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

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 ESV)

Encounter

Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (Troparion, Tone 1)

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

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not lose sight of these — keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul." (Proverbs 3:21,22a ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learnt the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short....

Saint Basil the Great
(Letter 90)