Keep flame of faith, Pope urges Arab Christians; Kirill says Africans face 'terrible' Islamist terror

(Photo: REUTERS / Yorgos Karahalis)Kirill, Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, leaves Saint Dionysios Orthodox church in Athens June 1, 2013. Kirill is on a seven-day visit in Greece

Pope Francis is urging Arab Christians to 'keep flame of their faith' while Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill says events in Nigeria and Central African Republic linked with massive murder of Christians are particularly "terrible."

The Pope told Christians in the Arab-speaking world to "keep the flame of their faith," despite the darkness of the trial" they are facing.

Francis was speaking at the Vatican Aug. 31 during a general audience with Arab-speaking pilgrims from Iraq, Jordan, and the Middle East, Vatican Radio reports.

"The healing accomplished today by Jesus [of the woman with the hemorrhage Mt 9:20-22] assures us that when human hope disappears and everything seems impossible, the sun of Divine hope rises again for those who, despite the darkness of the trial, keep the flame of their faith!" said the Pope.

"The Lord bless you all and protect you from the evil one!"

In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, on Aug. 29 decried the "shocking" persecution of Christians in some African countries, who are being "simply swept away by radical Islamists."

Kirill said that the events in Nigeria and Central African Republic linked with massive murder of Christians are particularly "terrible," Russia's Sputnik news agency reports.

"The Russian Church does all she can to make the world community aware of the terrible situation of Christians and their congregations, including those in Congo," Patriarch Kirill said according to the Russian Orthodox Church.

"I will not enumerate all the regions where Christians are suffering today, but would like to emphasize that dreadful crimes are often committed in the territory of Nigeria and the Central African Republic, as the result of which great many Christians die," he noted.

"We raise this issue at the international level. I had the opportunity to discuss it during the meeting with Pope Francis," said Kirill.


The Patriarch said he and Francis had signed a Joint Declaration Feb. 11 when they met in Cuba, in which they called on the international community to make every effort "in order to stop this atrocious crime of our times – the mass killings of Christians."

The Russian Patriarch was speaking at a meeting with the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Valentin Matungul, the Patriarch.  

(Photo: Russian Orthodox Church)Pope Francis (l) and Russian Patriarch Kirill at their historic meeting in Havana, Cuba on Feb. 12, 2016.

Kirill noted that Africa is suffering a "monstrous extermination of an immense number of Christians" at the hands of radical Muslims and the Russian church leader said he had spoken of the matter with Pope Francis.

"We are particularly concerned about Christians, who are killed by radical Islamists," he said.

"The Russian Orthodox Church is doing its utmost to raise this issue so that public community could be aware of it.

"We raise it on the international level, I had a chance to discuss it with Pope Francis.....[all international institutes] should take efforts to prevent dreadful crime of our time - massive killings of Christians," said Kirill.

Some African countries north of the equators face constant threats of Islamist-inspired terror, notably Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, with Boko-Haram group, which pledges allegiance to the Daesh jihadist group.

In February, on the first anniversary of the Islamic State massacre of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, Francis and Kirill issued a joint declaration denouncing the systematic persecution of Christians throughout the world.

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