Pope Francis concelebrated Mass yesterday with Melkite Patriarch Youssef Absi, offering the Mass for the “persecuted Christians of the Middle East”. Source: Crux.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is one of the eastern churches in communion with Rome, with its largest presence in Syria.
In comments released by the Vatican following the Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis introduced Patriarch Absi at the Mass by saying that he leads “a church … with a grand part of its people crucified, like Jesus,” referring to the suffering of Syrian Christians unleashed by that country’s bitter civil conflict.
“We offer this Mass for that people, a people that’s suffering, for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, which damages life, damages [their] goods and property, because they’ve been driven out,” he said.
“And we offer this Mass for the ministry of our brother Youssef.”
The Pope also described the liturgy celebrated with the Melkite prelate as an important sign of communion.
“This Mass with our brother, Patriarch Youssef, makes for apostolic communion,” Pope Francis said. “He’s the father of a church, an ancient church, who’s come to embrace Peter and say, ‘I am in communion with Peter.’”
“That’s the significance of today’s ceremony,” he said, “the embrace of a father of a church with Peter.”
In a fashion typical of the eastern churches, Patriarch Absi thanked Pope Francis in the name of the “synod” of his church, meaning its governing body, typically made up of the bishops of each church.
He emphasised the importance of saying Mass with the Pope for his church.
“Personally, I’m very moved by your fraternal charity, the gestures of fraternity and solidarity which you’ve demonstrated for our church in the course of this Mass.
“We promise to always keep you in our hearts, in the heart of all our clergy and faithful, and will always remember this event, these historical moments, this moment the beauty of which I can’t describe: This fraternity, this communion that links all the disciples of Christ,” he said.
Pope Francis says Mass with Melkite Greek Patriarch (Vatican News)