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Head of Greek Catholic Church Warns Pope Francis: Christians in the Middle East Are in Danger


"The crises in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, are endangering Christians present in the region."

Christian worshipers and clergymen take part in an annual pilgrimage to the Baptism Site in Bethany, Jordan, on January 10, 2014. Pope Francis's visit to the Middle East in May will inevitably have a 'political dimension' and there are high expectations also among the Muslim population, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem said. Francis announced he will travel to Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26. AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI

Photo credit: AKI

It is well known that violence against Christians in Islamic countries is growing exponentially. As churches are being ransacked and burned, and a growing number of Christians are imprisoned or executed, Patriarch of the Church of Antioch has warned Pope Francis about the mounting dangers for Christians in the Middle East.

"The crises in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, are endangering Christians present in the region," Patriarch Gregory III Laham told the Greek news outlet Adnkronos International (AKI). The Syrian-born Patriarch was quoting a letter he had written to Francis.

"Interfaith dialogue and coexistence between Islam and Christianity are also in jeopardy," he said.

Francis, who some consider well-versed on issues pertaining to the Middle East, might, "God willing" place the plight of Christians in Islamic countries "high on his list of priorities," the Patriarch added. 

And it would be none too soon. Human rights activists championing for Egypt's persecuted Coptic Christian community had its pleas go unanswered by the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI. Ashraf Ramelah, director of Voice of the Copts, has noted of life for Christians under the Muslim Brotherhood: 

The plight of the Egyptian Christians today entails Christian women living in fear of attacks by Muslim gangs because they do not wear the veil. As before, Christians are subject to open discrimination by Muslim Koran-adherents who frequently commit acts of destruction of Christian property and routinely threaten and take the lives of Copts. Muslim mobs randomly bomb church buildings, set them on fire or use bulldozers and hatchets to demolish them   -- this violence now accelerated under Morsi. Worshippers coming and going from church are at high risk of never returning home, a familiar scenario for Copts.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) was responsible for the Catholic community in the Middle East, acting as a point person for emigres from Lebanon, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. 

"I hope that the Pope will ensure a better future for all Arab countries and their peoples," concluded the Syrian-born patriarch, who is also the spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

(H/T: Robert Spencer)

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