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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Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Joachiam and Anna Rejoice

Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed, * for God has heard Joachim and Anna * and He promises manifestly that they, against all hope, would give birth to the Maiden of God * from whom the Uncircumscribed One Himself would be born, becoming man, * and he commanded the Angels to cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the whole world celebrates * the conception of Anne which was brought about by God, * for she gave birth to the one who, beyond understanding, * gave birth to the Word. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11,12 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Abbot Macarius was asked: "How should I pray?" The staretz answered: "There is no need to waste time with words; it is enough to hold out your hands and say: 'Lord, have mercy.'  If you are hard pressed in the struggle, say: 'Lord, save me!' He knows what is best for you, and he will have mercy on you."

Abbot Macarius, quoted in St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality, Meyendorff, 1974, SVS Press