Vatican City, February 13 - Pope Francis said Mass Tuesday with Greek Melkite Patriarch Youssef Absi, stresing it was for the "persecuted". Elected on June 21st last year, Patriarch Absi took over from his predecessor Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, who retired at the age of 83. In a letter, sent to the new leader the following day, Pope Francis granted 'Ecclesiastical Communion', putting his seal of approval on the election. In his meeting with Greek Melkite bishops Monday, Pope Francis spoke of the difficult situation facing the Christian communities throughout the Middle East. He said he hoped that Church leaders, through the witness of their own lives, could encourage their people to remain in those lands, despite the many challenges they face.
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