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Shared faith should lead to joint action, pope and patriarch say

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Shared faith should lead to joint action, pope and patriarch say

YEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) — Applying the common faith they
professed publicly earlier in the day, Pope Francis and Armenian Apostolic
Catholicos Karekin II urged common action on behalf of persecuted Christians,
welcome for refugees and defense of the family.

The pope and the Oriental Orthodox patriarch signed their
joint declaration at the end of Pope Francis’ June 24-26 visit to Armenia.

Earlier in the day, at an Armenian Divine Liturgy, both had
spoken of their unity as believers in Christ and of their conviction that
Christians are called by God to assist the poor, the persecuted and the needy.

While their joint declaration mentioned the progress made in
the official Catholic-Oriental Orthodox theological dialogue and their hopes
for its continuation, the heart of the text focused on common Christian action
to relieve suffering.

“We are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before
our eyes,” the two leaders said. “Countless innocent people” are
“being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by
continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in
the Middle East and other parts of the world.”

“Religious and ethnic minorities have become the target
of persecution and cruel treatment to the point that suffering for one’s
religious belief has become a daily reality,” they said.

The Christians being martyred for their faith belong to
different churches and their suffering “is an ‘ecumenism of blood,’ which
transcends the historical divisions between Christians.”

The two leaders
prayed that the terrorists waging war on Christians and other minorities would convert,
and they also prayed that “those who are in a position to stop the
violence” would hasten to do so.

“We implore the leaders of nations to listen to the
plea of millions of human beings who long for peace and justice in the world,
who demand respect for their God-given rights, who have urgent need of bread,
not guns,” the declaration said.

The two denounced the use of a religion “to justify the
spread of hatred, discrimination and violence.”

While focused
on the headline-grabbing war in Syria, the two leaders did not ignore the
tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in
Azerbaijan where the majority of people are ethnic Armenians and had voted for
independence. The joint declaration urged “a peaceful resolution” of
the conflict.

“We ask the faithful of our churches to open their
hearts and hands to the victims of war and terrorism, to refugees and their
families,” they said. The Christian faith demands concrete acts of
charity, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin insisted.

Looking at the spread of secularization, the pope and
patriarch noted how heavily cultural change is impacting the family. “The
Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the
family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man
and woman,” they said.

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