This morning, Pope Benedict told participants in the annual Meeting of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), of his "pain and concern for the delicate situation affecting vast areas of the Middle East." The Holy Father reiterated his concern and call for peace in a separate meeting with the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.
He described the current situation in the Middle East by saying, "Peace, becomes even more fragile because of injustices, old and new. Thus it is extinguished altogether and gives way to violence which often degenerates into more or less open war until it ends up, as in our own time, as an urgent international problem."
"The Pope exhorted those in charge of restoring peace to accept their duty to bring peace by healing “the mortal illness of religious, cultural, historical or geographical discrimination."
Benedict XVI repeated his assurances that "the Holy Land, Iraq and Lebanon are present, with the urgency and constancy they deserve, in the prayers and activities of the Apostolic See and of the entire Church." He also called on the Congregation for Oriental Churches and its associated institutions to ensure that their "intervention in favor of so many of our brothers and sisters becomes more incisive."
To His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, who was present at the audience, the Pope renewed his condolences "for the barbarous killing of a defenseless priest and three sub-deacons in Iraq at the end of Sunday liturgy on June 3. The entire Church accompanies all her sons and daughters with affection and admiration, and supports them at this time of true martyrdom in the name of Christ."
The closeness of the people of the Middle East was also apparent in another meeting the Holy Father held with the Patriarch of the Assyrian church of the East. He said, “Today, tragically, Christians in this region are suffering both materially and spiritually.
Particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment. Many of them see no other possibility than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad.”
"These difficulties," the Pope added, "are a source of great concern to me, and I wish to express my solidarity with the pastors and the faithful of the Christian communities who remain there, often at the price of heroic sacrifices.