VATICAN CITY, 24 JUN 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received participants in the annual general meeting of the Reunion of Organisations for Aid to the Oriental Churches (ROACO).
In his remarks to the group, Benedict XVI recalled how yesterday's celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi "was a call to the beloved city of Rome and to the entire Catholic community to continue their journey along the difficult paths history, among the great spiritual and material poverty of the world, in order to bring the charity of Christ and the Church, which arises from the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of love, the gift which generates life".
"Never forget the Eucharistic dimension of your objective", the Pope went on, "so as to remain within the ambit of ecclesial charity, which particularly seeks to reach the Holy Land, but also the Middle East as a whole, in order to support the Christian presence there. I ask you to do everything possible - also be intervening with the public authorities with whom you have contacts at the international level - to ensure that the pastors and faithful of Christ can remain in the East where they were born, not as strangers but as citizens who bear witness to Jesus Christ as the saints of the Eastern Churches did before them. The East is their earthly homeland. It is there that they are called today to promote, without distinction, the good of all mankind. Everyone professing this faith must be recognised as having equal dignity and true freedom, thus favouring more fruitful ecumenical and inter-religious collaboration".
The Holy Father then continued his remarks in English: "I thank you for your reflections on the changes that are taking place in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, which are a source of anxiety throughout the world. Through the communications received at this time from the Coptic-Catholic Cardinal-Patriarch and from the Maronite Patriarch, as well as the pontifical representative in Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, the Congregation and the agencies will be able to assess the situation on the ground for the Church and the peoples of that region, which is so important for world peace and stability. The Pope wishes to express his closeness, also through you, to those who are suffering and to those who are trying desperately to escape, thereby increasing the flow of migration that often remains without hope. I pray that the necessary emergency assistance will be forthcoming, but above all I pray that every possible form of mediation will be explored, so that violence may cease and social harmony and peaceful coexistence may everywhere be restored, with respect for the rights of individuals as well as communities".
Switching to German, the Pope referred to the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was held last October in the Vatican and which, he said, gave rise "to new signs for our age". Nonetheless, "shortly afterwards a number of defenceless people in the Syro-Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, Iraq, were victims of an act of senseless violence. ... This was followed by similar incidents some months later". The Pope expressed the hope that the suffering of so many people would be a seed to enrich the faith in those lands.
Finally he thanked all those present for their prayers for the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest which falls this year on 29 June, Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.