By Ann Schneible
Istanbul, Turkey, (EWTN News/CNA): “Dear young people, do not be discouraged.” Pope Francis made this appeal during an encounter with young refugees in Istanbul, urging them to remember that God never forgets his children.
The Pope met with the refugees in the Salesian Oratory of Istanbul on Nov. 30, the third and final day of his Apostolic Journey to Turkey. The youth refugees taking part in the encounter were predominantly from Africa and the Middle East, especially Syria and Iraq.
“I wish to assure you that I share your sufferings,” said Pope Francis to the youth. “I hope my visit, by the grace of God, may offer you some consolation in your difficult situation.”
“Yours is the sad consequence of brutal conflicts and war, which are always evils and which never solve problems. Rather, they only create new ones.”
Not only are refugees forced to abandon their material, the Pope said, “but above all their freedom, closeness to family, their homeland and cultural traditions.”
He condemned the “intolerable” conditions in which many refugees live, appealing for “greater international cooperation” to bring an end to the crises which drive people from their homelands.
“I encourage all who are working generously and steadfastly for justice and peace not to lose heart,” he said, reminding political leaders that the “great majority of their people long for peace.”
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 23,000 Iraqi and 1,300,000 Syrian refugees are currently residing in Turkey due to ongoing violence in both nations.
Pope Francis acknowledged the efforts made by organizations and Catholic groups to mobilize aid for refugees, expressing particular gratitude to Turkish authorities, especially for their assistance to Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
“Dear young people, do not be discouraged,” Pope Francis said. “With the help of God, continue to hope in a better future, despite the difficulties and obstacles which you are currently facing.”
“Remember always that God does not forget any of his children, and that those who are the smallest and who suffer the most are closest to the Father's heart.”
Pope Francis concluded by assuring them of his prayers and those of the Church. “I will continue to pray to the Lord, asking him to inspire those in leadership, so that they will not hesitate to promote justice, security and peace and do so in ways that are clear and effective.”
“Through her social and charitable organizations, the Church will remain at your side and will continue to hold up your cause before the world.”