Pope's Address to Aid Agencies for Eastern Churches
"Never Forget the Eucharistic Dimension of Your Objective"
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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on receiving in audience members of the Assembly of Societies for Aid to Eastern Churches (ROACO).
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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood
Dear members and friends of ROACO,
I wish to express to each one of you my most cordial welcome and I gladly return, with my best wishes, the courteous words of greeting addressed to me by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Easter Churches and president of the Assembly of Societies for Aid to Eastern Churches (ROACO), accompanied by the archbishop secretary, the undersecretary and the ecclesiastical and lay collaborators of the dicastery. I address a fraternal greeting to the new Maronite patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, and extend my thought to the other prelates, to the representatives of the international agencies and of the University of Bethlehem, as well as to the benefactors here present. I thank all for the generous cooperation with the mandate of universal charity that the Lord Jesus entrusts incessantly to the Bishop of Rome as Successor of the Blessed Apostle Peter.
Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. The Eucharistic procession, over which I presided from the Lateran Cathedral to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, constitutes always an appeal to the beloved City of Rome and to all the Catholic community to remain and walk in the not easy paths of history, among the great spiritual and material poverties of the world, to offer the charity of Christ and of the Church, which springs from the Paschal Mystery, mystery of love, of total gift that engenders life. Charity "will never end" (1 Corinthians 13:8), says the Apostle Paul, and it is able to change hearts and the world with the strength of God, sowing and awakening everywhere solidarity, communion and peace. They are gifts entrusted to our frail hands, but their development is certain, because the power of God acts precisely in weakness, if we are able to open to his action, if we are true disciples who try to be faithful to him (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10).
Dear Friends of ROACO, never forget the Eucharistic dimension of your objective so as to remain within the ambit of ecclesial charity, which particularly seeks to reach the Holy Land, but also the Middle East as a whole, in order to support the Christian presence there. I ask you to do everything possible -- including intervening with public authorities that you interact with on an international level -- to ensure that the pastors and faithful of Christ can remain in the East where they were born, not as strangers but as citizens (Ephesians 2:19) who bear witness to Jesus Christ as the saints of the Eastern Churches did before them. The East is their earthly homeland. It is there that they are called today to promote, without distinction, the good of all mankind. Everyone professing this faith must be recognized as having equal dignity and true freedom, thus favoring more fruitful ecumenical and inter-religious collaboration.
I thank you for your reflections on the changes that are taking place in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, which are a source of anxiety throughout the world. Through the communications received at this time from the Coptic-Catholic Cardinal-Patriarch and from the Maronite Patriarch, as well as the Pontifical Representative in Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, the Congregation and the agencies will be able to assess the situation on the ground for the Church and the peoples of that region, which is so important for world peace and stability. The Pope wishes to express his closeness, also through you, to those who are suffering and to those who are trying desperately to escape, thereby increasing the flow of migration that often remains without hope. I pray that the necessary emergency assistance will be forthcoming, but above all I pray that every possible form of mediation will be explored, so that violence may cease and social harmony and peaceful coexistence may everywhere be restored, with respect for the rights of individuals as well as communities. Fervent prayer and reflection will help us at the same time to read the signs emerging from the present season of toil and tears: may the Lord of history always turn them to the common good.
The Special Assembly on the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops held last October in the Vatican and in which some of you participated, has brought brothers and sisters of the East in a more decisive way to the heart of the Church and it has prepared us to perceive the signs of novelty of the present time. However, immediately after that summit, absurd violence struck fiercely defenseless persons (cf. Angelus of Nov. 1, 2010) in the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad and, in subsequent months, in other different places. This sorrow suffered by Christ can be of help for the growth of the good seed and to bear even more fecund fruits, God willing. Hence, I entrust to the good will of the members of ROACO, what arose in the Synod and also the precious spiritual patrimony, constituted by the chalice of the passion of many Christians, as reference for an intelligent and generous service, which begins from the least and excludes no one, and that will always measure its authenticity in reference to the Eucharistic Mystery.
Dear friends, under the guidance of your generous pastors and also with your irreplaceable support, the Catholic Eastern Churches will always be able to confirm communion with the Apostolic See, jealously protected for centuries, and to make an original contribution to the New Evangelization, both in the homeland as well as in the growing diaspora. I put these wishes under the protection of the Most Holy Mother of God and of the Precursor of Christ, Saint John the Baptist, on the liturgical Solemnity of his birth. Approaching also is the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul: on that day I will thank the Good Shepherd, as Cardinal Sandri has mentioned, on the 60th anniversary of my priestly Ordination. I am most grateful to you for the prayer and good wishes, of which you made me a gratifying gift. I ask you to share my prayer to the "Lord of the harvest" (Matthew 9:38) that he will grant the Church and the world numerous and ardent laborers of the Gospel. And as a sign of my affection, I am very happy to impart to each one of you, to all your loved ones and to the communities entrusted to you, the comforting Apostolic Blessing.
[Translation by ZENIT]