CWN - The Middle East’s Christians continue to suffer from severe persecution, the region’s Eastern Catholic patriarchs said in separate Christmas messages.

Maronite Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi warned that terrorists are “killing and displacing families and depriving them of their rights and dignities,” according to a CNS report. He called upon the UN to secure peace in the region and work for the return of Christian refugees to their homelands.

Because of their “faithfulness to Jesus the Savior,” Syrian and Iraqi Christians “endured the horrible consequences of war, violence, and all kind of persecutions,” said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Yonan. “We have to keep hoping that the local government and international leaders will expel the terrorists and restore peace and security.”

The patriarch cited Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) by name as he praised the “many Catholic politicians in the West who would disagree with the official policy of their government in dealing with the plight of Christians in the Middle East.”

It is “quite evident that our people have been persecuted because of religious hatred and forgotten because of the political opportunism of the powerful of this world,” Patriarch Yonan added.

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham warned that “today in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, the Christian presence is threatened ... by wars that have given rise to this terrifying exodus, especially of Christians.”

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Teachings of Christ

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 ESV)

Pentecost

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, * Who has shown the fishermen to be all wise, * by sending down to them the Holy Spirit, * and through them You have caught the whole world in Your net. * O Lover of Mankind, glory to You. (Troparion - Tone 8)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

When the Most High descended, confusing tongues, * He divided the nations; * but when He distributed the tongues of fire, * He called all to unity; * and, with one voice, * we glorify the Most Holy Spirit. (Kontakion - Tone 8)

Saints and Martyrs

Adorned with the blood of Your Martyrs throughout the world, * as with purple and fine linen, * Your Church cries out to You through them: * "Send down Your compassions upon Your people. * Grant peace to Your commonwealth and great mercy to our souls." (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

As the first-fruits of nature to the Planter of Creation, * the whole world offers to You, O Lord, the God-bearing martyrs. * Through their prayers and the intercession of the Mother of God * preserve Your commonwealth, the Church, in profound peace, O Most Merciful One. (Kontakion - Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11,12 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, not outside it. And when you find Him, stand with fear and trembling, like the Cherubim and Seraphim, for your heart has become a throne of God. But in order to find God, become humble as dust before the Lord, for the Lord abhors the proud; whereas He visits those that are humble in heart, wherefore He says: “To whom will I look, but to the one who is meek and humble in heart?”

St. Nectarius of Aegina