INSTITUTION OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE WORKING MEETING
ON THE CRISIS IN SYRIA AND THE SURROUNDING COUNTRIES
Hall of the Consistory
Friday, September 14th 2018
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I greet and thank all of you who are taking part in this sixth coordination meeting on the Church's response to the crisis in Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries, a meeting that this year also involves the Migrants and Refugees Section.
I especially thank Cardinal Peter Turkson and the Department for the Integral Human Development Service for organizing this meeting, in collaboration with the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. I also thank Mr. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, for his presence and for the work he does for refugees. Thank you very much!
For too many years, the conflicts have bloodied that region and the situation of the populations in Syria and in Iraq and in the neighboring countries continues to cause great concern. Every day, in prayer, I bring before the Lord the sufferings and the needs of the Churches and of the peoples of those beloved lands, as well as those who are doing their best to help them. And this is true: every day.
With your third survey on the humanitarian aid of ecclesial entities, you are making an important contribution to better understand the needs and better coordinate the aid in favor of these populations.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, there is a risk that the Christian presence will be erased precisely in the earth from which the light of the Gospel has spread throughout the world. In collaboration with the sister Churches, the Holy Church works assiduously to guarantee a future for these Christian communities.
The whole Church looks to these our brothers and sisters in the faith and encourages them with closeness in prayer and concrete charity not to resign themselves to the darkness of violence and keep the lamp of hope burning. The testimony of love with which the Church listens and responds to the cry for help of all, starting with the weakest and poorest, is a luminous sign for the present and a seed of hope that will sprout in the future.
This exquisitely Christian work reminds me of some passages of the so-called "Simple Prayer" attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Where hate is, let me bring love [...]. Where despair is, that I bring hope. Where is sadness, that I bring joy ".
Among the many praiseworthy initiatives promoted by you, I would like to mention the great work this year to support the return of Christian communities to the Nineveh plain in Iraq, and the health care provided to so many poor people in Syria, in particular through the project "Open Hospitals".
Dear brothers, together, with the grace of God, let us look to the future. I encourage you, working in the name of the Church, to continue to take care of the education of children, of the work of young people, of closeness to the elderly, of the treatment of psychological wounds; without forgetting those of hearts, which the Church is called to soothe: "Where it is offended, that I bring forgiveness. Where there is discord, I bring the union ".
Finally, I strongly urge the international community not to forget the many needs of the victims of this crisis, but above all to overcome the logic of interests and put themselves at the service of peace by ending the war.
We can not close our eyes to the causes that have forced millions of people to leave their land with pain. At the same time I encourage all the actors involved and the international community to renew their commitment to the safe return of displaced persons to their homes. Ensuring their protection and the future is a duty of civility. It is drying the tears of children who have seen nothing but rubble, death and destruction that the world will rediscover dignity (cf. Words at the conclusion of the dialogue, Bari, 7 July 2018). In this regard, I reiterate my appreciation for the great efforts in favor of refugees made by various countries in the region and by the various organizations, including some represented here.
Let us again do the Prayer: "O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace [...]. Where there is darkness, I bring light ". Being instruments of peace and light: it is the wish I give to each one of you. From the bottom of the heart: thank you for everything you do every day, along with many men and women of good will. Thank you thank you! May the Lord bless you and may the Madonna accompany you.
FULL TEXT + Image from Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation