, or Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, at the end of their plenary session.

ROACO coordinates nearly 20 U.S. and European agencies and organizations that provide assistance to Eastern Catholic communities in Asia, Northern Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

With the upcoming October Synod of Bishops for the Churches in the Middle East firmly on his mind, Pope Benedict renewed his appeal for a stable peace and religious freedom in the region.

In an address delivered in English, French Italian and German, the Pope said: "We all wish the Holy Land, Iraq and the Middle East, the gift of a stable peace and a solid coexistence. These are born of respect for human rights, families, communities and peoples, and the overcoming of religious , cultural or social discrimination. I entrust to God, but also to you, the call I launched for the Christian East from Cyprus. As instruments of ecclesial charity, may you continue to collaborate to build more justice in freedom and peace!"

The Holy Father went on to say "I encourage brothers and sisters in the East, to share the priceless gift of Baptism to persevere in faith, and despite the many sacrifices to remain where they were born. At the same time, I urge migrants from the East not forget their origins, especially their religious origins. Their loyalty and human and Christian coherency depends on this. I would like to pay special tribute to Christians who suffer violence because of the Gospel, and I commend them to the Lord. I am still counting on the Leaders of Nations to concretely guarantee, everywhere and without distinction, the public and common profession of the religious belief of each individual".

"Last year at this time and because of the Year for Priests, I asked that particular attention be paid to the ministers of Christ and the Church. Abundant fruits of holiness have arisen not only for priests but also for all the people of God. I beseech the Holy Spirit to confirm these signs of divine favour through the gift of vocations, which the ecclesial community, both in the West and East, badly needs".

In comments in English, Pope Benedict said "We now have the common task of preparing for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. I thank God for this initiative, which is already producing the beneficial fruits of "communion and witness" for which the synod was initially convoked. Last year at Castel Gandolfo, I had the pleasure of announcing this Synodal Assembly during a meeting of fraternal prayer and reflection with the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Churches. During my recent visit to Cyprus, which I recall with much gratitude to God and to those who welcomed me, I consigned the Instrumentum Laboris of this Special Assembly to representatives of the Episcopate of the Middle East. I am pleased at the broad cooperation provided thus far by the Eastern Churches and for the work which, from the beginning, R.O.A.C.O. has done, and continues to do for this historical event. This joint effort will have fruitful results because of the presence of some of your representatives at this Episcopal gathering and your ongoing relationship with the Congregation for the Eastern Churches".

Finally concluding, the Pope had a special thought forthe late Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia: "Dear friends, I ask you to contribute your works to keeping alive the "hope that does not disappoint" among Eastern Christians (Rom 5:5; see Instrumentum laboris, Conclusions). In the "little flock" (Luke 12:32) that they comprise, God's future is already at work, and the "narrow path" that they are taking is described in the Gospel as "the path of life" (Mt 7:13-14). We want to always be by their side! Trusting in the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God and Saints Peter and Paul, I commend to the Lord the benefactors, friends and collaborators living and dead, who are tied in various ways to ROACO, with a special remembrance for recently deceased Bishop Padovese, while I impart upon each of you, constituents and supporters of international agencies, as upon all beloved Eastern Catholic Churches the comforting Apostolic blessing".