CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Mideast patriarchs express hope in the midst of uncertainty

BEIRUT (CNS): In their Christmas messages, the Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East—with hope, despite uncertainty in the region—called for peace, security, prayer and solidarity. 
 
From Baghdad, Iraq, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, expressed his hope for a new phase for the country and that the recent triumph over the Islamic State, along with the termination of terrorist control of Mosul and other cities, will marked a step toward security and stability. 
 
However, he said the liberation of those areas requires the Iraqi government to work to facilitate “the return of Christians to their homes and properties, preserving their rights as indigenous citizens, recognising their culture, civilisation and heritage as an essential part of Iraq’s history and preventing demographic changes in their historical geographic areas.” 
 
In his Christmas message, Maronite patriarch, Bechara Cardinal Rai, from Lebanon, also touched the decision by the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
 
“We categorically reject it because it is an unjust and hostile decision toward Christianity and Islam, and of the Palestinian people in particular,” Cardinal Rai said.
 
He added that the move demolished peace negotiations and could “ignite a new uprising and even war, God forbid.”
 
Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan noted that Lebanon, “the only country where all citizens enjoy the best possible liberty and equality,” had faced numerous trials in 2017. 
 
In his Christmas message from Beirut, the patriarch thanked God that the Lebanese army repelled terrorist groups that threatened Lebanon’s “very existence.”
 
He remembered “our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, who have been suffering for long, because of their steadfast faithfulness to the gospel.”
 
He said, “Their presence as a Christian minority that endured every kind of hardship is essential to the rebirth of their respective countries.”
 
Patriarch Younan called for economic sanctions against Syria to be lifted saying they “are like crimes against humanity, because they target the most vulnerable segments of a nation.”
 
Meanwhile in a message from Damascus, Syria, Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi, noted that the faithful sometimes wonder about the presence of God “and his role in our lives” as “the various currents of the world invade the spirit of the people” and “the land of the east is trampled by war and displacement.” 
 
He offered hope and reassurance in his message that “Christmas comes, the Divine Incarnation, to reveal to us that God’s hand appears and accompanies us, especially in the difficult stages of our lives.”

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