Pope’s concern for Christians in Middle East emerges at family synod

In an unexpected move, Pope Francis added to the schedule of the upcoming consistory for the causes of saints a discussion on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the Holy See spokesman announced Tuesday.
The consistory is to be held at the Vatican on Oct. 20, the day after the conclusion of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, which began Oct. 5.
“The consistory’s topic is now widened, and it becomes a consistory during which all cardinals and patriarchs will speak about the situation in the Middle East, on the basis of the material of the meeting of nuncios,” Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said at an Oct. 7 press briefing.
Father Lombardi maintained that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, will “introduce the discussion, and then cardinals will speak about the topic.”
The announcement of the “enlarged schedule” for the next consistory was initially made Tuesday morning to the synod assembly by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.
A consistory is a formal meeting of cardinals, convoked by the pope. It can be public, semi-public, or private, and is usually convoked to decide the matter of canonizations or to create new cardinals, and can also be used by the Pope to make important announcements for the life of the Church.
At the Oct. 20 consistory, Cardinal Parolin will put on the table the issues raised during the meeting held at the Vatican Oct. 2-4 among apostolic nuncios to Middle Eastern nations, the Holy See’s observers toe the United Nations, and curial officials.
“During the meeting, we freely debated, searching for ethical proposals to find an acceptable way to solve the problem of the violence in Middle East and to avoid a genocide,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN Office in Geneva, told EWTN News Oct. 7.
Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that “the international community need to find the most effective way to stop the violence,” using the “mechanisms the international community has entrusted itself with, i.e. the United Nations, the Security Council of United Nations, and humanitarian agencies.”
Asked if the international community response had been untimely, Archbishop Tomasi said that “it was very difficult to discern and take effective stances, given the very complex situation, with different levels of conflict, which involves mercenaries, non-state actors, and regional and global powers.”
“Given this, we should also ask what kind of solidarity is needed to stop the violence, beyond the delivery of water, food, and supplies,” Archbishop Tomasi stressed in a Catholic News Agency report.
At the end of the meeting, a release emphasized that “the situation of violence, which we risk becoming accustomed to and taking for granted as an item of daily news, needs to stop.”
“The participants of the meeting considered the urgency of putting an end to the wars under way which have already caused large number of victims,” the release read.
The release expressed the concern of all the participants of the meeting for the “violation from all sides of the most basic norms of humanitarian and international law,” their strong stance against both human and arms trafficking, and the worrisome situation of internally displaced persons and refugees.
“The participants at the meeting reaffirmed that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor, always in accordance with international law,” read the release.
The release also stressed, however, that “the resolution of the problem cannot be entrusted solely to a military response. The problem must be dealt with more radicalness by addressing the root causes which are exploited by fundamentalist ideology.”
Archbishop Tomasi commented that still “it is necessary to identify well the roots of the situation from which so much evil comes out.”
This identification will be part of the cardinals’ task at the Oct. 20 consistory.

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