To the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East
Dear Brothers in Christ,
I joyfully accepted the invitation you have addressed to me to join you on this special day, in which each of you celebrates a Divine Liturgy with your faithful to invoke the Lord for the gift of peace in the Middle East and consecrate it to the Holy Family.
Since the beginning of my Pontificate, I have tried to make myself close to your sufferings, both by being a pilgrim first to the Holy Land, then to Egypt, to the United Arab Emirates and finally to Iraq a few months ago, and by inviting the whole Church to prayer and solidarity for Syria, Lebanon, so tested by war and social, political and economic instability. I remember well the 7 July 2018 meeting in Bari, and I thank you because as you gather today, you are preparing your hearts for the convocation in the Vatican on 1 July, together with all the Heads of the Churches of the Land of Cedars.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary to whom you have chosen to consecrate the Middle East, represents well your identity and mission. First of all, it safeguarded the mystery of the Son of God becoming flesh, it was constituted around Jesus and because of Him. Mary gave it to us, through her “yes” to the angel’s proclamation in Nazareth, Joseph welcomed him, remaining attentive even during his sleep, listening to God’s voice and being ready to do His will once awakened. A mystery of humility and dispossession, as in the birth of Bethlehem, recognized by the lowly and those from afar, but undermined by those who were more attached to earthly power rather than to be amazed at the fulfillment of God’s promise. To guard the Word made flesh, Joseph and Mary set out on their way to Egypt, uniting the humility of the birth in Bethlehem with the poverty of people forced to emigrate. In this way, however, they remain faithful to their vocation and unknowingly anticipate that destiny of exclusion and persecution that will be of Jesus who became an adult, but who will, however, open the Father’s response, on Easter morning.
The Consecration to the Holy Family also calls each of you to rediscover as individuals and as a community, your vocation to be Christians in the Middle East, not only by asking for the just recognition of your rights as citizens originating in those beloved lands, but by living your mission as guardians and witnesses of the first apostolic origins. During my trip to Iraq, I used on two occasions the image of the carpet, which the skilled hands of the men and women of the Middle East know how to weave creating precise geometries and precious images, the result of the interweaving of numerous threads that only by being woven together side by side become a masterpiece. If violence, envy, division can even tear up one of those threads, the whole thing is injured and disfigured. At that moment, human projects and agreements can do little if we do not trust in the healing power of God. Do not try to quench your thirst at the poisoned sources of hatred, but let the furrows of the field of your hearts be irrigated by the dew of the Spirit, as the great saints of your respective traditions have done: Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, Syriac, Armenian, Chaldean, Latin.
How many civilizations and dominations have risen, flourished and fallen, with their admirable works and conquests on the ground: everything passed. Beginning with our father Abraham, the Word of God has continued to remain a lamp that illuminated and illuminates our steps.
I leave you peace, I give you my peace, the Risen Lord said to the disciples still afraid in the Upper Room after Easter: I too, thank you for your witness and your perseverance in faith, invite you to live the prophecy of human brotherhood, which was at the centre of my meetings in Abu Dhabi and Najaf, as well as my Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti.
Be truly the salt of your lands, give flavor to social life, eager to contribute to the development of the common good, according to the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church so much in need of being known, as had been indicated by the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente as you wished to remember by commemorating the 130th anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum.
As I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to all those who have spoken in this celebration and to those who will follow through the media, I ask you to pray for me.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 27 June 2021