, VATICAN, Feb 29 – Pope Francis said Monday that “devastating” Islamist and other violence in the Middle East and Africa had brought different churches closer, as he met the Ethiopian Orthodox leader.
It was a theme he raised in talks with the Russian Orthodox patriarch in Cuba earlier this month where he spoke extensively about church unity and the attacks faced by Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
“The shared suffering means that Christians, who are otherwise divided on several issues, have become much closer to one another,” he said on meeting Patriarch Abuna Matthias at the Vatican.
“The blood of martyrs belonging to different churches will serve as the seed of Christian unity,” he said.
The pope had sent a message of support to the Ethiopian patriarch last April after 28 Ethiopians were massacred on a Libyan beach by the Islamic State group, saying it was “immaterial” which strand of Christianity they followed, saying “their blood is the same”.
On Monday, he said the Ethiopian church “had been a church of martyrs since its inception.”
“Even today, you are witness to a devastating violence against Christian minorities in the Middle East and many parts of Africa,” he said, specifically referring to jihadist violence.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church is one of the largest Orthodox churches and one of the oldest but it retains some Jewish traditions like circumcision.