“The Middle East today is a crossroads of difficult situations, suffering,” His Holiness Pope Francis said in unscripted remarks to representatives of ROACO, the Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches (Italian: Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali). ROACO coordinates assistance and provides funding for initiatives that aid Eastern Catholic Churches.

In his extemporaneous comments, His Holiness Pope Francis warned that there is the risk of “eliminating Christians” from the Middle East although he was careful to say that this did not mean this was anyone’s intention. He praised the work of ROACO in assisting the Christians in the Middle East, saying it is important to preserve, and fight for, the great traditions of Eastern Christianity, which are like the sap “that comes from the roots to give life to our soul.”

The Pontiff concluded his remarks by reminding that “Despite all these problems, The Lord will not leave us by ourselves. I say that the Middle East is a hope: a hope that we must cultivate.”