Published courtesy of Vatican News 23 June 2023
Pope Francis expresses gratitude for the proactive solidarity and generosity of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, the Holy See’s humanitarian arm for Eastern Churches, for its work to alleviate the suffering in war-torn Ukraine, Turkey and Syria, Holy Land, and across the world.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Receiving ROACO members in the Vatican on the morning of Thursday, 22 June, Pope Francis handed them his prepared remarks and explained he would not be reading his discourse because he is still having difficulty breathing after the general anaesthesia he underwent during surgery on 7 June.
However, he expressed joy for the visit of representatives of the “Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches” and its Youth Conference that are holding their Plenary Assembly in Rome and thanked them for their proactive solidarity “that helps heal wounds like a caress on the face of someone who is suffering.”
“A caress that restores hope amidst the turmoil of conflict.”
Combatting the daily sufferings of the hard-pressed
“You are engaged in the arid land of suffering in order to make seeds of hope grow,” the Pope said, noting, “I am thinking of your recent efforts to help heal the wounds of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, amidst the daily sufferings of hard-pressed peoples.”
“I hope we can truly continue to help them; so many promises have been made, but it is still difficult to use normal banking systems to send aid to the victims.”
The Pope thanked them for their great efforts in Ukraine to support internally displaced persons and refugees. “A few years ago, I wanted to unite my own efforts to yours on behalf of that beloved country through the initiative “The Pope for Ukraine”, and later with other ongoing projects.”
“Yet I also want to take this opportunity to urge everyone,” he continued, “not to be lacking in concrete closeness, closeness of prayer and charity, to the war-torn Ukrainian people.”
The Pope also pointed out their attention for the Holy Land and the Middle East, and he highlighted ROACO’s aid projects in Iran, Turkey and Eritrea. “May the enormous human and natural wealth that God has given to those beautiful countries be put to good use and bring some peace to their inhabitants.”
Illuminated by God’s embrace
At the present time, the Pope decried, God’s plan for peace is disrupted. He observed that while the Bible speaks of God’s plan for peace, “from the beginning, it also shows us violence between brothers: Cain and Abel and the killing of an innocent person.”
“How good it is, especially for us Christians,” the Pope said, “to listen to the sacred Word with an open heart and so allow ourselves to be illuminated and guided not by our own plans but by the merciful plan of God, who wants to embrace and save all men and women, all the brothers and sisters of Jesus!”
The Pope applauded this meeting’s focus on the expectations coming from the young people of the Eastern Churches, and called on everyone to listen together to the desires, those vocalized and those “carried in their hearts.” Young people, he said, “want to be protagonists of the common good, which should be the “compass” of social action.”
“Dear young people present, you live in territories where the restoration of the common good is an essential condition for survival. May you be sentinels of peace for everyone, prophets who dream and proclaim a world that is different and no longer divided!”
Lasting friendship with Jesus
The Pope recalled how Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, encouraged young people “to cultivate a true and lasting friendship with Jesus through the power of prayer.”
For Christians, Pope Francis said, this is the primary source of action.
“The pierced heart of God frees us from thinking of charity as a profession, a calculation of sheer philanthropy, a bureaucracy of goodness or, worse, a network of political interests,” the Pope observed.
“It is the Cross, the ultimate participation of God in the suffering of humanity,” the Holy Father said, “that provides Christians, particularly to young people, the authenticity that they are searching for, the courage to bear witness, the strength to overcome individualism and indifference, which today are all the rage, and increases compassion.”
The Pope called for continued compassion, saying it is “at the heart of our faith because it shows us the love of God, who participates fully in the suffering of humanity.”
Pope Francis concluded by renewing his gratitude for their service, and offering his blessing upon them and their work.
The Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches (ROACO: Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali), unites funding agencies from various countries in order to assist Catholic Oriental clergy and faithful in Rome and in their different countries of origin. The twenty-three Oriental (or Eastern) particular Churches sui iuris are all in full communion with Rome, and are all part of the Catholic Church. According to the teaching of the Church in the Second Vatican Council, all particular Churches, whether or East or West, “are of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others.”