CWN - In a January 27 message to a joint commission of Catholic and Oriental Orthodox theologians, Pope Francis offered the hope that the suffering of believers in the Middle East today will bring Christians closer to full unity.

The Oriental Orthodox churches are the ancient Christian communities that broke with Rome in the 5th century, after the Council of Chalcedon. They are based mostly in the Middle East, and Pope Francis remarked that many of their communities “witness daily the spread of violence and acts of brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism.” Without explicitly mentioning the influence of radical Islamic ideology, the Pope said that such extremism can “more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice, and social exclusion,” and said that foreign interests aggravate the problem.

The Pope said that his “heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage, or enslaved.” He went on to say that the faithful can take courage from the knowledge that the blood of martyrs has always enriched the Church. He prayed: “in our day may the blood of so many martyrs be a seed of unity between believers.” The witness of martyrs, he said, could spur the faithful toward “that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s sacrifice at the same altar, as a sign of fully restored ecclesial communion.”

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Teachings of Christ

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Random Proverb

"Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live." (Proverbs 4:4 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Wrath is a reminder of hidden hatred, that is to say, remembrance of wrongs. Wrath is a desire for the injury of the one who has provoked you. Irascibility is the untimely blazing up of the heart. Bitterness is a movement of displeasure seated in the soul. Anger is an easily changeable movement of one’s disposition and disfiguration of soul.

St. John Climacus, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent"