.- The Holy Father met with participants in the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, or ROACO, on Friday for the final day of their summer meeting. He urged the agencies to contribute to creating lasting peace in the Middle East through their works and encouraged Christians in the region not to flee.
Addressing the group in an audience in the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace, he spoke to the diverse group first in Italian, and then in French, German and English, before closing again in Italian.
The Pope expressed his hope for peace and in the Middle East, noting that "all of us desire the gift of stable peace and secure coexistence in the Holy Land, in Iraq and in the Middle East. This will arise through respecting human rights, families, communities and peoples, and through overcoming religious, cultural and social discrimination."
Benedict XVI exhorted Christians who live in the region "to keep the faith and, despite numerous sacrifices, stay in the land where they were born. At the same time I encourage emigrants from the East not to forget their origins, especially their religious origins. Their human and Christian faithfulness and coherence depend on this," he said.
Those Christians who "suffer violence because of the Gospel," were also entrusted to the Lord by the Holy Father, who added, "I continue to hope that the leaders of nations will truly guarantee, without distinction and in all places, public and community profession of religious belief."
He also hoped for continued vocations to the priesthood from the local Church to help secure its future and looked forward to the Synod for the Middle East next October.
The Pope thanked God for the synod, saying that it "is already producing the beneficial fruits of 'communion and witness' for which the Synod was initially convoked."
In closing, he asked participants in the aid agency meeting, which was attended by Church officials and representatives from 40 aid agencies active in the Middle East, to "contribute with your works to keep the 'hope that doesn't disappoint' alive in the East."