Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet all of you warmly and thank you for taking part in this sixth meeting for
coordinating the Church’s response to the crisis in Iraq, Syria and neighbouring
countries, a meeting which this year includes also the Section for Migrants and
I thank particularly Cardinal Peter Turkson and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral
Human Development who have organized this meeting, in conjunction with the
Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. I am grateful
also to Mr Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for his
presence and his work helping refugees.
For too many years the conflicts of bloodshed in that region, and the situation of
peoples in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries, have continued to cause great
concern. Every day, in prayer, I bring before the Lord the suffering and needs of the
Churches and the peoples of these beloved lands, as too the needs of those seeking
to provide help.
With this third study regarding humanitarian aid provided by ecclesial groups, you
are offering an important contribution to better understand the needs of these
populations and to coordinate aid to them.
As I have recalled on several occasions, there is the real risk that the Christian
presence may disappear in the very land from which the light of the Gospel first
emanated. In cooperation with the Sister Churches, the Holy See is working to
diligently ensure a future for these Christian communities.
The whole Church looks to these brothers and sisters in the faith and encourages
them through closeness in prayer and concrete charity not to give in to the darkness
of violence and to keep alive the light of hope. The witness of love with which the
Church listens and responds to the cry for help from all, starting with the weakest
and poorest, is a source of light in the present and a seed of hope that will bear fruit
in the future.
This particularly fine Christian project reminds me of some passages from the prayer
attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “Where there is hatred, let me bring love… Where
there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy”.
Among the many praiseworthy initiatives you promote, it is important this year to
mention the great project of supporting the return of Christian communities to the
Nineveh Plain in Iraq, in a special way through the Open Hospitals project.
Dear brothers and sisters, by God’s grace let us look together to the future. I
encourage you, who work in the name of the Church, to continue to provide for the
education of children, employment for young people, closeness to the elderly and
those who are psychologically wounded; without forgetting the wounds of the heart,
which the Church is called to heal: “Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring harmony”.
Finally, and forcefully, I ask the international community not to neglect the many
needs of the victims of this crisis, and above all to set aside special interests in order
to be at the service of peace, and to bring an end to war.
We cannot close our eyes to the reasons that have forced millions of people to leave
– painfully – their home countries. At the same time, I encourage all parties involved,
and the international community, to renew their commitment to ensuring the safe
return of displaced persons to their homes. Ensuring their protection and their future
is a demand imposed by civilized behaviour. It will be through drying the tears of
children who have seen nothing but ruins, death and destruction that the world will
recover its dignity (cf. Address at the Conclusion of the Dialogue, Bari, 7 July 2018).
In this regard, I reiterate my appreciation for the great efforts undertaken on behalf
of refugees by various countries of the region and by a variety of organizations,
among whom are those represented here.
Let us make the Prayer our own: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace […].
Where there is darkness, let me bring light”. Being instruments of peace and light:
this is what I wish for each of you. From the depths of my heart: thank you for
everything you are doing each day, together with so many other men and women of
good will. May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady accompany you.