Pope Francis met on Monday with members of the Greek Melkite Synod, led by their new Patriarch of Antioch Youssef Absi.
Elected on June 21st last year, Patriarch Absi took over from his predecessor Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, who retired at the age of 83. In a letter, sent to the new leader the following day, Pope Francis granted ‘Ecclesiastical Communion’, putting his seal of approval on the election.
In his meeting with the Greek Melkite bishops, Pope Francis spoke of the difficult situation facing the Christian communities throughout the Middle East. He said he hoped that Church leaders, through the witness of their own lives, could encourage their people to remain in those lands, despite the many challenges they face.
In this particularly difficult time, the Pope said, pastors are called upon to show communion, unity, closeness, transparency and solidarity with their suffering people. He added that on February 23rd, the day of prayer and fasting for peace, he would be remembering particularly all those affected by the years of suffering in Syria.
Noting that the Greek Melkite bishops have just concluded a meeting of their Synod in Lebanon, Pope Francis stressed that the Church needs pastors who can revive the hearts of the faithful, staying close to them and accompanying them in their search for the Lord.
Pastors, he insisted, must not be attached to money or luxury, but instead should share the poverty of their suffering people. Rather than being contented with things of this world, he said, they should always be journeying and leading others to God.