In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East evoked the hope of the Resurrection.
“Today’s world needs the resurrection of hearts,” said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics. He called for a rekindling of love and compassion.
Cardinal Rai prayed for the displaced and the abducted to return to their homelands and for wars to end in Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Yemen, consolidating “a just, comprehensive and lasting peace” in the region.
He also warned that Lebanon’s difficult economic, social and living conditions threatened to destabilize the country’s internal steadiness. He said he hoped Lebanon’s parliamentary elections May 6 – the first such elections since 2009 – would “bring responsible and conscious statesmen.”
Of Lebanon’s existing population of nearly 4 million, approximately 40 per cent are Christian. Under the country’s power-sharing system, Lebanon’s president is a Maronite Catholic, its prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, in his Easter message from Beirut, spoke about the suffering of Eastern Christians “from the pain of persecution, uprooting and horrific events for years,” especially in Syria, Iraq and Egypt. He also referred to his pre-Easter visit to Iraq, where some Iraqi Christians finally returned home after more than three years in exile from Islamic State.
“When we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we declare the hope and joy that we, too, will,” he said.
From Baghdad, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako touched upon on Resurrection and peace in his Easter message.
“The message of Resurrection this year is to do good; to be bridges for dialogue, reconciliation and to be peacemakers,” he said, urging the faithful to be “a gateway to grace and blessings.”
He noted that Iraq “is the cradle of civilisation,” but has been transformed to a country of disasters.
“The Iraqi people seek security, stability as well as social, economic and cultural prosperity,” Patriarch Sako stressed. “Therefore, these tragedies must not lead us to give up and to despair but rather to look at these events through the eye of faith, in addition to a historical and political way of analysis.”
He encouraged the faithful to unite and collaborate to build trust and “work hand-in-hand to put an end to our suffering.”
Patriarch Sako also urged all Iraqis to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections set for May 12, referring to it as “our golden opportunity for change and to ensure a bright future for our people.”
He expressed his hope for a civil state in which the law protects and applies to everyone equally.
“Religion is for God and must be protected from politicisation and distortion. Religion respects persons and does not enslave them, and the God in whom we believe is a loving and merciful Creator,” the patriarch stressed.