VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Peace in the Middle East will need an abundant flow of mercy, without which pockets of “power gone mad,” such as Islamic State, “will multiply,” warned Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

A solution to the ongoing destruction in the Middle East has not yet been found “because the problems are numerous and complex and also touch on the internal relations of the diverse elements of the Muslim faithful,” the cardinal said April 29 during an ecumenical conference on “Christians in the Middle East: What Future?”

However, “it is also permissible to think” that vested interests, power and wealth are at play and are being given precedence over the survival and wellbeing of the population, he said.


“This is a scandal,” the cardinal said.

The April 29-30 international conference was organized by the Sant’Egidio Community in Bari, southern Italy. Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Bari was once an important crossroads, welcoming eastern and western Christians, Muslims and Jews. The Vatican press office released the text of Cardinal Sandri’s speech.

Bari, he said, is a reminder of “the exact coexistence that today” is “not only endangered” in the world, but which seems to be undergoing “a true and actual dismantling.”

Speaking of the suffering Christians in the Middle East, he said they have likely “thought of the indifference and inaction to which the international community seems to have resigned itself” with regard to their situation.

The cardinal also spoke of Pope Francis’ “indefatigable” pleas for suffering Christians, comparing him with John the Baptist. Pope Francis is “a voice that cries in the desert,” he said, who tells “the modern Herods who threaten” these Christians that what they are doing is “not right.”

Cardinal Sandri insisted that a key to peace throughout the Middle East is the resolution of the tensions and competing claims of Israel and the Palestinians.

“We cannot speak about stability in the Middle East without including the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian question,” he said. Christians cannot be content with the fact that “Christians in both these territories are allowed to live rather peacefully,” he said.

“Moreover, it seems there should be no doubt regarding the need for all states, including Israel, to exist and to be protected and not threatened,” he said.

“It is the task of Christian pastors throughout the Middle East to help their faithful to grow in this awareness, pouring the abundant oil of consolation, forgiveness and mercy on the wounds of the recent past,” he said.

“If things do not move in this direction, we do not doubt that the pockets of ‘power gone mad,’ which is ISIS, will multiply,” supported with arms and other resources from groups with diverse interests, he said.

In connection with the conference, an evening ecumenical prayer service for an end to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East was to be April 29 in the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari.