Q&A: Even though the news hasn't spent much time on the Middle East recently, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi says the area continues to face war, murder and chaos.
The Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria, are experiencing "terrorism of previously unimaginable proportions" in which the perpetrators seem to have absolutely no regard for the value of human life, Pope Francis said.
"It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost; it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed to other interests. And all of this, unfortunately, with the indifference of many," he said during a special meeting at the Vatican on the Middle East.
Pope Francis' personal envoy to the suffering people of Iraq joined the Chaldean Catholic patriarch in launching an appeal to the international community Monday, pleading for help to liberate villages controlled by the Islamic State terrorists and to provide the displaced with international protection.
Faith and Justice: The news around the world is tragic and depressing. Our choices are: do nothing, use diplomacy, impose sanctions, or intervene militarily. Are there other options?
My friend Michael La Civita, who is the communications director for Catholic Near East Welfare Association and who oversees the publication of its award-winning magazine, ONE, has written an essay over at Our Sunday Visitor about the dire condition of the Middle East. He notes that the presence of Christians is a necessary ingredient to long-term peace in that region of the world. It's worth the read.
Catholic leaders in the Holy Land called for an end to the cycle of violence and criticized Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and its collective punishment of Palestinians.
"Using the death of the three Israelis to exact collective punishment on the Palestinian people as a whole and on its legitimate desire to be free is a tragic exploitation of tragedy and promotes more violence and hatred," said a statement Tuesday from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople may join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres when they meet Pope Francis to pray for peace this weekend.
The Vatican's chief spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said Tuesday that the pope had invited the head of the Orthodox faith to join the Middle East leaders at a Vatican prayer summit to be held this Sunday.
“It's true that the pope invited him and wants him to come,'' Lombardi said. “I think he will come but so far we do not have an official confirmation.''
Several key political experts are invited to the Vatican for a one-day meeting Jan. 13 aimed at promoting a cease-fire in Syria, ahead of peace talks slated for Jan. 22.