VATICAN CITY, 25 JUN 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received participants in the annual Meeting of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), whose work this year focused chiefly on preparations for the forthcoming Synod for the Middle East.
Beginning his remarks to them, the Pope noted that "all of us desire the gift of stable peace and secure coexistence in the Holy Land, in Iraq and in the Middle East. This will arise through respecting human rights, families, communities and peoples, and through overcoming religious, cultural and social discrimination".
He went on: "I encourage our brothers and sisters in the East ... who continue to keep the faith and, despite numerous sacrifices, stay in the land where they were born. At the same time I encourage emigrants from the East not to forget their origins, especially their religious origins. Their human and Christian faithfulness and coherence depend on this".
The Holy Father made special mention of "Christians who suffer violence because of the Gospel", entrusting them to the Lord. "I continue to hope that the leaders of nations will truly guarantee, without distinction and in all places, public and community profession of religious belief".
Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for the enthusiasm with which the Eastern Catholic Churches participated in the recently-concluded Year for Priests, recalling how in antiquity the East was a cradle for great schools of priestly spirituality. In this context he particularly referred to the Church of Antioch, which produced extraordinary saints, and he called on the priests of the Eastern Churches to continue to reflect this spiritual heritage.
Referring then to the Special Assembly for the Middle East, due to be held from 10 to 24 October, the Pope said: " I am pleased at the broad co-operation provided thus far by the Eastern Churches and for the work which, from the beginning, ROACO has done, and continues to do for this historical event. This joint effort will have fruitful results because of the presence of some of your representatives at this episcopal gathering and your ongoing relationship with the Congregation for the Eastern Churches".
The Holy Father asked the participants in the annual meeting "to contribute with your activities to keeping the 'hope that does not disappoint' alive among the Christians of the East. ... We would like to be with them always! Trusting in the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God and of the Apostles Peter and Paul, I commend to the Lord the benefactors, friends and collaborators (living and dead) who in one way or another are linked to ROACO, with a special mention for the recently-deceased Bishop Luigi Padovese".
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