By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis said on Monday he "thinks constantly of Iraq", where he wishes to travel in the coming year.
He was addressing representatives of ROACO, the ‘Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.’
As he listed countries that fall within the Reunion’s reach and where the faithful continue to suffer, - including Syria, Ukraine and the Holy Land – the Pope focused on Iraq.
He said he hopes it is able to build a peaceful future based on the “shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of society, including the religious”, without falling back into “hostilities sparked by the simmering conflicts of the regional powers”.
Iraq's small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered persecution and hardship when so-called Islamic State took control of large swathes of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the jihadists were pushed out. The country is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. It would be a first ever apostolic visit to the nation.
Thanking the members of the ROACO committee, which unites funding agencies from various countries around the world for the sake of providing assistance in different areas of life to the clergy and to the faithful of the Oriental Churches, ROACO, he said, “attends to the plea of all those, who in these years have been robbed of hope”.
Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Holy Land
Reflecting briefly on the particular situations in some of the countries and regions ROACO reaches, the Pope expressed sorrow for “the dramatic situation in Syria and the dark clouds that seem to be gathering above it in some yet unstable areas, where the risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis remains high”.
“Nor,” he said, “do I forget Ukraine, in the hope that its people can know peace.”
Then he expressed his trust in a Holy Land initiative in which, he said, “the Christian communities of the status quo are working side-by-side” with the cooperation of local and international actors
Migrants and refugees
Pope Francis also highlighted the plight of migrants and refugees saying, “We hear the plea of persons in flight, crowded on boats in search of hope, not knowing which ports will welcome them, in a Europe that opens its ports to ships that will load sophisticated and costly weapons capable of producing forms of destruction that do not spare even children”.
Hope and consolation
The Pope did not neglect to underscore voices of hope and consolation that he said “are the echoes of that tireless charitable outreach that has been made possible also thanks to each of you and the agencies that you represent”.
He said that by nourishing hope for the coming generations, we help young people “to grow in humanity, freed of forms of ideological colonization and with open hearts and minds”.
He noted that this year, the young people of Ethiopia and Eritrea – following the greatly desired peace between the two countries – abandoned their weapons and are living in harmony.
The Pope concluded asking those present to help him spread the message of fraternity contained in the Abu Dhabi Document and to continue to preserve those realities that, he said, have been practicing its message for many years now.