15 APRIL 2013
|WILL POPE FRANCIS FOLLOW SAINT FRANCIS' FOOTSTEPS ON MID-EAST
Appeals by Eastern Christian Churches to newly-elected Pope Francis urge him to help save lives in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East,
following the footsteps of his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi.
Patriarch Gregory III Laham, heading the Melkite (Greek) Catholic Church told Vatican radio that "thousands and thousands" of Christians and
non-Christians are dying each day and asked the Pope "with friendship and hope" to help a region which is no longer able to carry its cross alone." The
Patriarch explained that "chaos and uncertainty and fear" were the real danger to civil society in Syria, where "blackmail, kidnappings, and
massacres" are predominant.
Iraq's Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Rafael Sako also appealed to the Pope that he visit the region soon along the footsteps of his namesake, Saint
Francis, who in the year 1219 made a special reconciliation visit and met in Iraq with King Nasser Al-Ayoubi. Patriarch Sako said he appealed to
Pope Francis: "Please do the same. We need you and your presence so that we will stay here in our own holy lands."
Similarly, the Roman Catholic Patriarch in the region, Cardinal Fouad Twal, suggested a historic visit, perhaps together with Greek Orthodox
Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew.
Pope Francis reportedly responded positively. In his Easter message, he appealed to stop the fighting and find a political solution "in our
beloved Syria." How much more blood should be shed? How much suffering before reaching a political solution? He also called for a fair political
resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.