Pope Francis has called on the members of the Christian faith – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – to pray for the “men of the cloth” who were taken as hostages in relation to the ongoing violence in the Middle East.
“I have a constant and keen concern for the brother bishops, priests and religious, Catholic and Orthodox, who were kidnapped a long time ago in Syria. May the merciful God touch the hearts of their kidnappers and grant that our brothers and sisters may be freed as soon as possible, and be allowed to return to their communities. I invite all of you to pray for this, without forgetting the other persons in the world who have been kidnapped,” Francis said.
One of the priests taken as hostage in Syria is Father Paolo Dall’Oglio who belongs to the Jesuit order – the same religious congregation of the pope. He was reported to have been abducted in July 2013 in the town of Raqqa.
Year of Mercy
Meanwhile, the Church leader also surprised young people by personally hearing their confessions during a penitential service at the St. Peter’s Square in relation to the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Throngs of students aged 13 to 16 years old converged at the Vatican to pass through the “Holy Door,” which is the most prominent symbol of the jubilee celebration.
Speaking to the youth, Francis said, “Even if you disappoint Him and walk away from Him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; He believes in you even more than you believe in yourself.“