Dr. Michel E. Abs
Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches
Ignoring his pain, the eighty-five years old Pontiff went to visit a region dear to him, considered the cradle of his faith, uncaring to the obstacles of illness, security, or disunions.
From the height of his standing, the Supreme Pontiff looked at a people killed by divisions and at believers dispersed by wars in all parts of the world, and said to them: Here I am coming in pilgrimage to you, where you are, in order to strengthen and support you in the difficult times you go through.
The pilgrimage visit that Pope Francis made to the people of Iraq, the people of legacy and tradition, will have repercussions and echoes for generations, in our region as well as in the world, especially when he completes it, as he promised – and He honors His promises, with a visit to Lebanon.
The effects of this historic visit are due to the messages, symbols and teachings it carried.
The first message is to “overcome one’s wounds” in order to heal the wounds of humanity in a path of self-denial and unlimited giving.
The second message was about equality among people, as he visited the great and the lowly, and the influential as well as the least influential, without discrimination or preference.
The third message is that there is no place for atonement among people, between members of the same community, as well as on the level of the human community, as His Holiness met the sons of all religions present in Mesopotamia, regardless of their beliefs, without discrimination or preference.
The fourth message says that with faith and love we transform destruction into construction and wilderness into community, and restore harmony and radiance to a unified social life.
The fifth message is that reconciliation between the estranged sons of the same people is possible, as love is the key to all that is good and useful and is, therefore, the basis of all progress and prosperity.
These messages cannot be conveyed without consequences. That is the way!
If we did not feel that these messages, in their symbolism and in their contents, are challenges and a pathway, then we have gone astray.
Churches, as well as the Levantine society with all its components, must know how to learn from the treasure that these messages carry for their life and future, which the Venerable Pontiff entrusted them with in his abundant love in sacrifice.
We have to be certain that an event of this kind will constitute the beginning of a wide-ranging dialogue for cultural change, not only at the level of the elites, but also at the grass-roots level, the details of which the media has communicated with all its forthcoming expected processes.
This pilgrimage to the future of Iraq, made by Pope Francis, will constitute the starting point for establishing new means and methods of interaction between the religious, ethnic and social groups that make up modern Iraq. This momentous event must be the beginning of a new social contract that Eastern Christianity proposes to its societies for a better tomorrow.
We, in the Middle East Council of Churches, have fully grasped the message, understood its essence, and will build upon it.