Speaking before a group of Cardinals, Pope Francis addressed the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. He said that despite trying times, not having a Christians in the region, is simply not an option.
"Recent events, especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and forced out of their homes in a brutal way.”
During the two hour meeting, the Pope and cardinals also heard from Middle Eastern patriarchs.
IGNACE YOUSSIF III YOUNAN
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians for the Syriac Catholic Church
"Our small Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch has been hit the hardest these past four months in Iraq. I went to visit refugees in Kurdistan and if those refugees had not fled, it would have been a genocide.”
CARD. BECHARA BOUTROS RAI
Patriarch of Antioch
"What hurts me most is that some Middle Eastern countries and even some in the West, support these fundamentalists with weapons, money and political protection. We need to help refugees and stop these wars. UN security resolutions need to be implemented.”
The Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin described the violence carried out by the Islamic State as unacceptable. They include massive killings, decapitations and the sale of women and children.
He also said that for peace to be a reality in the Middle East, unilateral decisions must be put in motion. Part of that, he said, is based on politics.
FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI
"This includes the diplomatic work the Church can carry out and also the Holy See's relationship with the international community.”
Another point of action is embracing dialogue between Christians and Muslims, by denouncing the use of religion as a tool for violence.
FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI
"It needs to be highlighted that this isn't a war between Christianity and Islam. The fact that many countries don't make a distinction between the state and religion is a problem. This makes it even more difficult to convince people that citizenship and equal rights should be for everyone, regardless of their religion.”
The Vatican's Secretary of State also called on religious leaders to denounce the violence. He also urged Catholic bishops to support the persecuted and their families, so they can feel the presence of the Church.
But just like war, the situation is far more complicated. Patriarchs said they're faced with a daily dilemma, of either recommending that Christians flee from their homes, or support them to stay, even when they're risking their lives.