CWN - The Eastern Catholic churches “should be kept and preserved” through current crises, Pope Francis said in a June 22 address to the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO).
In his address the Holy Father observed that the Eastern Catholic churches have endured “terrible waves of persecution and suffering, both in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.” The churches of Eastern Europe have been freed from oppression under Communism, he observed, but in the Middle East—and particularly in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt—Christians still “suffer as a result of the ongoing war and the senseless violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.”
The Pope thanked ROACO for its support for the Eastern churches, saying that the survival of these Christian communities is “encouraging pilgrimage to the roots of the faith.” He remarked that in many countries, “Christians—be they Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestant—shed their blood as a seal of their witness.”
Pope Francis also made the observation that immigration has weakened the Christian presence “in the territories where they had flourished for centuries.” He offered the hope that Christians, “if forced to emigrate, be welcomed in the places where they arrive, and continue to live according to their own ecclesial tradition.”
Reflecting on the topic for discussion at the ROACO meeting—the formation of candidates for the priesthood—the Pope said that the Church recognizes “the radical nature of the choice expressed by many of them, and the heroism of their testimony of dedication alongside their often sorely tried communities.”