CWN - Pope Francis visited the Pontifical Oriental Institute on October 12, for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of its founding.

The Pope met with students, faculty, and staff of the Oriental Institute, then proceeded to the basilica of St. Mary Major (which is just across a piazza from the Institute), where he presided at a Mass of thanksiving. In his homily the Holy Father recalled that the Institute was established by Pope Benedict XV at a time when World War I was shaking Europe. He praised the achievements of the Institute in encouraging greater understanding of the traditions of Eastern Christianity.

In a message to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri—who is the chancellor of the Oriental Institute as well as the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches—the Pope urged all teachers to “remain open to the Oriental churches, considered not only in terms of their ancient configuration, but also in their current diffusion and at times troubled geographical spread.” He said that the Oriental Institute still has “an ecumencial mission to pursue,” seeking full communion with all of the Eastern churches.

“On the other hand,” the Pope continued, “the task of the Institute is also to make know the treasures of the rich traditions of the Oriental churches to the Western world.” He continued:

With the collapse of the totalitarian regimes and of various dictatorships, which in some countries has unfortunately created conditions favourable to the spread of international terrorism, the Christians of the Oriental churches are experiencing the tragedy of persecutions and an increasingly worrying diaspora. We cannot close our eyes to these situations.

The Pope said that Catholic bishops of the Latin-rite dioceses around the world should be aware of the pastoral needs of “the geographically dislocated oriental faithful without their own hierarchy.”

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