Vatican City, 20 June 2013 (VIS) – At 11:30 this morning in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received participants in the 86th Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Organisations for Aid to the Oriental Churches (ROACO). This organisation, under the sponsorship of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, is formed from various organizations around the world including: the Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Aid to the Church in Need; Renovabis; and Oeuvre d'Orient, which financially and spiritually assist members of the Church in the East.

Francis gave thanks to God for the “fidelity to Christ, the Gospel, and the Church that the Eastern Catholics have given proof of throughout the centuries, facing every struggle for the Christian name and 'keeping the faith'. … Like my predecessors, I wish to encourage and support you in your exercise of charity, which is the only reason for Jesus' disciples to brag. This charity springs from God's love in Christ. The Cross is its vertex, the luminous sign of God's mercy and love for all, which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. … I ask you to accompany me in the task of uniting faith and charity, which is inherent to the Petrine ministry.”

The Pope encouraged the members of ROACO to continue their labour of carrying out projects that give priority to formation, above all of the youth, without forgetting that such projects “should be a sign of God's profession of love that constitutes the Christian identity.”

“The presence of the patriarchs of Alexandria of the Copts and of Babylon of the Chaldeans as well as of the papal representatives in the Holy Land and in Syria, the auxiliary bishop of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the Custos of the Holy Land carries me to the holy places of our Redemption but also revives in me a deep ecclesial concern for the plight of our many brothers and sisters who are living a seemingly endless situation of insecurity and violence, which doesn't spare the innocent or the weakest.”

“We believers are asked to constantly and confidently pray that the Lord may grant the longed-for peace, together with a concrete solidarity and sharing. I would like to once again, from the bottom of my heart, appeal to the leaders of nations and international organisations, to believers of every religion, and to all men and women of good will to put an end to all the pain, all the violence, and all religious, cultural, and social discrimination. May the conflict that sows death leave space for the encounter and the reconciliation that bring life.”

“To all those who are suffering I strongly say: 'Never lose hope! The Church is with you, accompanies you, and supports you!' I ask you to do everything possible to alleviate the serious needs of the affected populations, especially in Syria, the people of beloved Syria, and the ever more numerous refugees and displaced persons. ... I repeat to you: remember in your prayers the Church of Syria … Jesus Christ will watch over it and your charity. I entrust the countless victims to the Lord of Life and implore the Most Holy Mother of God to console all of those in the 'time of great distress'. It is true; what's happening in Syria is a great distress!”