Church Must Support Countries’ Minority Christians

AGI, May 17 — Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican’s foreign affairs minister, said the Church must implement economic and diplomatic initiatives to support Christians in Muslim-majority countries, the Italian news service reported.

Speaking at the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Archbishop Lajolo said the Church must respond to Christians where the lack of religious freedom makes for a difficult situation. Persecution “is making thousands of Christians leave their homeland, where their fundamental rights are not adequately guaranteed,” he said.

“The situation of Christians is particularly painful in the Holy Land, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries,” the archbishop added. “Many of the Christians there are temporarily residing there. It’s sad to acknowledge the exodus of Christians from Iraq, where they are a minority, but well-rooted.”

Russian Pilgrims’ Meeting ‘a Dream Come True’

ASIANEWS, May 17 — For 150 Russian pilgrims, a meeting with Pope Benedict marked the end of a memorial year commemorating Pope John Paul II, the news service reported.

Led by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the contingent met the Holy Father after his general audience. The archbishop presented the Pope with a Russian translation of his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love). The Pope also received vestments with the image of Our Lady of Mercy, an icon from Smolensk and an Easter egg, symbol of life and resurrection, said the archbishop of Our Lady of God in Moscow.

“This pilgrimage is a miracle that I never dreamt I could realize,” said a pilgrim named Igor. The same was true for Tatiana, for whom “being in Rome is a gift of the Lord.” Teresa, who is of Polish origin, and her husband Victor are from Vladimir. She said, “As Catholics, our being in Rome is like touching the origins of Christianity. There are no words to describe our joy.”

“For a small flock this pilgrimage is first of all an experience of union between the faithful of the diocese’s different areas and their bishop,” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz explained. “But it is also a chance to truly feel as one with the universal Church. I am certain that it will fortify their faith and the prayer with the Pope shall raise their hopes.”

Pope Condemns India’s Ban on Religious Conversion
, May 19 — Pope Benedict said efforts in some Indian states to outlaw conversions are unconstitutional and should be rejected, Reuters reported.

The Holy Father condemned Hindu nationalist attempts to ban religious conversions in India in a meeting with New Delhi’s new ambassador to the Vatican, Amitava Tripathi. It was his second declaration this week in defense of religious freedom in countries with non-Christian majorities. On May 15, he urged Muslim countries to give their Christian minorities the same rights which Muslims enjoyed in Western states.

According to the text released by the Vatican, the Pope said anti-conversion laws were “unconstitutional and contrary to the highest ideals of India’s founding fathers.”

He added, “The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected.”