Pope Francis Leads Prayer For Nuns Kidnapped in Syria
Fate of Greek-Orthodox Sisters Still Unknown, Says Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus
Vatican City, (Zenit.org)
At the conclusion of his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis led the faithful gathered in prayer for several nuns who were recently kidnapped in Syria.
On Monday, Islamist rebels invaded the St. Thecla Greek Orthodox Convent in Maaloula, located near Damascus. They are reported to have abducted twelve nuns of the convent.
Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus, spoke to AsiaNews, saying that the whereabouts of the nuns are still unknown. “We can confirm that the nuns were forced to leave the monastery and follow these armed people,” he said.
Before leading the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Hail Mary, the Holy Father appealed for the safety of the nuns and those suffering from the conflict in Syria.
I would now like to invite you all to pray for the nuns of the Greek-Orthodox Monastery of St. Thecla in Maaloula, in Syria, who were forcibly taken by armed men two days ago,” he said. “Let us pray for these nuns, these sisters and for all people who have been kidnapped as a result of the ongoing conflict. Let us continue to pray and work together for peace. Let us now entrust ourselves to Our Lady.” (J.A.E.)
Church is Close to Those Who Suffer in Syria, Says Pope
Addresses Pilgrims from Greek-Melkite Church
Vatican City, (Zenit.org)
Pope Francis has implored the Lord to assure suffering Syrians of the nearness of the Church so they might be comforted in their trials.
“Since then, the joy of the Gospel continues to enlighten humanity, and you continue to walk on in this joy, in spite of the many ordeals you have experienced throughout history, up to our times”, the Holy Father said.
Those who are suffering “great tribulation” in Syria, those who have lost their lives, and the their families were foremost in the Pope's thoughts, he continued. He implored the Lord to dry their tears and assured them of the nearness of all the Church, so that she might “comfort them in their anguish and keep them from desperation”.
“We firmly believe in the strength of prayer and reconciliation, and renew our heartfelt appeal to world leaders to bring an end to all violence so that, through dialogue, a just and lasting resolution might be found to a conflict that has already caused too much damage”, he continued.
“In particular, I encourage mutual respect between the various religious confessions, to ensure for all a future based on the inalienable rights of the person, including religious freedom. For centuries your Church has known how to co-exist peacefully with other religions and is called to fulfil a fraternal role in the Middle East”.
Turning to the problem of Christian emigration from the region, he said: “I repeat to you too: we cannot resign ourselves to thinking of a Middle East without Christians. However, many of your brothers and sisters have emigrated, and the communities of the diaspora are strongly represented here today.”
He encouraged them to hold firm to the human and spiritual roots of the Melkite tradition, protecting everywhere the Greek-Catholic identity, “because the entire Church needs the patrimony of the Christian East, which you too inherit." At the same time, he added, "be a visible sign to all of our oriental brothers of the longed-for communion with Peter's Successor”.
The Pope also called on God to ensure that the Greek Melkites may always be “co-operators in evangelisation, cultivating the ecumenical and interreligious sensibility.”
He concluded by invoking St. Andrew, whose feast day is celebrated Nov. 30, and who is greatly venerated by the Eastern Churches; through his intercession he asked the Lord for “peace in the world and mercy for our souls”.