Middle East: World's powers are incapable of stopping the persecutions
Vatican Insider. Iacopo Scaramuzzi; Jun 19, 2015
Amid the suffering and persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, “it seems that the powers of this world are incapable of finding solutions,” the Pope lamented today during an audience with Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, the Syro-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The Orthodox representative thanked the Pope for mentioning the Ottoman “genocide” of 1915 which afflicted Syrians as well as Armenians, recalled that it is not just Christians who are falling victim to terrorism but also Muslims. He called on the Vatican to actively engage those who may be able to influence powers that are financing and supporting terrorism. He welcomed the idea of a safe haven for Christians, similar to the one proposed for the Nineveh plain in Iraq.
After a private conversation and public speeches, the Patriarch and the Pope prayed together in the Redemptoris Mater chapel.
“Yours, Holiness, is a Church of martyrs from the beginning, and it is so today, too, in the Middle East, where it continues to endure, together with other Christian communities and other minorities, the terrible sufferings caused by war, violence, and persecutions,” Francis told Mor Ignatius Aphrem II. “So much suffering! So many innocent victims. In the face of all this, it seems that the powers of this world are incapable of finding solutions. Holiness, let us pray together for the victims of this brutal violence and of all the situations of war present in the world. In particular we recall Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Ibrahim and Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, abducted together now more than two years ago. Let us recall, too, some priests and many other people, from diverse groups, [who have been] deprived of liberty. Let us ask the Lord, too, for the grace of always being ready to forgive and of being workers of reconciliation and peace. This is what animates the witness of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity in the Church and the instrument of the building up of the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace and of justice. Holiness, dear brothers,” Pope Francis continued, “in this moment of harsh trial and of sorrow, let us strengthen ever more the bonds of friendship and fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. Let us hasten our steps along the common path, keeping our gaze fixed on the day when we will be able to celebrate our belonging to the one Church of Christ around the same altar of Sacrifice and of praise. Let us exchange the treasures of our traditions as spiritual gifts, because that which unites us is much greater than that which divides us.”
This morning the Pope also received Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, in audience, amongst others. He underlined that the Patriarch’s visit “strengthens ever more the bonds of friendship and fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church”, recalling both the meeting between Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob III and Pope Paul VI in 1971 and the meetings between Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas and John Paul II.
In his speech, the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, recalled that the Syrians, like the Armenians, were victims of the “genocide” carried out by the Ottoman Empire in 1915: “A hundred years later,” he said, “we are still crying out for justice and recognition. As such, we very much appreciated the word Yis Holiness addressed in St. Peter’s on April 12th, when you called things by their real name and courageously described what happened to the Armenians, Syrians and Greeks in the “first genocide of the 20th century”, paving the way for others to do the same.” “Reconciliation and healing” are intrinsically linked to justice,” Mor Ignatius Aphrem II continued, “and our wounds have not yet healed”. “Shedding light on the massacres and atrocities that took place gives our people the chance for our wounds to start to heal through prayer, commemoration and other activities. At the same time,” he underlined, “it also gives our brothers and sisters, who are Ottoman descendants, the opportunity to reconcile themselves with their past in order to establish a lasting peace between people in the region”. Today’s “genocide continues to target not only Christians but all lovers of peace,” the Orthodox representative said. “The so-called Arab Springs have brought death, destruction and chaos among us,” he said, remembering Mosul’s Christians and the fact that the very day before he left Damascus for Rome, a missile struck the old part of the city of Mosul, halfway between the spot of St. Paul’s baptism and the point where according to the Acts of the Apostles the disciples lowered him down in a basket causing “many wounded, fear and uncertainty among the population”.
“Terrorism”, the Syrian Patriarch pointed out, “is not just striking the region’s Christians, but also Muslims, Yazidis and others. Churches, mosques and other places of worship have been destroyed. Not even thousand-year-old cultural monuments have been spared” and “hundreds and thousands” of Christians have fled, “some losing their life in search of a better and safer life”. “While we are deeply grateful to Your Holiness for your continuous prayers for peace in the region, especially in our “beloved Syria” as you call it, we believe that the Vatican is in a position to engage in dialogue with some European countries that could influence governments in the region that are directly or indirectly supporting and financing terrorists in the region.” In Syria, “both Christians and Muslims are tired of war and want a peace based on the principle of citizenship and equal rights. A peaceful resolution pf the conflict is in everyone’s interests. The creation of a safe haven with international protection for Iraq’s Christians in the Nineveh plain is widely supported by the majority of our people in Iraq.”-- link to the original article
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