Cardinal Sandri appeals for end to violence in Middle East

2014-07-22 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri has made an appeal for reconciliation and an end to conflict in countries across the Middle East. Speaking at Mass in Los Angeles to mark the feast day of the two Lebanese saints Sharbel and Elias, Cardinal Sandri said: “Our hearts go out to the Christians in the Holy Land, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt and all the innocent victims of violence in the Middle East.” In particular he prayed for Christians in the Syrian cities of Mosul and Aleppo, as well as for the people of Palestine and throughout the Holy Land.

Please find below the full text of Cardinal Sandri’s homily at Mass for the Feast of St. Sharbel and St. Elias:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It gives me immense joy to be with you today as we celebrate the feasts of two great saints: St. Sharbel and St. Elias. I would like to convey to his Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch, my best wishes as he generously leads the Maronites in these troubled times. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to His Excellency Elias Zaidan, the Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, who is ordaining today a deacon in Portland-Oregon. I highly command his dedication to his flock.

But, let me greet your new rector, Father Elias, praying that, with his young spiritual energy, will work with you for the good of the Community. Our best wishes go to both the bishop and the rector, on St. Elias’ Feast Day, and also to all those named after St Elias and St Sharbel.

As we contemplate with you the life of St. Sharbel, we find ourselves drawn into its mysterious development. He was born into a humble family in 1828. His father, Antoun Makhlouf, had been taken away from his family, forced into labor, and never came back home. Antoun Makhlouf’s youngest son, Sharbel, was only three years old. The shining example of his two uncles, who were monks, drew him into the monastic way of life. He left home without informing anyone and pronounced his vows in 1853. After 16 years of an exemplary priestly life, he was granted permission to live as a solitary monk in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul. He showed great devotion to the life of prayer, manual work, rigorous asceticism, and contemplative silence. Deeply devoted to God’s Eucharistic presence, he suffered a stroke while celebrating the Divine Liturgy on December 16. He died a few days later on Christmas Eve.

Dear Friends, God always blesses his Church and the world with saints. He always wills to convey a message through the lives and examples of each saint. Through St. Sharbel’s sainthood, it is the urgent call to silence and solitude; in other words, it is the “call of the desert”; it is the call to be quiet and reflect upon our lives and to be alone with God.

The modern man does neither have time for himself, nor for God. His busyness takes away from him his capacity to celebrate and enjoy the gift of life. A life that is created and destined to live in God.

As Sts. Elias and Sharbel withdrew themselves from the distractions of this world, they lived on a mountain, offering the sufferings and the tears of their own people to God in prayer. We see ourselves like the people about whom Jeremiah said, “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Gen 2:13) We stand today with St. Sharbel and St. Elias knowing that their people, whom they loved, are still suffering and living in fear. Our hearts go out to the Christians in the Holy Land, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt and all the innocent victims of violence in the Middle East.

We highlighted some of St Sharbel’ spiritual traits, but we didn’t forget the testimony of St Elias and his zeal for God. This extraordinary prophet had a fire in is his soul for the Truth of God and Man. We have heard an echo of the prophet’s testimony at the “Angelus” of the Holy Father Francis of this morning. The Pope is very close to the Christians of the Milddle East; in fact, he told the World: “Today our brothers are persecuted, they are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings.” And soon after, abandoning the written text, the Holy Father told them: “my dear brothers and sisters, who are persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of all, I am with you in faith; in He, who conquered evil”. The Pope then appealed to all those present in the Square and far beyond, to persevere in praying for peace in all situations of tension and conflict in the world, and he especially mentioned the Middle East and Ukraine.

Today, the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, that I am honored to represent here is in union with all the Oriental pastors and faithful Christians in the entire world, and join strongly the Pope in this appeal, that violence must be overcome with peace. We are so close to the Patriarch, the Bishops and the people of the Syro-Catholic Church, especially those of Mosul and Aleppo, where churches, and houses of Christians are burned and destroyed; we are so close to the Chaldean Patriarch, bishops and people, and to those in the Holy Land, especially in Palestine, who are in tears, unable to be men and Christians in serenity and dignity. We tell them that their tears are ours, nonetheless we share the same hope, and its name is Christ; and Jesus Christ is faithful. For this, we persevere together in the same journey.

From this land of the United States of America, the land of freedom, justice and human rights, we call for reconciliation, mutual understanding, and respect of all religions and human rights all around the world, particularly where Christians have been living for two thousand years since the beginnings of Christianity. For this, welcoming the call of the Holy Father, I invite you to pause for a moment of silence and prayer.

We ask the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace, through the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Lebanon, to come to our aid and guide our steps in the way of peace. We ask Him to keep alive within us the flame of hope.

Amen.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)