Pope urges courageous Middle East Christians not to emigrate

 Pope Benedict has issued a call to Christians in the Middle East region to be "courageous and steadfast" and not fall to the temptation to emigrate. The Holy Father made the call at a meeting with members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. In his address Pope Benedict said the "shared ecclesial patrimony" and "heritage of experience" of the Catholic Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches "should shape our future 'guiding our common path towards the re-establishment of full communion'". "Many of you come from countries of the Middle East in the midst of such a volatile geopolitical panorama that people are tempted to emigrate." In these circumstances, Christians of all traditions and communities in the Middle East are called to be courageous and steadfast in the power of the Spirit of Christ, the Pope said. Christian communities across the Middle East date to the time of Christ. Some of their liturgies are still conducted in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, but nearly everywhere Christian populations are in decline. In Iran the Catholic population is one-tenth what it was in 1973, while in Iraq it is one-third, according to last year's Vatican statistics. In Syria, the Catholic presence has dropped from 2.6 per cent of the whole population to just 1 per cent. In Israel and the Palestinian territories the numbers of Christians have plummetted. "May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in these lands, sustain and strengthen the Christian communities in their faith!" the Pope concluded. Source: VIS

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