I am happy to meet you at the conclusion of the work of your Plenary Session. I
greet Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Cardinal Zenari, Msgr. Pizzaballa, the other
Superiors of the Dicastery – who have changed in the meantime – the Officials
and the members of the Agencies that make up your Assembly.
The fact that we are able to meet in person instils confidence and proves helpful
for your work, since last year it was possible only to reflect together at a
distance. We know that it was not the same. For we need to encounter one
another, to share ideas in fruitful dialogue and to hear the questions and the
cries for help coming to us from so many parts of the world, particularly from
the Churches in the countries where you carry out your work. I can testify
personally to this, for it was precisely in this setting that, in 2019, I announced
my intention to visit Iraq. A few months ago, thank God, I was able realize this
desire. I was happy to include one of your representatives in the entourage, as a
sign of gratitude for what you have done and continue to do.
Despite the pandemic, you have had additional meetings over the past year to
face the situation of Eritrea, but also to follow that of Lebanon following the
terrible Beirut port explosion of 4 August last. In this regard, I thank you for
your efforts to support Lebanon in this grave crisis, and I ask you to pray, and
invite others to pray, for our meeting on 1 July with the Heads of the Christian
Churches in Lebanon, that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and guide us.
I would also like, through you, to extend my gratitude to all those who support
and make possible your projects: ordinary members of the faithful, families,
parishes and volunteers who understand what it means to be “brothers and
sisters all” and who devote a portion of their time and resources to assisting you
in the services you provide. I have been told that the income from the 2020
collection for the Holy Land was only about half of that received in previous
years. Certainly, this was due in part to the long months when attendance at
church services was reduced, but also to the economic crisis generated by the
pandemic. While the crisis may have encouraged us to focus on what is
essential, we cannot remain indifferent when we think of the deserted streets of
Jerusalem and the loss of those pilgrims who go there to strengthen their faith,
but also to express concrete solidarity with the local Churches and their people.
Once again, I ask everyone to appreciate the significance of this form of charity,
which Saint Paul refers to in his letters, and Saint Paul VI restructured in his
1974 Apostolic Exhortation Nobis in Animo, whose continued timeliness and
validity I reaffirm.
In your Meeting, you have discussed a variety of geographical and ecclesial
situations. In the first place, the Holy Land itself, with Israel and Palestine,
peoples who we hope and pray will see the bow of peace that God showed to
Noah as a sign of the covenant between heaven and earth, and of peace among
peoples. For all too often, even lately, those skies have been darkened by
missiles bringing destruction, death and fear!
The pleas for help rising from Syria are never far from God’s heart, yet do not
seem to have touched the hearts of leaders in a position to affect the destiny of
peoples. We think of the continuing scandal of ten years of conflict, millions of
internally and externally displaced persons, the victims and the need for
reconstruction, all held hostage to partisan thinking and the lack of courageous
decisions for the good of that war-torn nation.
The presence of Cardinal Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, and that of the Papal
Representatives in Lebanon, Iraq, Ethiopia, Armenia and Georgia, whom I greet
and heartily thank, has enabled you to consider the situation of the Church in
those countries. Your own way of life is important, for it helps pastors and
faithful to concentrate on what is essential and helpful for the proclamation of
the Gospel, as together you show the face of a Church that is a Mother, with
particular concern for the poor and the vulnerable. If at times it is necessary to
reconstruct buildings and cathedrals, including those destroyed by war, we need
to be concerned above all for the living stones who have been wounded and
I am following with apprehension the situation arising from the conflict in the
Tigray region in Ethiopia, knowing that it is also affecting nearby Eritrea. Beyond
religious and confessional differences, we come to see the essential importance
of the message of Fratelli Tutti, whenever differences between ethnic groups and
the resulting struggles for power become systemic.
At the conclusion of my Apostolic Journey in Armenia in 2016, Catholicos Karekin
II and I released doves into the sky as a sign of hope for peace in the entire
Caucasus region. Sadly, in recent months that hope has once more been
disappointed. For this reason, I am grateful for the concern you have shown for
the situation in Georgia and Armenia, in order to enable the Catholic community
to continue to be a sign and leaven of evangelical life.
Dear friends, thank you for your presence, thanks for your attention and the
projects and activities you carry out. I bless each of you and your work. And I
ask you please, to continue to pray for me. Thank you!