BEIRUT (CNS) -- In Easter messages, Catholic
patriarchs of the Middle East evoked the hope of the Resurrection.
"Today's world needs the resurrection
of hearts," said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite
Catholics. He called for a rekindling of love and compassion.
Cardinal Rai prayed for the displaced and
the abducted to return to their homelands and for wars to end in Syria, Iraq, the
Palestinian territories and Yemen, consolidating "a just, comprehensive
and lasting peace" in the region.
He also warned that Lebanon's difficult
economic, social and living conditions threatened to destabilize the country's
internal steadiness. He said he hoped Lebanon's parliamentary
elections May 6 -- the first such elections since 2009 -- would "bring
responsible and conscious statesmen."
Of Lebanon's existing population of nearly 4
million, approximately 40 percent are Christian. Under the country's
power-sharing system, Lebanon's president is a Maronite Catholic, its prime
minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III
Younan, in his Easter message from Beirut, spoke about the
suffering of Eastern Christians "from the pain of persecution, uprooting
and horrific events for years," especially in Syria, Iraq and Egypt. He also
referred to his pre-Easter visit to Iraq, where some Iraqi Christians finally
returned home after more than three years in exile from Islamic State.
"When we believe that Jesus rose from
the dead, we declare the hope and joy that we, too, will," he said.
From Baghdad, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch
Louis Sako touched upon on Resurrection and peace in his Easter message.
"The message of Resurrection this year
is to do good; to be bridges for dialogue, reconciliation and to be
peacemakers," he said, urging the faithful to be "a gateway to grace
He noted that Iraq "is the cradle of civilization,"
but has been transformed to a country of disasters.
"The Iraqi people seek security,
stability as well as social, economic and cultural prosperity," Patriarch
Sako stressed "Therefore, these tragedies must not lead us to give up and
to despair but rather to look at these events through the eye of faith, in
addition to a historical and political way of analysis."
He encouraged the faithful to unite and
collaborate to build trust and "work hand-in-hand to put an end to our
Patriarch Sako also urged all Iraqis to vote
in the country's parliamentary elections set for May 12, referring to it as "our
golden opportunity for change and to ensure a bright future for our people."
He expressed his hope for a civil state in
which the law protects and applies to everyone equally.
"Religion is for God and must be
protected from politicization and distortion. Religion respects persons and
does not enslave them, and the God in whom we believe is a loving and merciful
Creator," the patriarch stressed.