Vatican City, Nov 9, 2018 / 12:00 pm
Pope Francis and the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Gewargis III have pledged ecumenical unity in support of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. In a joint statement released Nov. 9, the two leaders called the blood of recent martyrs in the Middle East the “the seed of Christian unity.”
“On our pilgrimage towards visible unity, we experience a common suffering, arising from the dramatic situation of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria,” reads the common statement of the pope and the patriarch signed Friday.
“We are profoundly united in our prayer of intercession and in our charitable outreach to these suffering members of Christ’s body,” it continues.
The Assyrian Church of the East, based in Northern Iraq, has approximately 170,000 members, mostly in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the United States. While they been separated from the Chaldean Catholics of the region for centuries, both have suffered greatly from the genocide committed by the Islamic State.
In 2001, a synod of the the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church approved inter-communion between the two churches, allowing Assyrian faithful to participate and receive Holy Communion in a Chaldean celebration of the Holy Eucharist and vice versa.
The two leaders condemned the persecution of Christians in the region, and reaffirmed that “it is not possible to imagine the Middle East without Christians.”
“Christians do not want to be considered a “protected minority” or a tolerated group, but full citizens whose rights are guaranteed and defended, together with those of all other citizens,” they stated.
Following their meeting, Pope Francis and the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East prayed together, asking for the intercession of Apostles Peter and Paul for the Christians in the Middle East.