Pope to Syrian Christians: you have ‘great task’ of remaining

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2013 / 05:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis vigorously appealed for peace in Syria and told the Christians there that they have “the great task” of remaining in their homeland despite the ongoing war.

“These (communities) have the great task of continuing to offer a Christian presence in the place where they were born and it is our task to ensure that this witness remains there,” he said June 5.

“The participation of the entire Christian community in this important work of assistance and aid is imperative at this time,” he added during the meeting with Catholic aid agencies in the hall of Saint Martha’s House.

The pontiff made his comments at a June 5 gathering organized by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” for Catholic charities engaged in helping Syrian refugees within their own country, as well as in neighboring ones.

“Faced with the continuing violence and abuse, I strongly renew my appeal for peace,” he told them.

“I ask you to encourage humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced Syrians, aiming first at the good of the person and the protection of his dignity,” he stated.

Pope Francis noted that in “recent weeks, the international community has reaffirmed its intention to take concrete steps to begin a fruitful dialogue with the aim of putting an end to the war.”

These are “attempts that should be supported and which will hopefully lead to peace,” he said.

The pontiff also reminded Cor Unum members that the Church “feels called to give testimony to the humble” and that it must do so with “concrete and effective charity.”

“We cannot hold back, precisely from those situations where the pain is greatest!” he exclaimed.

“Your presence in the coordination meeting shows the will to continue with loyalty the valuable work of humanitarian assistance in Syria and in neighboring countries that generously accommodate those fleeing war,” the Pope said.

The charities’ work, he said, is “timely and coordinated” and an “expression of that communion which is itself a testimony as suggested by the recent Synod on the Middle East.”

“The work of Catholic Charities agencies to help the Syrian people, beyond ethnic or religious affiliations, is extremely significant for the Holy See,” said the pontiff.

“It is the most direct way to make a contribution to peace and the building up of a society open to all the different components,” he stated.

The Pope then gave them his apostolic blessing, emphasizing that it extends in particular to “the dear faithful who live in Syria and all those Syrians who are currently forced to leave their homes because of the war.”

“You here present are the instrument to tell the dear people of Syria and the Middle East that the Pope accompanies them and is close to them,” he said.

“The Church does not abandon them!” he insisted.

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