Aletaia – Pope Francis: Jesus Christ Is “Knocking at the Door of Our Heart in the Middle East”

VATICAN CITY — Jesus Christ is “knocking at the door of our heart in the Middle East,” as well as the Eastern nations of India and Ukraine, Pope Francis said on Thursday.

Meeting at the Vatican with members of the ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) Assembly, which raises funds for Christians in the Eastern-rite Churches, Pope Francis addressed papal representatives from Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and Jordan, as well as the new Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton.

In his greetings to the group, Pope Francis thanked them for their work, in particular the task of helping to fund the restoration of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the small shrine of Christ’s tomb at the heart of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
In Bethlehem, the pope noted, recent restoration work has unearthed the mosaic of a seventh angel in the nave of the Basilica, “forming with the other six a sort of procession towards the place commemorating the mystery of the birth of the Word made flesh,” he said.

Seventh Angel
Seventh Angel, Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Courtesy of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
“Our ecclesial communities can also be covered by ‘incrustations’ as a result of various problems and sins,” he told ROACO representatives. “Yet all your work must unfailingly be guided by the certainty that, beneath material and moral incrustations, and the tears and bloodshed caused by war, violence and persecution, there is a radiant face like that of the angel in the mosaic.”

“All of you, with your projects and your activities,” he continued, “are part of a ‘restoration’ that will enable the face of the Church to reflect visibly the light of Christ the Word Incarnate.”

“He is our peace, and he is knocking at the door of our heart in the Middle East, as he does in India and in Ukraine, a country for which I determined last April that an extraordinary collection should be taken up among the Churches of Europe,” the pope said.

The ROACO meeting underway in Rome this week is focused principally on the presence of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Manlankara Churches in the territories of India outside Kerala where they are based.

The group’s efforts, Pope Francis said, are “a sign of hope that progress can be made in respect for the proper rights of each, without a spirit of division, but rather fostering communion in witness to the one Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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