After a two-hour private meeting yesterday with the patriarchs of Eastern Catholic churches, Pope Francis prayed for peace and full religious freedom throughout the Middle East, reports CNS/The Catholic Herald.
Referring to himself, he said 'the Bishop of Rome will not be at peace as long as there are men and women – of any religion – harmed in their dignity, deprived of what is necessary for their survival, robbed of their future or forced to become refugees.'
During the meeting with all of the members of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pope added: 'Let us make an appeal so that the right of everyone to a dignified life and to freely profess their faith is respected.'
The large gathering followed the private meeting with 10 heads of Eastern churches and the Latin-rite patriarch of Jerusalem, mainly to talk about the situation of Christians in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
But Pope Francis said they also spoke about the rebirth of the Armenian, Ukrainian, Romanian and other Byzantine churches oppressed under communism in the 20th century and the missionary dynamism of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches based in India.
He said he listened to the patriarch of Jerusalem and the Coptic, Syrian, Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean and Armenian patriarchs testify to the perseverance of their faithful in the Middle East where they often are small minorities “in environments marked by hostility, conflict and even hidden persecution.”
'At times,' he added, 'Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other areas of the Holy Land flow with tears.
Pope Francis calls for full religious freedom in the Middle East ('The Catholic Herald)