Patriarchs have called on Pope Francis to “scold” world leaders over the exodus of Christians from the Middle East.

Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs in the Middle East said the displacement of Christians from the region was “a humanitarian catastrophe”.

“The time has come to make a prophetic cry” and to speak “the truth that frees us in the spirit of the Gospel”, the Council of the Eastern Patriarchs said in a statement following a meeting in Diman, Lebanon, last week.

They appealed to the United Nations and to “the states directly concerned with the war in Syria, Iraq and Palestine to stop the wars that have arisen, as are evident in the demolition, killing, displacement, revival of terrorist organisations and the fueling of intolerance and conflicts between religions and cultures”.

They said “the inability to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region” and the neglect of the return of refugees, displaced and uprooted people to their homelands and property “in dignity and justice” were a “stain on the forehead of the 21st century”.

In a plea to Pope Francis, they said: “We represent churches … whose existence is in real danger.” The prelates asked: “Who else but the Rock of Peter can we resort to? Only you, Your Holiness, are left to call on the representatives of the people who control the destinies of peoples, to remind them and even to scold them that the continued displacement of Christians from the Middle East is certainly a genocidal project, a humanitarian catastrophe and a plague of the earth’s civilisation.”

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