Pope Francis addressed the increasing challenges caused by violence in the Middle East with members of the Syriac Catholic Church, urging them to work alongside other churches to find solutions. “Many have fled to seek shelter from an inhumanity that throws entire populations out into the streets, leaving them without any means of survival,” the Pope observed in his Dec. 12 address. Together with other churches, he said, “seek to coordinate your efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs, whether of those who remain in their homelands or of those who have sought refuge in other countries.” Pope Francis gave his speech to His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of the Syro-Catholic Church, as well as the other syro-catholic bishops gathered in Rome for their Dec. 8-10 annual synod. In the meeting, which took place in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, the Pope greeted the entire Syro-Catholic community, and offered his particular support for those coming from Syria and Iraq. These communities, the Pope noted, “are living moments of great suffering and fear in the face of violence. And I accompany these sentiments of solidarity and compassion with remembrance and prayer.” He commended the bishops and patriarch for their ongoing efforts to reform their Divine Liturgy, which he said requires an “intense appreciation” for tradition, as well as a great amount of thoughtful discernment. “The difficult situation in the Middle East provoked and continues to provoke in your Church the displacement of faithful to eparchies in the diaspora, and places you before new pastoral demands,” Pope Francis observed. It is a challenge, he said, to on the one hand remain faithful to their origins, and at the same time insert themselves into different cultural contexts in order to save souls and work for the common good. By moving to other countries considered to be safer, the Christian presence in the Middle East is “impoverished,” the pontiff noted, explaining that it has always been a “land of the prophets, of the first preachers of the Gospel, of the martyrs and of many saints, cradle of the hermits and of monasticism.” This history requires each of them to reflect on their own eparchies, the Pope observed, “which need zealous pastors, as well as courageous faithful, capable of witnessing to the Gospel when in discussions — sometimes not easy — with people of different religions and ethnicities.” He encouraged them work together with other churches of the Middle East in addressing and finding solutions to the current humanitarian crisis, and urged them make a pastoral commitment to serving in “the ministry of hope.” “I invite you to bring to all the expression of my closeness and of my prayer to the Lord,” Pope Francis said, and entrusted the Syro-Catholic Church to the protection of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ephrem.
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