Open letter to Pope Francis

Your Holiness,

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, the oldest non-governmental organisation in Russia, has the honour of addressing you this brief message.

Founded in 1882 in order to support the spiritual links between Russia and the Holy Land, our Society has always maintained close relations with the peoples and countries of the Middle East. It organises educational and humanitarian missions and promotes peace and harmony between the different religions and in the whole region.

The historic mission of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society is to build bridges of friendship and to strengthen cooperation between the peoples who live in the Middle East and North Africa. Our duty today is to support the infinitely suffering people of Syria and to help Syrians to enjoy their right to a peaceful and tranquil life.

Your Holiness, as representatives of Russian civil society, we support Your position and Your appeals to world leaders concerning the need to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis. We support Your opposition to the inadmissible scenario of military action against Syria, which certain countries want to undertake. We share Your deep concern at the danger of extending the humanitarian crisis to the whole of the Middle East region.

These important issues have been the subject of Your discussions with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, during his visit to the Vatican last November. We believe that it is important that on this occasion the Russian Federation and the Holy See expressed the same position on a key issue on the international agenda.

Syria today represents the pain and the unhealed wounds of all humanity. This holy land has been transformed into a battlefield where innocent people are killed and where churches, monasteries and Christian holy places are deliberately destroyed. With extreme cynicism, terrorist groups kill and kidnap believers including even priests and monks — people whose lives are devoted to announcing universal human values to the world and to preaching love of one’s neighbour. The principal victims of this violence are Christians.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society believes that it is essential to provide humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Syria, to both Christians and Muslims alike. Since March 2013, our Society has been carrying out humanitarian missions with the blessing of His Holiness Cyril, atriarch of Moscow and of all Russia. The Imperial Society has set up a Centre for the Defence of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa which campaigns against discrimination and the violations of the rights of Christians. It works with the United Nations Human Rights Council and with other influential international organisations.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society is happy to cooperate with all people of good will, with international, civic and humanitarian organisations, including with the Holy See, to provide humanitarian aid to all persons affected by war, to preserve the spiritual and cultural patrimony of Syria, to support inter-confessional peace and concord, and to protect the Christian population from violence and persecution.

We are therefore firmly in favour of uniting the forces and resources of all those of good will for the defence of traditional Christian values which today are under severe attack.

This is our duty and our sacred obligation.

We beg Your Holiness to accept the expression of our deepest respect.

Sergey Stepashin
Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society

Pope Francis LETTER