Article from AsiaNews.it a Catholic media outlet focused towards Asia and the NearEast
"We are not resigned to imagine a Middle East without Christians," Pope Francis told Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites. On the feast day of Saint Andrew, a thought goes to the Orthodox Churches and Patriarch Bartholomew.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Today's meeting between Pope Francis and Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham saw a renewed call for "a just and lasting solution" to the Syrian conflict, an exhortation to respect religious freedom and the reassertion of the value of the Eastern Catholic Churches, also in view of their ecumenical journey. The head of the Church of Antioch was accompanied by the Greek-Melkite Synod and about 350 faithful.
"My thoughts," the pope said, "go immediately to our brothers and sisters in Syria, who have endured a 'great tribulation ' for a long time. I pray for those who lost their life and for their loved ones. May the Lord dry the tears of his children. May the closeness of the whole Church comfort their anguish and keep them from despair. We firmly believe in the power of prayer and reconciliation," he added, "and we renew our heartfelt plea to those in power for an end to violence so that through dialogue we may arrive to a just and lasting solution to a conflict that has already caused too much harm. Specifically, I call for mutual respect among the various religious denominations to ensure everyone a future based on inalienable human rights, including freedom of religion. For centuries, your Church has been able to live peacefully with other religions and is called to play a role of brotherhood in the Middle East."
"Let me say this again: We are not resigned to imagine a Middle East without Christians. Still, many of your brothers and sisters have emigrated, and many representatives from the communities in the diaspora are present here. I encourage them to keep strong their roots in the Melkite human and spiritual tradition, preserving their Greek-Catholic identity everywhere, because the whole Church needs the heritage of the Christian East, of which you are also heirs."
"You," he said again, "are a visible sign for all of our Eastern brethren of the wished for communion with the Successor of Peter. On this feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, brother of Saint Peter, my thoughts go out to His Holiness Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Orthodox Churches. Let us pray that the Lord may help us continue our ecumenical journey, faithful to the principles of the Second Vatican Council. May He always help you cooperate in evangelisation, nurturing ecumenical and interfaith awareness."
"Divisions in our communities seriously hinder the life of the Church, communion and witness. I therefore join the Patriarch and the bishops in this effort, so that they may contribute this way to building the Body of Christ. But I would also like to encourage priests, men and women religious and lay people to offer their essential contribution."
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Within the Middle East region it is a noted fact that western governments have consistently made alliances with countries which are directly implicated in active discrimination against the
indigenous Christian community be that Israel or the petro-dollar regimes of the region.
"Christians in the Middle East feel left to the mercy of fate by Western countries and fear for their future. It is necessary to take steps for the protection of Christian population in the Middle East region. In particular, it is necessary to implement the principle proposed by the 2011 European Parliament Resolution whereby the aid of a particular country is possible only if the safety of the Christians in that country is guaranteed."
From an address by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. Read his full remarks here
Hieromartyr Father Fadi Jamil Haddad
St. Elias Church, Qatana, Damascus
Fr. Fadi Jamil Haddad was the Antiochian Orthodox priest pastor of the church of St. Elias in Qatana, Damascus province. On October 19th 2012 he was kidnapped by an unidentified armed gang while carrying a ransom for the release of one of his kidnapped parishioners. During the current conflict in Syria Fr. Fadi had worked as a mediator and reconciliator in his area helping all in need and working for the release of many abducted persons. His body was found on the 24th of October 2012 in the Jaramana neighbourhood (north of Damascus) not far from the place where he had been kidnapped, on October 19, his body was horribly tortured, the flesh had been flayed from part of his body and his eyes gouged out. Such torture is a hall mark of Saudi and other gulf region funded extremists. Fr. Fadi's funeral was bombed by a rebel group, the explosion killing two government soldiers and injuring several of the mourners.
St. Philoumenos the Hieromartyr
of Jacob’s Well, Nablus
St. Philoumenos was a Greek Cypriot who gave 46 years service to the Church in the Holy Land. He was Abbot of the Monastery of Jacob’s Well in Nablus, Occupied Palestine, where the Lord conversed with the Samaritan Woman in the Gospel. On November 29th 1979, while St. Philoumenos was serving Vespers, a mob of Jewish Israeli extremists entered into the Church and tortured the priest to death. The extremists chopped of the three blessing fingers of the priest’s right hand and then smashed in his face using an axe to make the sign of the cross on his head. Israeli authorities never prosecuted anyone for this barbaric crime. The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem glorified St. Philoumenos to number among the ranks of the Saints on the 30th of August 2008. His memory is honoured annually on November 29th coinciding with United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People .