His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Pope Francis crossed a fifty-year milestone today, continuing the legacy of their predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. In 1964, those leaders broke a silence of centuries and paved the way toward greater dialogue.
Meeting this afternoon at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, the global heads of the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches signed a Joint Declaration affirming their commitment to seek unity between their respective ecclesial bodies. Moreover, they expressed their profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their fundamental right to remain full citizens of their homelands:
As the mass exodus of Iraq’s Christians continues, so does the call for ending the plight of those who have remained. Like Iraq’s ancient Jewish community before them, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities may soon cease to exist.
The disappearance of Iraq’s religious minorities has been a troubling trend since the US-led invasion in 2003, and it has threatened to end the cultural diversity of Iraq. As the violence in the country spikes and religious intolerance grows, many Christians, Yazidis, Mandaeans and other minority community members are leaving the country.
Last week, the head of the Iraqi Catholic Church sent a chilling warning that Iraq’s 2,000-year-old Christian community is on the brink of extinction as new waves of Christians take the journey of exodus.
Pope Tawadros II is on an apostolic visit to UAE for five days which beagn on May 9th Friday. This is the first ever visit of the Pontiff to UAE since his consecration as the Coptic Pope of Alexandria and All Africa.
Pope will serve Liturgy and sermons at St Antony’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Abu Dhabi, which is home to one of the largest Coptic communities in the Emirates. Pope will also meet senior President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa and other high level UAE officials, along with his visit to Dubai and Sharjah Emirates.
In the Syrian Old Homs, "Eleven Christian churches are either completely destroyed or heavily damaged," related a local priest named George Abu Zahem to the Lebanese The Daily Star newspaper.
He has described the situation in the al-Hamidiyah Christian quarter as disastrous. According to the priest, the churches were robbed and desecrated by militants.
"A true miracle happened at Holy Martyr Elian's Orthodox Church in Homs (6th century). The gunmen set it on fire. However, the fire did not touch the ancient icons on the walls—they just slightly darkened," the priest said.
The thick walls have saved the Cathedral of Holy Theotokos, the "calling card" of Old Homs, where is the city's main relic—a small portion of the Girdle of the Mother of God.
On May 7, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, left for the Vatican on a fraternal visit. On May 8, in the Apostolic Palace, His Holiness met with His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Leader of the Catholic Church.
Present at the meeting were His Eminence Archbishop Gisak Muradyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese in Argentine; His Eminence Archbishop Khajak Barsamyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church o North America; His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manoukian, Director of the Inter- Church Relations Department of the Mother See and Primate of the Artik Diocese; Rev. Fr. Anania Tsaturyan, Staff-Bearer of His Holiness Karekin II; Rev. Fr. Tovma Khachatryan, Spiritual Pastor of the Armenian Diocese in Italy; Rev. Fr. Vahram Melikyan, Director of the Information Services Department of the Mother See; and Mr. Michael Minasyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See.
On 8 May 2014, a historic conference will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, where seven senior religious and secular leaders from Syria’s largest Christian churches will speak in a unified voice on the situation in their homeland, which is the cradle of civilization and Christianity. In addition, significant meetings at the United Nations are scheduled for Friday.
Tomorrow’s conference, titled “Christians in Syria: The Challenge of Speaking with One Voice,” will start at 8 pm at the Espace Fusterie (18, Place de la Fusterie) in Geneva and is open to the public.