Christmas messages from Middle East Catholic patriarchs plead for peace amid persecution

The annual Christmas messages from Middle East Catholic patriarchs are pleading for peace and security amid the ongoing persecution and exodus of Christians from their homelands.

(Reuters / Mohamed Azakir)People attend a mass in Saint George Maronite Cathedral during the inauguration of its bell tower in downtown Beirut, Lebanon November 19, 2016.

Pope Francis led the call for peace in his Christmas Day message delivered from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The pontiff urged the world to exercise the power of love instead of wealth to bring peace to places affected by conflict, The Guardian reports.

In his Christmas message delivered from Bkere, Maronite Catholic patriarch Cardinal Bechara Rai called on the international community to help put an end to terrorism which kills and drives families out of their homes. The Maronite leader also said terrorism robs Christians of their "rights and dignities," Catholic News Service relays.

In addition, Cardinal Rai asked the UN Security Council to focus on finding "political solution to the wars" that will bring lasting peace and allow refugees to return to their homelands.

On the other hand, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan's Christmas message shone the spotlight on the plight of the persecuted Christians in Syria and Iraq. These people, he said, have been "deprived of the Christmas joy" because of the ongoing violence. He also acknowledged their perseverance despite the suffering they are enduring for their faith.

"How would they welcome Christmas, but in tears and anxiety for their future!" Patriarch Younan said in his message.

Meanwhile, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham warned in his Christmas message that the Christian presence in the Middle East is currently threatened by the wars and the exodus. The Syrian-born patriarch also asked the Christians to remain in their homelands despite the struggles to maintain Christianity's historical significance in its cradle.

"If Christians emigrate, it is as though Christ were leaving his country and homeland," said Patriarch Laham.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako's Christmas message conveyed hope that one day, the displaced Christians will be able to return to their ancestral lands and rebuild their lives.

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