Two years ago, Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill met in the Cuban capital. At this time the common commitment to the Christian communities in the Middle East was strengthened. In Havana, both leaders used the word "genocide" to define the persecution of Christians. The optimism of Metropolitan Hilarion.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The defence of Christians and the protection of sanctuaries in the Middle East was the focus of an international conference, with the participation of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church, held in Vienna on 12 February . The conference was planned in the framework of Catholic-Orthodox cooperation for the help of Christians in the Middle East, but it was also an opportunity to remember the second anniversary of the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana of 12 February 2016.
The Russian delegation to Vienna was led by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate; on the Catholic side there was Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Also present were Metropolitan Ignatius of the Orthodox Church of Antioch, head of the Paris office; the director of the Moscow Patriarchate Directorate for Foreign Institutions, the Archbishop of Vienna and Budapest Antonij (Sevrjuk, former secretary of Patriarch Kirill and pastor of the Russian Church in Rome); the metropolitan of the Syro-Jacobite Church in Austria and Switzerland, Dionisio Issa Gurbuz; the head of the diocese of Damascus of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Bishop Armas Nalbandian of the Catholicosato of Echmjadzin; Bishop Joseph Mouawad, head of the Maronite diocese of Zahleh in Lebanon.
Card. Cristoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, did the honors, welcoming guests to the archiepiscopal palace with these words: "We heard the joint appeal of Catholic priests for Christians in the Middle East who need not only humanitarian aid, but also political support. Many archbishops are turning to their own countries and their governments, to do all they can to re-establish peace in that region. The commitment of the Russian Orthodox Church has always been clear to our priests, and I also think of the Russian government, which has always been directed to providing help for Christians in this region".
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