Pope Francis on Thursday met with the “Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches” – ROACO – today at the conclusion of the group’s 86th Plenary Assembly.
The ROACO is a committee which unites funding agencies from various countries around the world for the sake of providing assistance in different areas of life from worship buildings to scholarships, from houses of study and formation to social and health care facilities.
In his address to the members of ROACO, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for Eastern Catholics, who, through the years have “faced every difficulty for the Christian name” and have “kept the faith.”
He spoke especially about the duty of charity, asking the various aid agencies to “unite faith with charity.” The Holy Father reminded them that “our work will only be effective if it is rooted in faith, nourished by prayer, especially by the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of faith and charity.”
Pope Francis also spoke about his concern for “so many brothers and sisters who live in a situation of insecurity and seemingly interminable violence which does not spare the innocent and most helpless.” And he renewed his call to “the leaders of nations and of international organisations, to believers of every religion, and to women and men of good will to put an end to all suffering, to all violence, to all religious, cultural and social discrimination,” calling on them “to do everything possible to alleviate the grave necessities of the stricken populations, especially of Syria, as well as the ever increasing number of refugees and displaced persons.”
The audience with Pope Francis marked the end of the three-day Plenary Assembly. At the Mass opening the meeting on Tuesday, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches – who is also the President of ROACO – called to mind the suffering of so-many people, especially those affected by the crisis in Syria. But he also drew attention to the great witness of charity given by the Christian community present in the Middle East.
The first morning of the Plenary Assembly was dedicated to situation in Syria, with subsequent sessions addressing the challenge of maintaining the Christian presence in the Middle East. Speeches by various Christian leaders also focused on the worrying situation in Egypt, the renewal of the Chaldean Church, and the situation in the Holy Land.
Below, please find the complete English translation of the Holy Father’s remarks to the “Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches”:
1. Welcome to all of you! I greet you with joy, for giving thanks to the Lord, together with their brothers and sisters of the East, who are represented here by some of their Pastors, and by you, the Superiors and Collaborators of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and the members of the Agencies that make up the ROACO. They are grateful to God for the faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel, and to the Church, which the Eastern Catholics have given proof of over the centuries, facing great difficulties for the Christian name and “keeping the faith” (cf. 2 Tm 4:6-8 ). They are close to them with gratitude. Grateful to each of you, and to the Churches of which you are the expression, insofar as you work in their favour, I return the cordial greetings the Cardinal Prefect has offered me. Like my predecessors, I wish to encourage and support you in the exercise of charity, which is the only source of pride for the disciples of Jesus. This charity comes from the love of God in Christ: the Cross is the summit, a luminous sign of the mercy and the charity of God for all, that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).
2. It is a duty for me to exhort to charity, which is inseparable from the faith in which the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter is bound to confirm the brethren. The Year of Faith leads us to profess with ever more conviction the love of God in Christ Jesus. I ask you to accompany me in uniting faith with charity, which is inherent in the Petrine Service. Saint Ignatius of Antioch has that weighty expression with which he defines the Church of Rome: “the Church that presides in charity” (Letter to the Romans, greeting). I invite you, therefore, to collaborate “in the faith and in the charity of Jesus Christ our God” (ibid.), remembering that our work will be effective only if it is rooted in faith, nourished by prayer, especially by the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of faith and charity.
3. Dear friends, this is the first testimony we have to offer in our service to God and to [our] brothers, and it is only in this way that all of our actions will bear fruit. Continue your intelligent and caring work in realizing well-considered and coordinated projects, giving appropriate priority to formation, especially of young people. But never forget that these projects must be a profession of the love of God that constitutes the Christian identity. The Church, in the variety and richness of its component parts and its activities, does not find security in human means. The Church is of God, has confidence in His presence and in His action, and brings into the world the power of God, which is the power of love. The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente should be a precious reference for you in your service.
4. The presence here today of the Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts and of the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans; of the Papal Representatives in the Holy Land and in Syria; of the Auxiliary Bishop of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and of the Custody of the Holy Land, carries my heart to the Holy Places of our Redemption, but also renews in me the vivid ecclesial concern for so many brothers and sisters who live in a situation of insecurity and seemingly interminable violence which does not spare the innocent and most helpless. Constant and trusting prayer is required of us believers, that the Lord might grant the longed-for peace, joined to sharing and concrete solidarity. I would like to renew once more, from the depths of my heart, an appeal to the leaders of nations and of international organisations, to believers of every religion, and to women and men of good will to put an end to all suffering, to all violence, to all religious, cultural and social discrimination. The confrontation that sows death should give place to the encounter and the reconciliation that brings life. To all those who suffer I say forcefully: never lose hope! The Church is close to you, the Church walks with you and sustains you! I call upon you to do everything possible to alleviate the grave necessities of the stricken populations, especially of Syria. The beloved Syrian people . . . the ever increasing number of refugees and displaced persons. Saint Ignatius of Antioch himself asked the Christians of Rome: “Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria . . . Jesus Christ Himself will look over it, and your charity” (Letter to the Romans, IX,I). We too, you and I, repeat, “Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria . . . Jesus Christ Himself will look over it, and your charity.” I entrust the innumerable victims to the Lord of life, and I implore the Most Holy Mother of God that she might console the many people who are experiencing the “great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14). And it is truly a great tribulation!
Upon each of you, upon the Agencies, and upon all the Eastern Churches, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
By: Vatican Radio