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At Easter, Mideast church leaders affirm Christian presence


  • Worshippers pray during Easter Mass April 16 in St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Esqof, Iraq. The church was damaged by Islamic State militants. (CNS photo/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
  • Volunteers prepare painted eggs after Easter Mass April 16 in St. George Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Esqof, Iraq. The church was damaged by Islamic State militants. (CNS photo/Marko Djurica, Reuters)
  • Security personnel search people entering a church prior to Easter Mass in Baghdad. In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East deplored the widespread carnage and suffering, yet affirmed the presence of Christians in the region by calling upon their faithful to carry on with hope. (CNS photo/Ali Abbas, EPA)
  • Armenian Christian Scouts play music as they celebrate Easter April 16 in Damascus, Syria. (CNS photo/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters)

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BEIRUT (CNS) -- In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East deplored the widespread carnage and suffering, yet affirmed the presence of Christians in the region by calling upon their faithful to carry on with hope.

From Bkerke, the patriarchal seat of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon, Cardinal Bechara Rai condemned "all kinds of wars, persecutions and attacks."

Cardinal Rai, Maronite patriarch, urged the international community "to find political and diplomatic solutions to conflicts and to lay the foundations for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace" in the region. He implored the international community to stop countries from providing cover, aid and weapons to terrorist organizations.

"It is shameful for the rulers of states -- with financial and military influence -- who have made our eastern land a land of war, killing and destruction, a haven for terrorist organizations and fundamentalist movements," Cardinal Rai said. "They have ignited a fire they think burns in its place, but it has spread."

He also condemned the "blatant and repeated persecution of Christians" in Egypt. He called upon "Muslims and Islamic countries to take active positions and initiatives to deter this persecution and to preserve the positive image of Islam."

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