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08 July 2018 | by Ruth Gledhill

Pope Francis prays that out of discord will come peace


Pope Francis prays that out of discord will come peace

Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, right, release doves as they stand with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St Nicholas in Bari, Italy
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

Pope Francis was speaking to those who gathered outside the Basilica of St Nicholas in Bari

Peace in the Middle East must be “cultivated in the parched soil of conflict and discord” and not by building walls, Pope Francis said after meeting Orthodox and Catholic church leaders from the Middle East in Bari, Italy.
 
In his address at the end of the meeting, Pope Francis said: "It is essential that those in power choose finally and decisively to work for true peace and not for their own interests. Let there be an end to the few profiting from the sufferings of many! No more occupying territories and thus tearing people apart! No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations! Let there be an end to using the Middle East for gains that have nothing to do with the Middle East!"

War is the scourge that tragically assails the region, he continued. T

"The poor are its principal victims. Let us think only of war-torn Syria, especially the Daraa region, where bitter conflicts have started again, displacing a large number of people who are now subjected to terrible suffering. War is the daughter of power and poverty. It is defeated by renouncing the thirst for supremacy and by eradicating poverty. So many conflicts have been stoked too by forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism that, under the guise of religion, have profaned God’s name – which is peace – and persecuted age-old neighbours. Violence is always fueled by weapons. You cannot speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms. This is a most serious responsibility weighing on the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful."

For the sake of the children, “who have spent most of their lives looking at rubble instead of schools, hearing the deafening explosion of bombs rather than the happy din of playgrounds, …may the longing for peace rise higher than any dark cloud”, he said. May the Middle East no longer be an "ark of war", lying between continents, but an "ark of peace" that welcomes peoples of different backgrounds and beliefs.

Pope Francis was speaking to those who gathered outside the Basilica of St Nicholas in Bari.
 
Reflecting that Christianity originated in the Middle East, Pope Francis cited Jesus command to his disciples in Matthew's gospel to "put away your sword". The response to the conflict must not be fight or flight. Instead, it must be one of encounter, using like Jesus the gift of self.
He also called for an end to the exploitation of the Middle East.

"Let there be an end to using the Middle East for gains that have nothing to do with the Middle East! …Enough of the thirst for profit that surreptitiously exploits oil and gas fields without regard for our common home, with no scruples about the fact that the energy market now dictates the law of coexistence among peoples!" Sister Bernadette reported him as saying, before he went on to evoke the sign of doves released by children.

Pope Francis prayed: "Beloved Middle East, may you see dispelled the darkness of war, power, violence, fanaticism, unfair gains, exploitation, poverty, inequality and lack of respect for rights." Quoting Psalm 122, he continued: "May peace be upon you, may justice dwell within your borders, and may God’s blessing come to rest upon you."

In an interview with Cei, Metropolitan Hilarion, representing the Moscow Patriarchate, said: "The representatives of the Churches of the Middle East shared their hopes, their pains, their concerns and we assessed together what can be done to solve the problems that exist in the Middle East. In the last 15 years we have been witness to a genocide of Christians in the Middle East. If we want to save Christians, if we want Christianity not to be erased from the map of the Middle East, we must act quickly."





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