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Pope Francis Calls for Repatriation of Syrian Refugees

Migrants
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Pope Francis’s Easter address on Sunday called for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country as he urged a political solution for the ongoing “humanitarian crisis” in the country.

“Christ is alive and he remains with us. Risen, he shows us the light of his face, and he does not abandon all those experiencing hardship, pain and sorrow,” the pope told the 70,000 pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to receive his “Urbi et Orbi” message (“to the city and to the world”), as well as his apostolic blessing.

“May he, the Living One, be hope for the beloved Syrian people, victims of an ongoing conflict to which we risk becoming ever more resigned and even indifferent,” he said.

He said:

Now is instead the time for a renewed commitment for a political solution able to respond to people’s legitimate hopes for freedom, peace and justice, confront the humanitarian crisis and favour the secure re-entry of the homeless, along with all those who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan.

The pope’s words Sunday echoed a recent appeal by the head of the Lebanese Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Raï, who, in his Palm Sunday homily a week ago, begged for the immediate return of Syrian refugees to their home country.

The patriarch said that the refugees have become “the victims of two wars, the one fought with weapons, which destroyed their homes, and the one of the politics of ‘wait and see,’ which will destroy their cultural identity and their history.”

Patriarch Raï said it is deplorable that “for political reasons, the international community does not encourage them to return home.”

In his Easter address, Pope Francis also drew his listeners’ attention to other areas of conflict in the Middle East.

“Easter makes us keep our eyes fixed on the Middle East, torn by continuing divisions and tensions,” Francis said. “May the Christians of the region patiently persevere in their witness to the Risen Lord and to the victory of life over death.”

Among these, the pope explicitly mentioned “the people of Yemen, especially the children, exhausted by hunger and war,” before going on to pray that the light of Easter might “illumine all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, beginning with Israelis and Palestinians, and spur them to alleviate such great suffering and to pursue a future of peace and stability.”

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