Mideast patriarchs urge Pope Francis to ‘scold’ world leaders on issue of Christian exodus

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Jardine Malado
(Reuters/Marko Djurica)A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017.
Mideast Catholic and Orthodox patriarch are calling on Pope Francis to “scold” world leaders in the hopes that they would address the issue of the displacement of Christians from the Middle East.

In a statement released on Aug. 11, the Council of the Eastern Patriarchs described the displacement of Christians from the region as “a genocidal project, a humanitarian catastrophe and a plague of the earth’s civilization.”

The patriarchs urged Pope Francis to bring world leaders together to come up with a plan to protect the Christians in the Middle East. “Who else but the Rock of Peter can we resort to?” the prelates asked in their plea.

“Only you, Your Holiness, are left to call on the representatives of the people who control the destinies of peoples, to remind them and even to scold them that the continued displacement of Christians from the Middle East is certainly a genocidal project, a humanitarian catastrophe, but a plague of the earth’s civilization,” they added.

The prelates also called on the U.N. and the states directly involved in the war in Syria, Iraq and Palestine to put an end to the warfare in the region.

The categorized the inability to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East as a “stain on the forehead of the 21st century.”

The patriarchs said that they were pleased about the liberation of Mosul and the towns in the Nineveh Plain from the Islamic State, but they expressed concern about the persistence of extremist groups’ “ideology, inflammatory rhetoric and the climate of conflict in this region.”

They went on to encourage Iraqi Christians to remain in the country to preserve their civilization and help build a new civilian state.

The prelates also noted that they were following the plight of the Palestinian people with “great interest.” They pointed to the “daily harassment” of the Palestinians who live in Jerusalem and noted that economic and security situation in the region has resulted in the “exodus of many of our Christian children from Palestine.”

The statement was issued after the patriarchs held a meeting on Aug. 9–10 in Dimane, Lebanon. On Aug. 9, the patriarchs met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to discuss the issue of displaced persons and refugees in Lebanon.

According to Catholic News Service, refugees comprise between one-quarter and one-third of the population of Lebanon, over a million of which are Syrians.

The prelates who were involved in issuing the statement include Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef Younan II, Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako.