CWN - Pope Francis received the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in audience on June 19 and lamented the “terrible trials” suffered by Christians in the Middle East.
The Syrian Orthodox Church, which is suffering intense persecution in Syria, is headquartered in Damascus and has 1.8 million faithful, two-thirds of them in India. It is among the Oriental Orthodox churches that ceased to be in full communion with the Holy See following the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451.
“Yours, Holiness, is a Church of martyrs from the beginning, and it is so today, too, in the Middle East, where it continues to endure, together with other Christian communities and other minorities, the terrible sufferings caused by war, violence, and persecutions,” Pope Francis told Ignatius Aphrem II. “So much suffering! So many innocent victims. In the face of all this, it seems that the powers of this world are incapable of finding solutions.”
The Pontiff prayed “for the grace of always being ready to forgive and of being workers of reconciliation and peace. This is what animates the witness of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity in the Church and the instrument of the building up of the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace and of justice.”
The Pope added:
In this moment of harsh trial and of sorrow, let us strengthen ever more the bonds of friendship and fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. Let us hasten our steps along the common path, keeping our gaze fixed on the day when we will be able to celebrate our belonging to the one Church of Christ around the same altar of sacrifice and of praise. Let us exchange the treasures of our traditions as spiritual gifts, because that which unites us is much greater than that which divides us.