Pope: Eastern Christians victims of a “piecemeal” world war

Pope: Eastern Christians victims of a “piecemeal” world war

By Iacopo Scaramuzzi/ lastampa.it

Francis visits the Pontifical Oriental Institute and celebrates Mass for its centenary in the nearby basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: war and hatred challenge the roots of peaceful coexistence.

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“The Pontifical Oriental Institute was founded during the First World War, and today - the Pope said in his speech commemorating its centenary - they are living though another “piecemeal” world war” as “we see so many of our Christian brothers and sisters from the Eastern Churches experiencing dramatic persecutions and an increasingly disturbing diaspora”. A reality that must push the Jesuit-led Institute to help Christians in the “tormented lands of the East” to “strengthen and consolidate their faith in the face of the tremendous challenges they are enduring” and thus respond to the challenges that “war and hatred” bring “to the very roots of peaceful coexistence”.

“Today, we thank the Lord for the founding of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, established by Pope Benedict XV, a hundred years ago, in 1917, “ the Pope said in the homily he celebrated in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore after visiting the nearby institute. The First World War raged at that time; today - as I have already said - we are living through another “piecemeal” world war. And we see so many of our Christian brothers and sisters from the Eastern Churches experiencing dramatic persecutions and an increasingly disturbing diaspora “.

A reasoning that the Pope echoes in the written message he delivered to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Grand Chancellor of the Institute and Prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches, a department that has territorial competence over Egypt, Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy Territories, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. Even in the midst of the stormy First World War, the Pontiff was able to devote special attention to the Churches of the East,” writes Jorge Mario Bergoglio, placing the new institution ” in a horizon that we can say today is eminently ecumenical”.

As for the “mission that this Institute will have to carry out in the future”, the Pope urges the teachers “to put scientific research at the forefront of their commitments”, by stressing, on the other hand, that “the times in which we live along with the challenges that war and hatred bring to the very roots of peaceful coexistence in the tormented lands of the East, see the Institute once again, just like a hundred years ago, at the center of a providential crossroads. While keeping intact the attention and application to traditional research, I invite everyone to offer those Churches, and the entire ecclesial community, the capacity to listen to “life” and to reflect on theology in order to help sustain its existence and its journey.

Many of the students and professors - the Argentinean Pontiff emphasizes - feel this important moment in history. Thanks to research, teaching and witness, this Institute has the task of helping these brothers and sisters to strengthen and consolidate their faith in the face of the tremendous challenges. It is called to be the propitious place to encourage the formation of men and women, seminarians, priests and lay people, capable of giving reason for the hope that animates and sustains them, making them capable of collaborating with Christ’s reconciling mission”.

In his message, Francis also urged the teachers to “keep themselves open to all Eastern Churches, considered not only according to their ancient configuration, but also in the current diffusion and sometimes tormented geographical dispersion”, also underlining the “ecumenical mission” that the Institute must carry on with the Eastern Non-Catholic Churches, represented by a “growing presence” of students.

On the other hand, the Pope after, “having noted that many students from the various Eastern academies of Rome attend universities in which they receive training that is not always fully in accordance with their traditions,” he invites them, “to reflect on what could be done to fill this gap”. In the text handed over to Cardinal Sandri, the Pope stresses that “with the collapse of totalitarian regimes and various dictatorships, which in some countries have unfortunately created favorable conditions for the spread of international terrorism, the Christians of the Eastern Churches are experiencing the tragedy of persecution and an increasingly worrying diaspora” Adding that “ no one should close their eyes in front of these situations”.

Francis focused his homily on the “whys” that the prayerful addresses to the Lord, starting with the question of the prophet Malachi. Why do we see the wicked, those who unscrupulously pursue their own ends, crush others and yet get away with it? They get what they want and think only of the pleasures in life. Hence, we ask God, “Why?” the Pope said. God does not forget his children, His memory is for the righteous, for those who suffer, who are oppressed and wonder “why?”, yet they do not cease to trust in the Lord “, according to Francis, who incited the audience: “Do we really know how to pray? Does our prayer really captivate us, does it drag our heart and our life? Do we know how to knock on God’s heart?

Then in his message, the Pope addressed to the Society of Jesus, “a warm invitation to implement, with the measures requested today, what Pius XI had already said in 1928 about the Gregorian Consortium, destined to favor, together with a considerable saving in people and means, a greater unity of purpose. Alongside the missio implemented by the Gregorian University and the Biblical Institute, there is the one, no less important, of the Oriental Institute. It is therefore urgent to guarantee this institution a stable nucleus of Jesuit trainers, with whom others will be able to join “.

For the centenary of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and for the 25th of the Code of the canons of the Eastern Churches, a plenary session of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches was held from Monday to today, attended by all the patriarchs, major archbishops and metropolitan rulers of the Eastern Catholic Churches, whom the Pope received in the Vatican. Vatican radio reports that after a brief greeting from the Pope, “his beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and all the archbishop-major and patriarchs of the Ukrainian Greek had the chance to express their considerations to the Holy Father, and voice their peoples. Obviously, I too have been able to speak and convey some messages from Ukraine, thanking the Holy Father because he is truly a messenger of peace. Then, in the end, when the Pope summed up the meeting, he said, “It baffles me how all your Churches are suffering wars at this time: in the Middle East, but also in Ukraine. All of you are pastors of the suffering people. And then he told us, “But do you know who causes war, pain and destruction? It’s the devil “. What should our response be? Prayer and - he concluded - the proclamation of the Word of God “.

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Sandri said, “By contemplating this liturgical assembly, we see the Pope’s affirmation made a hundred years ago, come true, “ This initiative will manifestly demonstrate that in the Church of Jesus Christ - which is neither Latin, nor Greek, nor Slavic, but Catholic - there is no discrimination among her children, and that all of them, Latin, Greek, Slavic and other nationalities have equal importance.

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 15:06
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