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In Christmas messages, patriarchs call for peace amid Christian persecution


  • Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, celebrates Christmas Mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (CNS pohoto/Musa Al Shaer, pool via EPA)
  • A woman prays during Christmas Mass at a church in Bashiqa, Iraq. (CNS photo/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)
  • Women light candles before attending Christmas Eve Mass at the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. In his message, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called attention to "our beloved brothers and sisters of Syria and Iraq ... deprived of the Christmas joy, having endured the horrible consequences of war, violence and all kind of persecutions." (CNS photo/Youssef Badawi, EPA)
  • Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is Catholic, visits Christian families Dec. 20 in Irbil, Iraq. (CNS photo/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)

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BEIRUT (CNS) -- Lamenting the exodus of Christians from their ancestral homelands, Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East pleaded for peace and security in their annual Christmas messages.

In separate statements, the prelates shared their anguish regarding the persecution and uprooting of Christians from the region.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, appealed to the international community to work to end terrorism "that is killing and displacing families and depriving them of their rights and dignities" He made the comments in his message from Bkerke, the patriarchate north of Beirut.

He also called upon the U.N. Security Council "to work seriously to find political solutions to the wars, aimed at bringing comprehensive and lasting peace and the repatriation of refugees back to their homelands."

In his message, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called attention to "our beloved brothers and sisters of Syria and Iraq ... deprived of the Christmas joy, having endured the horrible consequences of war, violence, and all kind of persecutions." They suffered "all this hardship" because of their Christian faith and their willingness "to persevere in faithfulness to Jesus the Savior," he added.

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