Pope prays for Eastern Church regions involved in 'vortex of inexorable violence'

 On Saturday, the feast Saint Ephraim, a great doctor of the Syrian Church, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Congregation for the Oriental Churches where he was welcomed by the outgoing prefect His Beatitude Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud. In his address Pope Benedict said: "As Father and Shepherd I feel the duty to raise up a fervent prayer to God and to make a heartfelt appeal to all those responsible so that everywhere, from the East to the West, Churches may profess the Christian faith in full freedom. May the sons and daughters of the Church everywhere be allowed to live in personal and social tranquillity: may they be guaranteed dignity, respect and a future for individuals and groups, and respect for their rights as believers and citizens. "From my lips I raise a heartfelt invocation for the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon, all territories under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and also for the other regions involved in a vortex of apparently inexorable violence. With his visit Pope Benedict XVI said he wished symbolically to continue 'the pilgrimage to the heart of the East' which Pope John Paul II proposed in the Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen". The Pope thanked "the many Eastern Catholics who paid for their fidelity in blood, assuring them that he is "at their side" and reaffirming "high esteem for the Catholic Eastern Churches for their singular role as living witnesses of the origins". "Without constant relations with the traditions of the origins there can be no future for the Church of Christ. Particularly the Eastern Churches safeguard the echo of the first proclamation of the Gospel; the most ancient memories of the signs worked by the Lord; the first reflections of that Easter light and the reverberation of the unquenchable fire of Pentecost". The Holy Father said: "We have almost everything in common and above all we have in common a sincere longing for unity. The desire in the depths of our hearts that this longing may soon reach full realisation." After praising and encouraging the Congregation for its dedicated service, Pope Benedict underlined the "irreversibility of the ecumenical option and the mandatory nature of encounter at the inter-religious level". He affirmed the need to update pastoral care for the family, youth, vocations and the valorisation of pastoral care of culture and charity. He added: "An intelligent effort must be made to face the serious phenomenon of migrations, which often robs communities of the best human resources ". The Pope ended by announcing that he had appointed as new prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, until now substitute for general affairs of the Secretariat of State. Thanking Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud for working with "generous dedication" at a very sensitive task.

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