Pope Francis spoke on Thursday of the suffering of innocent victims
caught up in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, saying that nothing can
justify such terrible violence. His words came as he met with the head
of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III, who was making his
first visit to the Vatican since being elected as Catholicos-Patriarch
in September last year.
In his words to the new leader of this Church, which traces its roots
back to the apostles Thomas and Bartholomew, the Pope appealed for an
end to the conflicts in the Middle East which cause such great suffering
to Christians and members of other religious or ethnic minorities.
day, the Pope said, Christians in these places "walk the way of the
Cross". They remind us that Jesus is always at the heart of our faith,
even in our adversity, calling us to live out his message of love,
reconciliation and forgiveness.
Blood of martyrs is seed of unity
as the blood of Christ, shed out of love, brought reconicilation and
unity, the Pope said, so the blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity
for all Christians.
Theological dialogue and practical partnerships
Francis also spoke of the important progress in relations between
Catholics and the Assyrian Church of the East, recalling especially the
Common Christological Declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and by the
previous Catholicos Mar Dinkha IV. He encouraged the work of the joint
commission for theological dialogue between the two Churches, saying
that partnering together though works of charity can also help to heal
the wounds of the past.
Shared Christian witness
other Churches that trace their origins to the first centuries of
Christianity, the Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with
any other Christians of either the Eastern or Western traditions. Pope
Francis concluded his remarks saying that the great evangelizers, saints
and martyrs throughout history accompany us and urge us to open up new
paths of communion and shared witness to the world.