Pope Francis meets with Melkite bishops to discuss Christian survival in the Middle East
On Monday, Pope Francis met with the Catholic Bishops of Syria and Lebanon in the Vatican to discuss the “survival of Christians in the Middle East”.
As the Church of the East opened its synod of bishops, which takes place in Rome from June 20-25, the pope met with Patriarch Youssef Absi of Antioch and other members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
Absi encouraged Pope Francis to pressure political leaders to “draw a red line,” prioritizing the security of Christians in the Middle East, during the meeting.
The concern of the Melkite Bishops, expressed by the Patriarch, is that widespread poverty, low standard of living and dangerous situations have led to a wave of exodus from the region, especially among young people.
Pope Francis said: “You are rightly concerned about the survival of Christians in the Middle East – I too am worried – it is a concern that I fully share.”
With eparchies in Argentina, Australia, the United States, Canada and Venezuela, the Melkite Church now has a global presence, according to the pope.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with Pope Francis, based in Damascus, the capital of Syria. At a synod in Lebanon in 2017, Absi was elected Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and All the East.
Thousands of people have died in “beloved and martyred Syria” since Pope Francis began his pontificate, and millions more have fled the region as refugees, according to Pope Francis.
“The tragedies of recent months, which unfortunately force us to turn our gaze to Eastern Europe, should not make us forget what has been happening in your land for 12 years,” the pope said.
During the discussion, Pope Francis reiterated his call for “a fair and just solution to the tragedy in Syria” from the Syrian government and the international community.
“More than once I have met and heard the story of a young Syrian who arrived here, and I was struck by the drama he carried within him, by what he had experienced and seen, but also by his look, almost devoid of hope, unable to dream of a future for his land. We cannot allow even the last spark of hope to be taken from the eyes and hearts of young people and families,” the pope said.