Pope Francis to Syrian Church leaders: What unites us is stronger than what divides us
"Your Holiness...dear brother in Christ. Thank you very much for having us. It's good to see you.â?
And this was how the meeting between Pope Francis and the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church began.
The Patriarch came from Damascus, but he brought other leaders from as far away as India and California.
After the warm introductions and after all the smiles, the conversation turned more serious.
"We come to you from Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. Bringing with us the suffering of its people and their aspirations.â?
"Today, Your Holiness, the genocide continues, targeting not only Christians but all those who love peace.â?
Pope Francis also delivered emotional remarks, in which he expressed his solidarity. He decried their people's suffering.
"How much has changed since these first encounters! Yours, Holiness, is a Church of martyrs from the beginning, and it is so today, too, in the Middle East, where it continues to endure, together with other Christian communities and other minorities, the terrible sufferings caused by war, violence, and persecutions. So much suffering! So many innocent victims.â?
The Patriarch also exchanged gifts with Pope Francis. There was a small mishap with one of the gifts when it was being flown to Rome.
"Unfortunately, the Germans put their knife through it in customs. But this was made recently, specifically for the visit.â?
One piece of artwork for the Pope came from India, and the other was made in Syria, from stone that has been used since before the days of Christ.
In return, Pope Francis gave the Patriarch copies of "Laudato Siâ? and "Evangelii Gaudium,â? along with other artwork.
The men concluded their ecumenical meeting by praying together. Although the two religions may differ on some issues, they agreed that their love for Christ is equally profound.