Here is the homily of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and President of R.O.A.C.O. at Santa Maria in Traspontina on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, for the annual meeting of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.
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Your Beatitudes, Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood, dear Friends of ROACO,
1. At the Holy Eucharist we find ourselves in the heart of God through the love of the Cross and the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which the Holy Spirit pours without measure upon each one of us. We wish to open our Plenary Session by entrusting ourselves, dutifully and trustingly, to God. May He raise up and direct our good intentions, leading them to completion by His grace. This is our common prayer which we direct to Him.
Our very first desire must be to remain strongly anchored in the Christian vision of solidarity. This will be guaranteed by constant reference to the Pastors and to the diocesan Churches, which support the ROACO agencies, together with the coordination that our Congregation willingly offers, in response to the mandate of the Bishop of Rome, which is to spread far and wide, among our brothers and sisters in the East, fraternity and solicitude.
2. The Eucharist is always able to reawaken in us the grace which we owe to God. Christ is the altar, which can never be destroyed. He is the eternal high priest. And he is also the Spotless Victim who makes perfect our own sacrifice, which includes the gift of our life to God in the obedience of faith. Because Christ unites us to Himself, it is possible and necessary to strive, as today’s Gospel asks of us, for the perfection which is found in the Heavenly Father Himself. The journey towards Christian perfection is, nevertheless, highly demanding, for it is measured by the paradoxical love of the Cross: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”! When one thinks of the vortex of violence - as unceasing as it is irrational - which has struck our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, as well as of the tension threatening in the Holy Land, in Egypt, and in other places in the Middle East, one cannot avoid the fully paradoxical nature, from a human point of view, of the Gospel’s command. It is so demanding: “If you love those who love you, what merit do you have?” I think of the understandable temptation for Christians to combat adversity with methods other than those of humble trust in Divine Providence, which, obviously, works through dialogue and every other possible initiative directed at safeguarding the right to religious liberty and safety for all, including the smallest ecclesial communities, which need to be guaranteed the right to participate fully in the civil life of their respective Countries.
With these goals in mind, we bear all such persons before the heart of God in this Holy Mass, at which we also remember the benefactors of the Eastern Churches, both living and deceased. Indeed, those many who are presently suffering are very much our benefactors also, because they face the burden of life with dignity and at great cost bring honor to the name of Christian. Nor do we wish to forget the innumerable victims and the enormous sufferings that are afflicting the motherland of Christianity. We beg the Lord, therefore, that He render Eastern Christians strong and meek, filling them with the consolation of the faith, along with all those who partake in their tragic fate. We implore that they never ever respond to hate with hate; that they never give in to blind vengeance; that they never doubt the power of God to set eventually by His grace a limit to such great evils.
3. In the meantime, we are to be the interpreters of their suffering before every organ of ecclesial and civil government, with the humble resolve that ought to characterize ecclesial speech and action. The public denouncement of the unbearable conditions of their life must be accompanied by our very concrete solicitude to alleviate them. The always challenging words of the apostle Paul offer today the most radical motivation for our solidarity: the example of Christ. “Rich though he was, he became poor” so that we might become rich through his poverty! Likewise, the first Christian community, “amid much testing of tribulation” managed to turn “their overflowing joy and their very deep poverty ... [into a] rich generosity”. While the developed West suffers from a serious economic crisis, its duty to share the urgent needs of so many brothers and sisters, especially in Syria, has not diminished but even increased; many migrants have been forced to find refuge or at least some relief in the West, sometimes after having lost everything on a personal or family level.
4. The presence of the “Heads and Fathers” of the Coptic and Chaldean Churches, as well as the Apostolic Nuncios and other witnesses, makes our cry for peace all the more heartfelt. We wish to embrace in the Lord all of the Oriental Churches, including those who are seeking a new homeland for their children in various parts of the world. As a result, they suffer the fear of losing their origins, especially their spiritual roots. Together with our brothers and sisters of the East, we would like “to sing praises to the Lord while we have life”, making our own the response to the Psalm. Sing from our common faith and, at the same time, work with persevering generosity so that all those in dire distress understand that the Lord “keeps faith forever; he executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry”. In this perspective of accompaniment and participation, Mary Most Holy precedes us by her example of the ever caring Mother. May she sustain us, so that the beneficiaries of our charity never doubt that “the Lord sets the prisoners free... he watches over the sojourners, upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin”. Amen.