[From Terrasanta.net] With Christmas approaching, Pope Francis has expressed his heartfelt prayers that Christians in the Middle East will have a Christmas full of the love and peace of Christ.
In a letter the Holy Father addressed to the Christians Sunday that the Vatican released yesterday, the Pope not only imparted his blessing, but also expressed, “I do hope to have the chance to come to you in person and to visit and to comfort you.” Francis told them he wrote the letter to encourage and let them know “how precious your presence and your mission are in the land which the Lord has blessed.”
Denouncing the terrorist events which have “perpetrated all kinds of abuses” and “inhuman acts,” the Pope lamented how many in their region have been brutally driven out of their native lands, “where Christians have been present since apostolic times.”
The Holy Father noted he cannot remain silent about the members of other religious and ethnic groups who are also experiencing persecution and the effects of these conflicts, and added how his thoughts are always with children, young mothers, elderly, homeless, refugees and those starving. This suffering cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible,” he said, expressing his and the Church’s personal closeness and solidarity.
The Pope praised their courageous witness and prayed, “May the trials which you are presently enduring strengthen the faith and the fidelity of each and all of you!” He added: “May the word of God, the sacraments, prayer and fellowship nourish and continually renew your communities.”
Being in the midst of hostility and conflicts, he stressed, calls them to be models of holiness, as the saints of the past, often also persecuted for their faith, had been. The sufferings which Christians endure contribute immensely to the cause of unity,” he said, noting “It is the ecumenism of blood, which demands a trusting abandonment to the working of the Holy Spirit.”
May you always bear witness to Jesus amid your difficulties,” he said. “Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread.”
Echoing his recent appeals, the Pontiff urged the international community to address your needs and those of other suffering minorities by promoting peace through negotiation and diplomacy in order to “stem” and “stop” the violence “which has already caused so much harm.”
What is needed, he stressed, “are plans and initiatives for peace, so as to further a global solution to the region’s problems.”
The Holy Father concluded, praying, “May the Virgin Mary, the All-Holy Mother of God and our Mother, accompany you and protect you always with her tender love.”
Click here for the unabridged version of Pope Francis’ letter.
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