.- Patriarch Gregorios III, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, said he hopes Pope Benedict's visit to Lebanon in September will bring peace and reconciliation to Syria.
In a statement sent to the Vatican-based Fides news agency, the Eastern Catholic leader said Syrians “need the support of the Pope,” noting that the upcoming trip “will be of special help for Syria, so that the conflict may cease and the country may flourish.”
“For this we ask the help of all our Christian brothers in the Middle East and around the world.”
Patriarch Gregorios reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to promote dialogue and reconciliation amid the conflict that continues to cause bloodshed in the Middle Eastern country.
For this reason, he rejected the “campaign against the pastors of the Churches of Syria,” who are accused of colluding with the regime. He underscored “the credibility, transparency, loyalty and objectivity of the Pastors who are in constant contact with priests, monks, nuns and lay people.”
The pastors “promote the call for dialogue and reconciliation, the rejection of violence,” he said. “They work to protect the safety of civilians in the ongoing conflict, so as not to expose them to danger, to avoid becoming targets of attacks of one faction or another.”
The patriarch also said that there is no conflict in Syria between Christians and Muslims and that the victims are civilians of every religion who are enduring anarchy, insecurity and the increase in violence due to the arms trade.
“Christians live the same dangers, but they are the weakest link. Helpless, they are the most vulnerable to exploitation, extortion, kidnapping, abuse.”
“Despite this, there is no conflict between Christians and Muslims. There is no persecution, and Christians are not targeted as such, but are among the victims of chaos and lack of security,” the patriarch said.
Syrian Catholics “have raised their voices, demanding reforms, freedom, democracy, fight corruption, support for development, freedom of speech,” he added.
“Today we ask to stop the cycle of killings and destruction, especially against civilians in need, of all faiths, who in reality are the real victims.”
“The Church has always shunned sectarianism, without taking sides, and pointing to the ethical and evangelical values.”