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Meeting in Bari: card. Sandri, “giving back to the children of the Middle East that hope that indifference has taken away from them”

foto SIR/Marco Calvarese

A meeting that “comes from afar and from several voices”, asked for by several Churches or Patriarchs “directly to the Holy Father”, and that “rings as a strong gesture, in its essentiality”. This is how card. Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, described Pope Francis’s meeting with the Leaders of the Christian Churches and Communities of the Middle East, called “Peace be upon you! Christians together for the Middle East”, due to take place in Bari, on July 7th. In the Vatican this morning, during the press conference for the presentation of the event, the prefect explained that the event will be split into “two major moments: a prayer on the seafront with the devotees who want to be there themselves or follow it live on TV, and a moment of reflection and mutual listening between the Holy Father and the Leaders of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the Middle East, each one bringing their own points of view, feedback and ideas. An opening address, which mgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, was chosen to give, will be followed by a session of free speeches. All this part will take place behind closed doors”. The programme, added card. Sandri, involves “the Holy Father saying a couple of words at the start of the public prayer and at the end of the meeting, when, having reopened the doors of the Basilica of San Nicola, Pope Francis and the other people there will go on the churchyard and will release up in the sky the doves that will have been given them by some children”. A “prophetic gesture”, the cardinal called it, “because it is above all to the children and to the young generations of the Middle East that we must give back that hope that evil deeds or simple indifference have taken away from them over these years”. As to the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches of the Middle East being there, the prefect states that “all of them will be there (Coptic, Syrian, Maronite, Chaldean, Armenian), except the Melkite one, who will be represented by the Metropolitan Bishop of Aleppo, and the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem”. “Since the announcement of the meeting on April 25th – card. Sandri concluded –, Pope Francis has asked to prepare and support with prayers the event of July 7th, a call that he repeated at the Angelus prayer on Sunday, July 1st, and in a tweet on the same day: the Italian dioceses, through the President, card. Bassetti, and the European dioceses, through the President of Ccee, card. Bagnasco, have been urged to engage in special awareness-raising efforts in the parishes, and a pattern of texts and prayers has been sent to the Italian dioceses”.

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