Pope Francis spoke on Thursday, November 17, of the suffering of innocent victims caught up in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, saying that nothing can justify such terrible violence. His words came as he met with the head of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III, who was making his first visit to the Vatican since being elected as Catholicos-Patriarch in September last year.
In his words to the new leader of this Church, which traces its roots back to the apostles Thomas and Bartholomew, the Pope appealed for an end to the conflicts in the Middle East which cause such great suffering to Christians and members of other religious or ethnic minorities.
Every day, the Pope said, Christians in these places "walk the way of the Cross". They remind us that Jesus is always at the heart of our faith, even in our adversity, calling us to live out his message of love, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Blood of martyrs is seed of unity
Just as the blood of Christ, shed out of love, brought reconicilation and unity, the Pope said, so the blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity for all Christians.
Theological dialogue and practical partnerships
Pope Francis also spoke of the important progress in relations between Catholics and the Assyrian Church of the East, recalling especially the Common Christological Declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and by the previous Catholicos Mar Dinkha IV. He encouraged the work of the joint commission for theological dialogue between the two Churches, saying that partnering together though works of charity can also help to heal the wounds of the past.
Shared Christian witness
Unlike most other Churches that trace their origins to the first centuries of Christianity, the Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with any other Christians of either the Eastern or Western traditions. Pope Francis concluded his remarks saying that the great evangelizers, saints and martyrs throughout history accompany us and urge us to open up new paths of communion and shared witness to the world.