All Christians should support Church in Middle East

Vatican, Jun. 19, 2008 ( – The ancient Christian communities of the Middle East must be ” supported by the entire Catholic Church,” Pope Benedict XVI (bio – news) said in a June 19 talk to participants in an annual conference of ROACO, the Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.

The Holy Father mentioned his concern for the Chaldean Catholics of Iraq, where Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho died in February after being kidnapped outside his cathedral in Mosul. The Christian minority in Iraq has been subjected to frequent violence and intimidation.

The Pope also mentioned Lebanon, where a recent political accord suggests that the country may have “found the path of dialogue and understanding.” Christians there still need help as they strive to be “a sign of the real possibility for peaceful and constructive coexistence,” he said. Pope Benedict said that he hopes the beatification of Father Jacques Ghazir Haddad in Lebanon this Sunday, June 22, would “touch the hearts of young Lebanese.”

Even in countries where the Christian presence is very small, activities supported by ROACO can bear witness to “the communion of love proper to the universal Catholic Church,” the Holy Father said. He pointed to the examples of Armenia and Georgia, countries that were “among the first to receive the light of Christ.” Pope Benedict reminded the ROACO group that Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, had recently visited the Holy Land to tell Catholics there that their welfare is “vital for the entire Church.”

The Pope concluded his talk with a appeal to the world’s political leaders “that the Middle East– in particular the Holy Land, Lebanon, and Iraq– may be offered its longed-for peace and social stability, while respecting the fundamental rights of the person, including that of real religious freedom.”