(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with the Patriarch, bishops and faithful of the Syriac Catholic Church on Friday, urging them to coordinate their efforts with the other Churches in the Middle East and seek to meet the humanitarian needs of the people affected by the violence and unrest in the region.
The Patriarch, His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, was accompanied to the meeting by the bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, who held their annual Synod in Rome this week, as well as members of the faithful.
In his remarks, the Pope extended his greetings to the Eastern Catholic “communities scattered throughout the world” and expressed his “encouragement, in particular to those of Iraq and Syria, who are living times of great suffering and fear in the face of violence.” He also assured them of his prayers.
The Pope said he consented that the Syriac Catholic bishops hold their Synod in Rome, outside of their patriarchal territory, to facilitate their meeting. The Synod, which concluded on Wednesday, was “intended to recognize the pressing needs of your Church and to answer the spiritual expectations of the faithful,” the Pope acknowledged. He underlined, in particular, the reform the bishops are carrying out of the Divine Liturgy.
“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,” the Pope said.
“It is a challenge: on the one hand, being faithful to one’s origins; on the other, inserting yourselves into different cultural contexts at the service of the salus animarum and of the common good,” he continued.
“This movement towards countries considered to be safer impoverishes the Christian presence in the Middle East, 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,” he said.
“Many have fled to seek shelter from an inhumanity that throws entire populations out into the streets, leaving them without any means of survival,” he said. “With the other Churches, 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.”
The Pope noted how these changes in the Middle Eastern Christian community has obligated its bishops “to reflect on the situation in your eparchies, 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 then exhorted the bishops to be renewed by the communion they shared near the tomb of Peter and to persevere in their pastoral ministry in the “venerable” Syriac Catholic Church.
He invited the bishops to express his closeness to the Syriac Catholic faithful, before entrusting them to the protection of the Mother of God, St Ignatius of Antioch and St Ephrem.