Christians in the Middle East should be "courageous and steadfast" and avoid the temptation to join an exodus that has seen their population sharply decline across the region in recent years, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday.
"The difficult situation which individuals and Christian communities face in the region is a cause of deep concern for us all," he told representatives of Oriental Orthodox Churches, many from the Middle East.
"Indeed, Christian minorities find it difficult to survive in the midst of such a volatile geopolitical panorama and are often tempted to emigrate," he said. "In these circumstances, Christians of all traditions and communities in the Middle East are called to be courageous and steadfast."
Across the region, Christian communities date to the to the time when Jesus and his apostles preached, but nearly everywhere Christian populations are in decline, reports AP.
In a separate audience with Christian, Muslim and Jewish representatives, Benedict called for "true dialogue, respectful of the differences."
"Interreligious and intercultural dialogue and research are not an option, but a vital necessity for our times," Benedict said.
The pope has been stepping up such a call since a speech he gave in Germany in September that linked Islam and violence angered Muslims.
Putin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on remarks in the US media about failures in launching nuclear-capable missiles in Russia
More than 5.8 million people voted for Nicholas Maduro at the presidential election in Venezuela. This is more than a quarter of registered voters. Why did those people vote for the man, who, as Western media write, took Venezuela to the brink of collapse?
It has long been understood that the West has been trying to subject Russian borders to total control. We have not seen such activity even during the Cold War