2014-10-02 15:17:00

Pope greets Middle East Nuncios at start of Vatican meetings

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis met early Thursday with the Holy See’s diplomats accredited to Middle Eastern countries at the start of their October 2-4 meetings with Curial officials.  The Apostolic Nuncios to Syria, Jordan-Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Egypt and Turkey are informing Vatican officials of the situations in their respective postings since an upsurge in conflict and in violence towards Christians and other minorities.

In a note, the Holy See’s Press spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi s.j., said Pope Francis personally summoned the papal representatives to the Vatican “in view of the serious situation created in the last few months in the Middle East.”

The meeting, taking place in the Secretariat of State, has as its main theme : "The presence of Christians in the Middle East."

Among those with whom the nuncios are consulting are officials from the Secretariat of State and the heads of dicasteries directly involved in the crisis such as the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and Christian Unity, the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pope’s charitable office, Cor Unum.  The Permanent Observers of the Holy See at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union are also present.

Fr. Lombardi said the meeting is “an expression of the Holy Father’s closeness and solicitude for this important issue. He himself wanted to introduce the work of the meeting , thanking the participants gathered to pray and reflect together on what to do to meet the dramatic situation of Christians living in the Middle East and other religious and ethnic minorities who are suffering because of the violence raging throughout the region.”

The Holy Father was clearly moved, Fr. Lombardi added, as he expressed his concern for the many places suffering from war, and for the “phenomenon of terrorism for which the life of the person has no value.”

Fr. Lombardi said Pope Francis alluded to arms trafficking as the root of many of today’s problems, and expressed his concern for “the humanitarian tragedy” affecting the many people forced to leave their countries. Reiterating the importance of prayer, the Holy Father expressed his hope that initiatives and actions can be identified “at multiple levels” in order to “express the solidarity of the whole Church with the Christians of the Middle East and engage the international community and all men of good will, so as to meet the needs of the many people who are suffering in the region,” Lombardi said.

Also introducing Thursday’s meeting was Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri  presented as background a comprehensive, multi-faceted  report on the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

The Papal Representatives of Syria and Iraq illustrated the situation of Christians in their respective countries, and the President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum ," Cardinal Robert Sara, gave a speech on the role of the Church in the face of the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East .

Thursday afternoon, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, was expected to address the meeting on the prospects of religious dialogue with Islam and about the challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East.  Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was also due to speak about his recent visit to Iraq as the Holy Father’s personal envoy.

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