ASIA/MIDDLE EAST - Heads of Churches meet "global" leaders: Orthodox Patriarchs meet Putin, Archbishop Warda meets Pence in the USA

Tuesday, 5 December 2017 oriental churches   middle east   religious minorities   area crisis   refugees

Moscow (Agenzia Fides) - The contribution of the Russian military allowed the Syrian army to "free" even the areas of Syria most dear to Christians "from terrorists". And the collaboration between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Catholic Church may have a "decisive role" in encouraging the return of Christian refugees to their homes, in the regions freed from the control of the jihadists. The was emphasized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Monday December 4 received the Patriarchs and Heads of Delegation of the Orthodox Churches who arrived in Moscow to participate in the celebrations scheduled for the 100th anniversary of the Restoration of the Patriarchate in the Russian Orthodox Church. Referring to Syria, the Russian political leader recalled that the situation in the country is gradually changing: "The Syrian armed forces, supported by the Russian military", Putin said, "have liberated almost the entire country from terrorists, including places historically populated by Christians". The Russian President specified that the Russian support will not be reserved exclusively for Christians, but will be offered to Syrians of all faiths, "including Islam, who, as we know, have also suffered at the hands of militants, terrorists and extremists". "We - the Russian President reported - will also help Judaists. Some Jewish organisations have already asked us to help restore the Judaist temples". The Kremlin leader also said that the working group created between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church will be able to play a "leading role" in promoting the return of the Christian population to Syria. According to Putin, the return of Christian refugees, together with those of other religious communities, could be an important factor in favoring the restoration of peaceful coexistence in the Middle Eastern country devastated by the war. Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Yohanna X, who lives in Damascus were also present at the meeting with President Putin.
Also on Monday, December 4, Archbishop Bashar Warda, at the head of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, was received by US Vice-President Mike Pence. The conversation between Warda and Pence - reports Chaldean sources consulted by Agenzia Fides - focused on the condition of the Christian communities in northern Iraq and on the initiatives put in place to encourage the return of Christian refugees to Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. The Chaldean Archbishop thanked the Vice-President for the interest and interventions he dedicated to solving the problems experienced by Christians and Yazidis, forced to leave their areas of historical settlement during the years of the jihadist rule of the Islamic State (Daesh).
The two meetings of Moscow and Washington among authoritative representatives of Churches and political leaders of international importance confirm indirectly that the support to the Middle Eastern Christian communities has also become a field of confrontation and geopolitical competition. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 05/12/2017)