Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pope Urges Prayers for Middle Eastern Christians

Christians in Middle East need prayerful support, Pope says

Vatican, Jun. 21, 2007 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) expressed his deep concern about the situation facing Christians in the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq, as he met on June 21 with representatives of aid organizations working in the region.

Addressing participants in an annual meeting of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), the Holy Father assured them that he prayed for the Christians in the violence-torn region "with the urgency and constancy they deserve." The Pope added that he recognized and shared ROACO's "pain and concern for the delicate situation affecting vast areas of the Middle East." He urged the aid organizations to redouble their efforts in light of today's crises.

Speaking directly to Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of Babylon, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Pope expressed his sorrow over "the barbarous killing of a defenseless priest and three sub-deacons in Iraq at the end of Sunday liturgy on June 3." Their deaths, he said, were examples of "true martyrdom in the name of Christ." The Chaldean Patriarch had traveled from Baghdad to Rome to join the ROACO meeting.

Pope Benedict blessed the work of ROACO, encouraging the aid agencies to recognize the importance of working with other Christian groups in the Middle East, and stressing the value of unity with the Eastern churches. He reminded the participants to base their initiatives on prayerful planning, since "in prayer we will always find the true source of commitment to charity, and in prayer we will verify its authenticity."

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