An appeal to “all world leaders to recognize their responsibility before their respective nations, before mankind and before God” and an appeal “to the countries of the United Nations, and particularly members of the Security Council, to recall their duties towards the family of nations. We implore them, in the name of God, to overcome their disagreements and to work together for peace in the world. Together we call upon the political leaders to avoid a further escalation of tensions, to eschew confrontation and to embrace dialogue”. Thus reads the peacemaking appeal published on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate and supported by a group of Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches in the Middle East: His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa; His Beatitude Patriarch John X of the Great Antioch and All the East; His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine; His Holiness Tawadros II the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church; and His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East.
The preamble to the appeal informs that the text of the appeal was discussed during a telephone conversation between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on 14 April 2018. Interviewed by SIR news agency, Fr. Alexej Dikarev, number two at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, said: “I believe the preamble shows how important Pope Francis’ support was. The appeal was made following the air strikes in Syria and has a clear purpose”.
Indeed, the Patriarchs wrote in the text: “Impelled by a sense of responsibility for the millions of Christians that God has entrusted to our spiritual care and for the wellbeing of the entire human family, which shares a common destiny, we join together to speak out at this time of heightened international tension”. “The ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, which in recent years have brought immense suffering, claimed the lives of many thousands of people and caused the flight of millions of refugees, now threaten to turn into a global conflict. Our world has reached a point where there is a real danger of a breakdown in international relations and cooperation for the common good of the human family. Clearly, the horrors of the world wars of the last century can hardly be compared with the dire consequences of a world war at the present time”. So, in the face of this “terrible threat”, the Churches call on the international community to take the path of dialogue rather than that of military confrontation.
During a press meeting on 14 April, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow himself spoke of this peacemaking initiative to which the Orthodox Patriarchs in the Middle East are personally committed. According to the Patriarchate, His Holiness Kirill had a series of phone calls with Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
“We have undertaken this initiative – Patriarch Kirill told the press – in the awareness that Christians cannot stand aside from all that is happening in Syria today. Syria, the Middle East, is the place where Christianity emerged, and the terrible conflicts tormenting the Syrian land today cannot but create threats including to the Christian presence. Moreover, it is quite obvious that people are suffering. The message of the Church has always involved proclamation of peace among people and justice. So, it is impossible to keep silent about what is happening in Syria”, His Holiness stated. And he went on to say: “‘I am satisfied with my talks as each of my interlocutors took my concern with full understanding”. “There is a wish to continue consultations to try somehow to influence the situation”.