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Pope to Syriac Catholic Patriarch: I'm close to persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria

Pope Francis met with the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and other Syriac Catholic Bishops in the Vatican. The Eastern Bishops were visiting Rome as part of their Church's Synod. A group of lay people also attended the meeting. Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan explained why they were eager to meet the Pope.  "We came here to ask for strength and courage from the successor of Peter.â? This Eastern Church has a strong presence in  Syria and Iraq, given the dramatic persecution of Christians being carried out by ISIS, the Bishops asked for prayers and support.  POPE FRANCIS "I want to express my closeness to your communities throughout the world and to give my support in particular to those in Iraq and Syria. They are going through moments of great suffering and fear because of the current violence.â? Pope Francis explained the exodus of Christians from the Middle East impoverishes the region in many different ways. The situation, he said, is especially painful because it's the land where the first preachers of the Gospel, preached. He also called on other Christian Churches in the region to join forces to help refugees, who left it all behind to keep their faith and survive. AC/PM/KLH CTV VM -BN Up:AC