Updated: January 30, 2017 05:26 AM GMT
Pope Francis during Mass in the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity in El Cobre, on the last day of his visit to Cuba, Sept. 22 2015. (Photo: IANS)
Pope Francis prayed for an end to the daily violence and brutality waged by fundamentalist extremists in the Middle East.
"Your sufferings are our sufferings. I join you in praying for an end to the conflict and for God's closeness to those who have endured so much, especially children, the sick and the elderly," the pope told representatives of the Eastern Orthodox churches Jan. 27.
The representatives were in Rome for a meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches, which include churches with large communities in Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
The Eastern Orthodox churches that officially participate in the dialogue include the Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Malankara Orthodox Syrian churches.
Praying for an end to the conflicts, the pope said his heart went out to all those affected, in particular the most vulnerable and "the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage or enslaved."
Such situations of "tragic suffering more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, due to instability created by partisan interests, often from elsewhere, and by earlier conflicts that have led to situations of dire need, cultural and spiritual deserts where it becomes easy to manipulate and incite people to hatred," he said.
"Wherever violence begets more violence and sows death, there our response must be the pure leaven of the Gospel, which, eschewing strategies of power, allows fruits of life to emerge from arid ground and hope to dawn after nights of terror."
Source: Catholic News Service