Pope Francis called for a strengthening between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters

Pope Francis chides world powers for failing to push for peace in Syria

By  Rosie Scammell, Religion News Service
  • June 19, 2015

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on June 19 criticized world powers for their failure to find a solution to the Syrian conflict, saying the country’s Christians had been united by “the blood of the martyrs” lost in war.

Addressing Mor Ignatius Aphram II, the patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Francis recalled the impact of a conflict that is now in its fifth year.

“So much suffering! So many innocent victims. In the face of all this, it seems that the powers of this world are incapable of finding solutions,” the Pope said.

Francis has repeatedly called for international efforts to resolve the conflicts raging across the Middle East, and for protections for ancient Christian communities that are facing extinction.

More than 320,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and nearly four million people are registered refugees outside the country’s borders.

Francis described the Eastern Orthodox Church as one “of martyrs from the beginning,” with its followers in the Middle East continuing to become victims of violence and persecution along with other Christian and minority communities.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity in the church and the instrument of the building up of the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace and of justice,” the pontiff said.

The Pope highlighted the cases of Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Ibrahim and Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, Orthodox bishops abducted more than two years ago.

“Let us recall, too, some priests and many other people, from diverse groups, (who have been) deprived of liberty,” he added.

Francis called for a strengthening of the ties between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, building on the efforts of his predecessors.

A decade before the current conflict broke out, Pope John Paul II travelled to the Syrian capital, Damascus, which followed a 1984 visit by Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas to Rome.

In 1971 the earlier leaders of the two churches, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II, signed a common declaration on faith at the Vatican.

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