On July 7, Pope Francis will be in Bari for the ecumenical reflection and prayer encounter with heads of Churches in the Middle East. The event was announced in the Press Office of the Holy See, by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
“The idea of an encounter like the one that will take place in Bari comes from some time ago and from many voices – Cardinal Sandri said – from different Churches or patriarchs who have held discussions with the Holy Father during their visit to Rome. I remember, for example, the Chaldeans and the Assyrians of the East, or the written appeal published in February 2016 by the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, in the name of all Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East gathered at an encounter. They assured other heads of non-Catholic Churches in the region would also participate.”
Cardinal Koch adds, “The Middle East is the Christian land of origin. It’s important to deepen the common roots. The percentage of Christians in the Middle East has declined dramatically, it’s now only four percent. The Middle East is where ecumenical relations are strongest.”
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