Today Pope Francis received the Assyrian Patriarch of the East, Mar Dinkha IV, assuring him of his “personal commitment” to deepen the dialogue between their two churches and underscoring their common suffering from “the violence that Christians and the faithful of other religious minorities are subjected to, especially in Iraq and in Syria.”
“No religious, political or economic motives can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” declared the Pope.
Francis also expressed his profound union in prayer and charitable action towards persecuted Christians.
“In them,” Francis said, “is the body of Christ that, even today, is wounded, stricken, humiliated.”
Patriarch Mar Dinkha has been an active proponent of dialog with Catholics for years, and in 1994 co-signed with Pope John Paul II a common declaration of shared Christian beliefs, considered an important step forward in communion between the Roman Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Pope Francis described today’s visit as “another step on the way towards a growing closeness and spiritual communion…after the bitter misunderstandings of the past centuries.”
Meanwhile meetings began today in the Vatican among the papal representatives in the Middle East. Pope Francis personally summoned them here for discussion from October 2-4 to discuss the dire situation of Christians in the region.
According to Fr Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press office, the Pope called them to the Vatican “in view of the serious situation created in the last few months in the Middle East.”
Francis addressed the group, expressing his hope that “multi-level initiatives and actions” could be identified to show the Church’s solidarity with the Christians of the Middle East. He also once again stressed the need to involve the international community in responding to the needs of those suffering in the region.