Pope Francis addresses the representatives of ROACO, an ecclesial organization that helps and assists Christians throughout the Middle East, and invites them not to stop praying, fasting, helping and working so that the paths of peace find space in the jungle of conflict.
By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis did not fail to launch a new appeal on Thursday in favor of Ukraine at war, calling for prayer, fasting and work “so that the paths of peace find their place in the jungle of conflicts” .
He was addressing the members of ROACO gathered for their plenary assembly at the Vatican.
ROACO stands for Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches and brings together funding agencies from countries around the world to provide services such as places of worship and study, scholarships, and social and health facilities in troubled areas of the Middle East.
Let arms give way to negotiations
The pope acknowledged the attention and care that the members of ROACO have shown to those who suffer from the conflict “which, from Tigray, has again wounded Ethiopia and partly neighboring Eritrea”, and he thanked the countries that have taken in refugees from “beloved and tormented Ukraine”.
In Ukraine, he said, “life-destroying violence has been unleashed, lucrative, diabolical violence, to which we believers are called to respond through the power of prayer, with the concrete help of charity, with all Christian means so that arms give way to negotiations.
The Pope expressed his faith that “the heights of human pride and idolatry will be lowered, and the valleys of desolation and tears filled”; but, he says, we would also like to see Isaiah’s prophecy of peace come true soon:
Instead, Pope Francis lamented, “everything seems to be going in the opposite direction: food is decreasing and the noise of weapons is increasing.”
The synodal style of ROACO
In his address to those present, the Pope supported the “synodal” character of ROACO, in which each actor (people, professionals, bishops, pontifical representations, the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches and the many agencies involved), has a role and is called to dialogue with others “by consulting, by studying, by asking and offering suggestions and explanations, by journeying together”.
He invited each entity to always “listen” to others so that “the symphony of charity” can work in the best way.
He invited those present to “flee all temptations of isolation and closure in oneself and in one’s own groups”, in order to remain open to welcoming all the brothers and sisters who serve the Eastern Catholic Churches, in their homelands as well as territories. of the so-called diaspora.
Syria, Iraq, Lebanon
The pope supported the work of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in Syria at a conference in Damascus in March “in which so many young people were actively involved.”
“In the desert of poverty and discouragement caused by the twelve years of war that have devastated beloved and martyred Syria,” he said, ROACO was there to listen to others in order to identify the real priorities.
He said the same synodal style had also animated the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and noted that the tenth anniversary of the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia Medio Oriente”, promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI during of his visit to Lebanon, will be marked in September.
“In ten years, a lot has happened: think of the sad events involving Iraq and Syria, the upheavals in the Land of Cedars itself,” he said, noting, however, that there was also glimmers of hope, such as the signing in Abu Dhabi of the Document on Human Fraternity.
Now, he said, it is necessary to find updated tools and appropriate means to express closeness with the Churches of the region and to resume the work of coordination on Syria and Iraq, including Lebanon in common thinking.