Mideast patriarchs plead for peace

BEIRUT - Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East, in their Easter messages, pleaded for peace and urged their faithful to regard the risen Christ as a sign of hope.

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic patriarch, said the world - particularly the "political community and the rulers of nations" - badly needs "witnesses to the Resurrection." He called for the resurrection of "humanity, justice and peace" in his Easter message.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad said "the situation in this part of the world is exceptionally tense, the country is divided, parts of it are still occupied by the Islamic State and the most painful thing is seeing that every coalition is divided due to conflicts over interest and leadership."

He urged the faithful "to rely on wisdom and patience and to stay united together on the land where we were born (and have) lived for 1,400 years together with Muslims, sharing one civilization." He said he hoped for "a real resurrection, a quick return of displaced to their homes, and a restoration of peace at our churches, country and the whole world."

In an Easter homily in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal referred to the recent bombings in Belgium and asked Bruno Jans, consul general of Belgium in Jerusalem, who attended the Mass, to convey condolences and prayers to his people and government.

"Through you, we say, it is all of us around the world whose hearts are pierced by this tragedy," he said. "For you all, we raise our prayers so that the hope of the Resurrection can heal your wounds and console your broken hearts."

In Beirut, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan urged the faithful "to never doubt the saving power of the Lord resurrected and to never lose hope, just as our courageous forefathers and mothers have long taught us for centuries."

"By his death, Jesus conquered sin and death," Patriarch Younan said, adding that "he will grant his little flock the long-awaited peace."

Syrian-born Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham in Damascus said, "Today, after five years of violence, war, destruction and bloodshed, the world discovers that the roads of Damascus, Jerusalem and Palestine are connected as they are the roads of faith, civilization and heritage."

"In the face of the tragedies of the peoples of our Middle Eastern countries, especially in Syria and Iraq, we are all walking on the path of Golgotha. But as the way of the cross led to the glorious Resurrection, so we pray to get through the way of the cross in Syria, especially to the joys of the Resurrection," Patriarch Laham said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016