Pope Asks Assistance for Christians of Holy Land and Iraq

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to Catholics
to do everything possible to help the beleaguered Christians in the Holy
Land and Iraq.

The Pope made his appeal on Thursday when he met with 70 members of the
Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO), composed
of 19 aid organizations of the United States, Germany, France, Switzerland,
the Netherlands and Austria.

The purpose of this institution is to give financial support to Eastern-rite
Catholic communities, as well as to some countries of North Africa, the
Middle East, and Asia, such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, coordinated by
the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The Pope said that this institution's work is particularly important given
the violence in the Holy Land, the war in Iraq, and the famine in Ethiopia
and Eritrea, the four countries on which ROACO will concentrate its aid.

The Holy Father voiced the need of the peoples of the Holy Land for a
"stable and lasting peace," as the region "unfortunately, continues to be
the theater of conflicts and violence."

"The Catholic communities present there suffer and are in need of being
supported and helped in many emergencies," he said.

Noting ROACO's goal of helping the Christians of Iraq, the Pope said, "I
pray to God that peace will be consolidated as soon as possible and that the
peoples, who have suffered so much in part because of long international
isolation, may finally live in harmony."

"I am convinced that your interventions, oriented to carrying out pastoral
and social works in support of believers, will help to give life to a better
future for the whole nation," he said.

He added, however: "Along with structures and buildings, though
indispensable, it is sometimes more important to form consciences and to
safeguard the faith inherited from the parents."

"This calls for an adequate catechesis, attention to the liturgy proper to
the Church one belongs to, attention to the formation of the clergy and the
laity, an enlightened openness to ecumenism, and a prophetic presence in
support of the poor," the Pope concluded.