Monday's consistory of cardinals focused on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, especially in light of the rise of the Islamic State, and it also decided on two causes for Canonization.
Cardinals and patriarchs from the Middle East together with top officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and interested dicasteries attended the Oct. 20 summit with the Pope, which was called a ‘public ordinary consistory’.
A consistory is a meeting of cardinals which can be public, semi-public or secret. During a consistory, new cardinals may be created, or it is possible to vote for cause of canonization, or to discuss of topics of general concern.
Initially set in order to proceed with the causes of canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, the consistory schedule was enlarged by Pope Francis, who wanted it to be dedicated to the discussion of the plight of Christians, taking advantage of the presence of Middle Eastern patriarchs in Rome, on the heels of the synod.
In his opening address, Pope Francis stressed that “we are facing terrorism on a scale that was unimaginable,” and that “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East deprived of Christians, who have been settled there for 2,000 years.”
The Pope maintained that “so many of our brothers are persecuted and had to leave their homes,” adding that “it seems the value of human life is not considered anymore, that the person does not count and may be sacrificed to other interests.” He denounced that “many remain indifferent” while this happens.
After the Pope’s initial address, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, took the floor and reported to cardinals and patriarchs about the situation in Middle East and the outcomes of the Oct. 2-4 meeting among the top officials of the state secretariat, dicasteries, nuncios to the Middle East, and the Holy See Permanent Observers to the United Nations in New York and Geneva.
Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable.
“We have listened with commotion and great worry to the testimony of the atrocities perpetuated by many in the region, particularly by the fundamentalists of the self-proclaimed group Islamic-State, an entity that .. uses terroristic means in an attempt to expand its power,” Cardinal Parolin affirmed.
The Secretary of State reaffirmed the right of refugees to return to their homes, and reiterated that “it is licit to stop an unjust aggressor,” but that “the military response cannot be the only one” put into action.
“In the specific case of the violations and the abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the appropriate bodies, will have to act in order to prevent possible and new genocide and to assist the numerous refugees.”
Cardinal Parolin made a quick summary of the political situation in the Middle East, urged for a durable political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, praised Iran for its involvement in the resolution of the Iraq and Syria crisis and in combatting the Islamic State; and expressed concern about political instability in Lebanon, which the Holy See attentively watches because of the impact Christians have there in public life.
Regarding the humanitarian drama of refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, Cardinal Parolin underscored that the Church urges the international community “to generously face this tragedy” and at the same time provides help through local relief services.
The Secretary of State once more asked religious leaders – both Christian and Muslim – for a mutual commitment in interreligious dialogue, and underscored that “of peculiar importance is the commitment of Muslim leaders” in order to address the Islamic State and condemn its acts.
In general, the international community is urged to commit in helping refugees and displaced persons and in defending Christians and other religious minority to defend human rights, especially that of religious freedom.
After Cardinal Parolin’s speech, there was a free discussion. According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, all the Middle East patriarchs voiced their concerns.
Among them was Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.
Patriarch Younan recounted to CNA Oct. 20 that participants in the consistory “spoke about the situation of Christians who are facing a very, very critical phase in their history after this event of the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ and after the crisis in Syria and that of Iraq, and tensions in Lebanon.”
The consistory also approved two causes of canonization.
The cardinals did not set a date for the canonization of Bl. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, an Italian religious who founded, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Congregation of the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The Pope himself will canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, a native of Goa who evangelized Sri Lanka, whose Canonization Mass will take place Jan. 14, 2015, during the papal voyage to Sri Lanka.
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