VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The martyrs of different Christian churches throughout the Middle East are together in heaven, interceding for peace in the region and enjoying the unity for which all Christians on earth must strive, Pope Francis said.
“I want to assure all the faithful in the Middle East of my closeness, my constant thoughts and my prayers that this land, unique in God’s salvific plan, may, after the long night of conflict, witness the dawn of peace,” the pope said Feb. 1 during a meeting with members of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
“The Middle East must become a land of peace; it cannot continue to be a land of hostility,” the pope said before praying, “May war, the daughter of power and destitution, give way to peace, the daughter of law and justice, and may our Christian brothers and sisters be recognized as full citizens enjoying equal rights.”
The Oriental Orthodox churches participating in the international dialogue with the Catholic Church are: the Armenian Apostolic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church.
The Oriental Orthodox churches trace their origins to the Christian communities that did not accept the wording of the Council of Chalcedon’s definition in 451 that Christ was fully human and fully divine. Between 1971 and 1996, the Catholic Church and the individual Oriental Orthodox churches resolved their differences over the Chalcedon statement.
The modern martyrs, the pope said, are “members of different churches who, united by the same suffering for the name of Jesus, now share the same glory.”