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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Words for workers who help the Eastern Churches

At noon today, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Meeting of Workers for Help to the Oriental Churches (ROACO) who are gathered in Rome for their 90th Plenary Session.


Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to those participating in the
Meeting of Workers for Help to the Oriental Churches

Dear friends,

I cordially welcome you and I thank Cardinal Sandri for his greetings in the name of all of you, gathered in Rome for the 90th Plenary Session of the ROACO.  I renew my gratitude for the work and the constant efforts of charity and solidarity guaranteed since 1968 to the Oriental and the Latin Church in the territories entrusted to the care of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches: you support their pastoral, educational an aid activities and meet their urgent needs, also thanks to the work of Pontifical Representatives, who I also have the pleasure of greeting.  Through the Father Custos, I greet and bless the Franciscan Friars of the Custody, who have begun the celebrations of the eighth centenary of their presence in the Holy Land.

The Congregation for Oriental Churches is celebrating its centenary, a long time during which it has assisted the Supreme Pontiffs - a Congregation that has had a Prefect since 1967 - in their solicitude for all the Churches.  There have been decades of dramatic events:  the Oriental Churches have often been hit with terrible waves of persecution and trial both in Easter Europe and in the Middle East.  High numbers of emigrants have weakened the effects of its presence in territories which have flourished for centuries.  Now, thank God, some of them have returned to a state of freedom following painful periods spent under totalitarian regimes, but others - especially in Syria, Iraq and Egypt - are witnessing the suffering of their children due to ongoing wars and the senseless violence perpetrated by fundamental terrorism.

All these happenings have led us through the experience of the Cross of Jesus: caused by the experience of disturbance and suffering, but at the same time a source of salvation.  As I have had occasion to say during the days immediately following my election as Bishop of Rome, If we walk without the Cross, if we build without the Cross and if we confess a Christ without a Cross, we will not be the Lord's disciples (Homily for the Mass celebrated with the Cardinal electors, 14 March 2013)

For this reason, I am pleased that you have been able to reflect, together with some representatives of the Churches, on the important reality of the initial training of seminarians and the continuing education of priests.  In fact, we are aware of the choice for radicalism expressed by many of them and of the heroic witness of dedication they have shown while standing alongside their communities at times so sorely tried.  But we are also aware of the temptations that can be encountered, such as the search for a social status sought after by some consecrated persons in some geographic areas, or as a way of exercising a role driven by criteria of human affirmation and according to plans that are dictated by culture or environment.

The efforts put forward by the Congregation and by other Agencies should continue their support for projects and initiatives that authentically strengthen the Church's presence.  It is essential that you continue to nourish the style of evangelical closeness: in the Bishops, so that they too can live this way in relationship to their priests, so that they in turn may make the Lord's gentle caress known to the faithful entrusted to them.  But maintaining all the grace of restoring the Lord's disciples, beginning with the first ones who are learning to make themselves the least among the least.  Thus the seminarian and the young priest will experience the joy of being collaborators in the salvation that is offered by the Lord, who bends down to us like the Good Samaritan to pour the oil of consolation and the wine of evangelical hope over the wounds of our hearts and our human history.

May we always experience the presence of living stones, closely connected with Christ who is the cornerstone!  The Oriental Churches preserve many venerable memories, churches, monasteries, holy places which should be maintained and kept, thanks to your help, as a means of encouraging pilgrimages to the roots of the faith.  But when it is not possible to repair or to maintain these structures, we must continue to be living temples of the Lord, remembering that the clay of our believing existence was shaped by the hands of the potter, the Lord, who infused his living Spirit into us.  And let us not forget that in the Orient, even in our day, Christians - regardless of whether they are Catholics, Orthodox or Protestant - are shedding their blood as a sign of their witness.  If Oriental believers are forced to emigrate, they can be welcomed in places where they arrive, and thus they can continue to live according to their own ecclesial traditions.  In this way, your work, dear representatives of these Agencies, will be a bridge connecting the West with the East, both in countries of origin and in those from which you are coming.

I entrust you to the intercession of the Ever Blessed Mother of God, and I assure you that I accompany you with my prayer.  I bless you all most willingly, as well as your communities and your service.  And I ask you please to pray for me.  Thank you!
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