Pope: We must not resign ourselves to thinking of a Middle East without Christians

(VIS) Pope Francis had strong words of support and encouragement for Christians in the Holy Land during his audience on November 21, 2013. Here are some of the highlights:

“My thoughts turn especially to the blessed land where Christ lived, died and rose again … and where the light of faith has not been extinguished, but instead burns brightly. It is the ‘light of the East’ that ‘has illumined that universal Church, from the moment when a rising sun appeared above us: Jesus Christ, our Lord’. As a consequence, each Catholic has a debt of gratitude towards the Churches that live in the region. From these we may learn, among other things, the patience and perseverance of the daily exercise, at times wearisome, of the ecumenical spirit and interreligious dialogue. The geographical, historical and cultural context in which they have lived for centuries has indeed made them natural interlocutors with numerous other Christian confessions and with other religions”.

“The Bishop of Rome will not rest while there are still men and women, of any religion, whose dignity is undermined, who are deprived of the basic requirements for survival, robbed of their future, or forced to live as fugitives or refugees”.

“We must not resign ourselves to thinking of a Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have proclaimed Christ’s name, integrated as citizens to all effects in the social, cultural and religious life of the nations to which they belong. The suffering of the youngest and the weakest, with the silence of victims, poses the insistent question, ‘What is left of the night?’ … I therefore turn to the entire Church to exhort her support in prayer, that may obtain reconciliation and peace from the merciful heart of God. Prayer disarms ignorance and generates dialogue where there is open conflict. If it is sincere and persistent, it will make our voice humble and firm, capable of being heard by the leaders of nations”.

“The Pope concluded by speaking about Jerusalem, “our spiritual birthplace. I hope for every consolation, so that it may truly be a prophesy of that definitive convocation, from east to west, promised by God”.