CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Catholic leaders warn of dangers of Christian exodus from Middle East

BEIRUT (CNS): Catholic leaders warned about the dangers of a continued exodus of Christians from the Middle East during a Christian-Muslim dialogue meeting in a mosque in Beirut, Lebanon. 

“If the east is emptied of Christians, it will pave the way for a destructive conflict between Christians and Muslims,” said Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. 

“When Christians and Muslims work together, they are able to create a better future,” Cardinal Tauran said as the three-day meeting opened on June 18. He called for Christians and Muslims “to work and live together in peace.” 

Dozens of religious representatives participated in the meeting, which discussed Christians and Muslims Building Justice and Peace Together in a Violent, Changing World.

Among those present were Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington DC, Father Paul Rouhana, secretary-general of the Middle East Council of Churches, as well as with Anglican representatives, a Lebanese Sunni and four Iranian Shiites, including two ayatollahs. 

A similar meeting was held in March 2010 at the National Cathedral in Washington. 

Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, from Damascus, patriarch of the Melkite Catholic Church, warned that a destructive Islamic-Christian struggle would break out in the world if Christians ceased to exist in the Levant, the region along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean. 

In a message read by Melkite Archbishop Issam Darwish, from Zahle and Ferzol, the patriarch said, “The exodus of Christians means that Arab society becomes uniform and the Middle East will become a Muslim Arab society.”

He said, “Coexistence is the future of these countries ... and there is no coexistence without Christians.”. 

Meanwhile, on June 21, Pope Benedict XVI called for the international community to act swiftly to end the violence in Syria, saying, “(it) risks becoming a widespread conflict that would have seriously negative consequences for the country and the entire region.”

He was speaking with Church representatives from the Middle East, as well as the nuncio to Syria, the president of Caritas Syria and leaders of Eastern Catholic Churches, who were in Rome for a meeting of the Vatican’s coordinating body for funding agencies assisting Catholics in the Middle East as well as Eastern Catholics.

The pope expressed his sorrow for the suffering of the Syrian people, particularly innocent children and defenceless citizens. He called on the international community to do everything possible to promote peace in the country and launched “a pressing and heartfelt appeal that in the face of the extreme needs of the population humanitarian assistance would be guaranteed.”

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