In an audience with aid organizations assisting Oriental churches, Pope Francis explained that peace is a gift from God, which can be regained by offering hope through our solidarity with those who suffer. “Those who would cultivate the plant of peace must never forget that God alone gives the growth. True peace, the peace which the world cannot give, is a gift to us from Jesus Christ,” the Pope observed in his June 26 audience with members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches. “For all the grievous attacks it endures today, peace can always flourish again.” Pope Francis assured the assembly of his closeness to the churches of the East, explaining that their tears, fears and hopes are both his as well as those of the rest of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis recently made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and held an invocation for peace in the Vatican earlier this month with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents. The three men planted an olive tree together that “is a symbol of that peace which is secure and enduring only because it is cultivated by many hands,” the Pope said.  “I am grateful that you continue to 'make peace grow' through charity, which is the ultimate aim of all your organizations,” he continued. “With unity and charity Christ’s disciples strive to be peacemakers everywhere, in all peoples and communities, and to overcome persistent forms of discrimination, starting with those based on religion.” Members of the Oriental churches, he said, are the first among “those called to be peacemakers,” together with their pastors. “Hoping at times against all hope, remaining in the place of their birth where the Gospel of the incarnate Son of God was first proclaimed, may they experience the blessedness reserved to those who are peacemakers: ‘they will be called children of God,’” the pontiff prayed. The Bishop of Rome also voiced his hope that Christians in the Oriental churches would always find support in the universal Church, never losing their conviction that “the power of love can halt the fire of arms, hatred and vengeance.” “Their tears and their anguish are ours, as well as their hope! We can express this through our solidarity, if it is one which is concrete and effective, capable of ensuring that the international community upholds the rights of individuals and peoples.” The pontiff also assured the Church’s closeness to “the beloved people” of Ukraine and Romania in the midst of their ongoing “critical situation,” as well as with those suffering alongside their priests and bishops in Syria and Iraq.

He then encouraged the organizations to “continue your generous efforts” in assisting the people in those areas. “Your works of relief and assistance in nations most affected by these crises respond to basic needs,” the Pope noted, “particularly of those who are powerless and most vulnerable, as well as the many young people tempted to leave their homeland.” Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff encouraged participants to actively pursue the goals set during their last plenary session, including the training of young persons and teachers. He then said the Holy Family can serve as a comfort and a guide.  “The Holy Family of Nazareth, ‘which knew anxiety ... as well as the pain of persecution, emigration and hard daily labor,’” he said, “teaches us ‘to trust the Father, to imitate Christ and to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.’”