Սիւնոդհոսին Փակման Հանդիսութիւնը Եւ Սիրոյ Սեղան, Վատիկանի մէջ
Շաբաթ 23 հոկտեմբեր 2010-ին տեղի ունեցաւ Միջին Արեւելքի համար յատուկ սինոդհոսին փակման հանդիսութիւնը:
Առաւօտուն սինոդհոսական հայրերը մասնակցեցան վերջին երկու նիստերուն կատարելով յատուկ ընտրութիւններ, որոնք պիտի յայտարարուին պաշտօնականօրէն Վատիկանի կողմէ:
Անկէ ետք, բոլոր հայրերը հրաւիրուեցան քահանայապետին հետ մասնակցելու եղբայրական ագապին, որուն ընթացքին քահանայապետը խօսք առնելով շեշտեց այս գեղեցիկ սովորութեան մասին, յիշելով
Intervention of H. Em. Emmanuel ADAMAKIS, Metropolitan of France (FRANCE), Fraternal Delegate
His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has requested me to pass on to you, on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and sister Church, all his wishes for a positive outcome, during these days, for the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
The Middle East attracts and fascinates. It is owned by everyone and does not suffer from exclusivity. The Holy Land, it is even more holy to us Christians, because it is in this region of the world that it pleased God to make us the most incredible of promises, that of the Resurrection. This land, the first witness through the ages of the saving act of Christ, plays but part of what the philosopher Pascal described as its agony through the ages. Indeed, the present never ceases to remind us of the divisions, separations, and the daily suffering to which some parts of the population are subjected, Christians first of all, in the region.
We cannot but congratulate ourselves on holding this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops devoted to the Middle East. The world expects from this meeting a strong message, which will propose concrete actions. This is not just the responsibility of the Catholic Church as the organizer of this Synod, but also of each of the participating Churches as “fraternal Delegates”, aside from our differences, which were explicitly invited to take an active part in the discussion.
Therefore, we wish to emphasize two facts which seem essential.The first is the progressive disappearance of Christianity in the Middle East. How can the presence of Christians continue in the region taking into account our bilateral dialogues? The working document of the Synod, the Instrumentum laboris, remember, was made public by Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his official visit to Cyprus in June 2010. So this is a sign not only directed to the Eastern Catholics, but also to the Orthodox Church and its faithful. In this regard, it is worth recalling the importance of the Orthodox presence within Eastern societies. Thus, the place for pluralism must be able to advance our various initiatives for dialogue and be able to bring about as much cooperation as is needed and useful for the sake of a growing and efficient transmission of the Gospel witness. In fact, emphasizing the good relations that our Churches maintain today, the tangible hope of a future unity will have a catalyzing effect. A union would ensure the continuation of the Christian presence locally.
Secondly, we would like to offer a clarification particularly on our ability to dialogue with other religious elements in the region and in particular with our Muslim and Jewish brothers. The increasing number of initiatives that, up until today, inter-religious dialogue has brought to the fore should not make us lose sight of the fact that institutional initiatives are not relevant if all of society does not invest in the need to live together in peace. The Middle East, in fact, must abandon the thesis of a clash of civilizations. Yes, living together is possible, in ways that will not be dictated by others, but by those who live there day after day. They are “the salt of the earth”. Now, the first inalienable condition for any co-existence remains a guarantee of religious freedom for all. Only on this basis, relations between religions, peoples and cultures will be able to encourage the emergence of what Levi-Strauss called “the coexistence of cultures that have between them the greatest diversity”.
Finally, we hope that this Synod will strengthen the bonds that unite all Christians in the region, with clarity, courage and love. But also that, while avoiding any excessive paternalism toward Christians of the East, we also know that we place ourselves in the school of their reality. It is therefore our duty, not to say our responsibility, that this Synod will not be added to the long list of meetings without a future, at least out of respect for those who suffer and out of commitment to our faith.
We pray that the Lord will inspire all participants at this meeting and that, in peace, He will grant that the “whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
[00205-02.03] [DF011] [Original text: French]
FINAL LIST OF PROPOSITIONS
The provisional, off-the-record and unofficial English version is published below:
Documentation Presented to the Supreme Pontiff
The synod fathers present to the Supreme Pontiff for his consideration the documentation resulting from the Special Assembly concerning «The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4: 32)». This documentation includes: the "Lineamenta", the "Instrumentum laboris", the "ante" and "post disceptationem" presentations, the texts of the interventions, both those presented in the synod hall and those "in scriptis", and especially some specific recommendations to which the synod fathers have given a certain importance.
The synod fathers humbly ask the Holy Father to consider the possibility of issuing a document on the Communion and Witness of the Church in Middle East.
The Word of God
The Word of God is the soul and foundation of the Christian life and of all pastoral work; we hope that every family would own a Bible.
The synod fathers encourage daily reading of and meditation on the Word of God, especially "lectio divina", and the creation of a website about the Bible, including Catholic explanations and commentaries which are easily understood by the faithful. We would also like to see the preparation of an introductory booklet to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, which could offer a simple way to help people read the Bible.
They also encourage eparchies / dioceses (throughout the document, the word "diocese" also applies to an "eparchy", the equivalent term in Eastern terminology) and parishes to introduce and promote Bible studies in which the Word of God is meditated upon and explained in such a way as to answer the questions the people have, and help them to become more familiar with the Scriptures, deepening their spirituality and apostolic and missionary commitment.
A Biblical Pastoral Programme
The synod fathers urgently recommend that work be undertaken to place the two Testaments of Holy Scripture at the centre of our Christian life by encouraging the faithful to proclaim them, read them, meditate on them, interpret them in the light of Christ and celebrate them liturgically, as did the first Christian communities.
We propose that a Year of the Bible be proclaimed after due preparation and that it be followed by an annual Week of the Bible.
I. THE CHRISTIAN PRESENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Identity of the Eastern Catholic Churches
Amidst a world marked by division and extreme positions, we are called to live communion in the Church staying open to everyone, without succumbing to confessionalism. We will be able to do this if we remain faithful to our rich historical, liturgical, patristic and spiritual heritage as well as the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and to the norms and structures of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the Code of Canon Law and the particular laws of the Churches.
Sharing in the Cross
Whilst denouncing persecution and violence like everyone else, the Christian remembers that being Christian means sharing the cross of Christ. The disciple is not greater than the Master (cf Mt 10:24). He recalls that blessed are those who are persecuted for justice sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven (cf Mt 5:10).
However, persecution must raise the awareness of Christians worldwide of the need for greater solidarity. It must also arouse in us the commitment to support and insist on international law and respect for all people and all peoples.
The attention of the whole world should be focused on the tragic situation of certain Christian communities of the Middle East which suffer all manner of trials sometimes even to the point of martyrdom.
National and international bodies should also be called upon to make a special effort to bring an end to this situation of tension by re establishing justice and peace.
Given that attachment to the land of one's birth is an essential element of the identity both of individuals and of peoples, as well as an environment of freedom, we exhort our faithful and our Church communities not to give in to the temptation to sell off their real estate. In difficult economic circumstances, we propose to help Christians retain possession of their lands or to acquire new ones through the creation of projects responsible for making them prosper, allowing the owners to stay where they are with dignity. This effort must be accompanied by an in depth examination of the meaning of the Christian presence and vocation in the Middle East.
For the sake of transparency, it is necessary to devise an auditing system for the Church's financial affaires, which distinguishes clearly what belongs to the Church and what belongs personally to those in service of the Church. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain the properties and goods of the Church and her institutions.
Encouragement to Make Pilgrimages
The East is the land of biblical Revelation. Very early on, the region became a place of pilgrimage in the footsteps of Abraham in Iraq, of Moses in Egypt and in Sinai, of Jesus in the Holy Land (Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon) and of St. Paul and the Churches mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the book of Revelation (Syria, Cyprus, and Turkey).
Pilgrimage to the Holy Places has been encouraged by the Supreme Pontiffs. Going back to the place of origins is an opportunity for a profound catechesis, enabling the pilgrim to discover the riches of the Eastern Churches and to meet and encourage the local Christian communities, the living stones of the Church.
Our Churches commit themselves to pray and to work for justice and peace in the Middle East and call for a "purification of memory", choosing the language of peace and hope and avoiding that of fear and violence. They call upon the civil authorities to implement the resolutions of the United Nations concerning the region, particularly the return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
Consolidating the presence of Christians
Our Churches must create an office or a commission entrusted with the study of the phenomenon of migration and of the factors behind it so as to find ways of stopping it. They are to do all that is possible to boost the presence of Christians in their countries, and to do this especially through development projects to limit the phenomenon of migration.
Pastoral practice for emigration
The presence of numerous Eastern Christians in all the continents challenges the Church to devise an appropriate pastoral programme in light of emigration:
1. the Eastern bishops are to visit the seminaries of the Middle East to present the situation and the needs of their eparchies;
2. the formation of seminarians with a missionary spirit, open to different cultures;
3. the preparation and accompaniment of priests missioned outside the patriarchal territory;
4. the promotion of vocations work in the communities outside of the patriarchal territory; and
5. the sending of priests and the establishment of their own eparchies wherever the pastoral needs require them according to the canonical norms.
Emigration and Solidarity
1. To awaken and reinforce a sense of solidarity and of sharing with the country of origin, by contributing to pastoral projects and in cultural, educational, economic and social development;
2. to educate Christians who have emigrated to remain faithful to the tradition of their origins; 3. to strengthen bonds of communion between emigrants and the Churches in their native countries.
We urge Churches in the countries which receive immigrants to be familiar with and to respect Eastern theology, traditions and patrimonies, and that this be reflected in their norms, and sacramental and administrative practices. This will help collaboration with Eastern Churches present in those countries, and in the formation and pastoral care of their faithful.
We are seriously concerned about the condition of immigrant workers in the Middle East, both Christians and non Christians, especially women. Many of them find themselves in situations that are difficult or that even undermine their dignity.
We call on patriarchal synods and episcopal conferences, Catholic charitable institutions, especially Caritas, political leaders, and all people of good will, to do everything in their power to ensure the respect of immigrants' fundamental rights as recognised by international law, regardless of the nationality or religion of the immigrants in question, and to offer them legal and human assistance. Our Churches should seek to provide the spiritual help they need as a sign of Christian hospitality and of ecclesial communion.
To better welcome and guide immigrants to the Middle East, the Churches from which they come are asked to maintain regular contact with the Churches which welcome them by assisting them to set up the structures they need, i.e. parishes, schools, meeting places, etc.
II. ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
A. Communion Within the Church (ad intra)
Communion within the Catholic Church
"The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it" ((Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2). To strengthen this communion, we recommend:
1. the creation of a commission of cooperation between the Catholic hierarchs of the Middle East, which will be responsible for the promotion of a common pastoral strategy, better understanding of one another's traditions, inter ritual institutions and joint charitable organizations;
2. the organisation of regular meetings between Catholic hierarchies of the Middle East;
3. the sharing of material resources between rich and poor dioceses;
4. the foundation of a priestly association, Fidei Donum, for the mutual assistance of eparchies and Churches.
New Ecclesial Movements
A number of the synod fathers recognize that the new ecclesial movements of the Western tradition, increasingly present in the Churches of the Middle East, are a gift of the Spirit to the whole Church. To help the charism of these movements to build up the Church, it behoves their members to live out their own charism taking into full account the culture, history, liturgy, and spirituality of the local Church. To make this happen, these movements are asked without delay to start working in union with the bishop of the place and to follow his pastoral instructions. It would be desirable for the Catholic hierarchy of each country of the Middle East to work out a common pastoral position on the movements in question, their integration and pastoral activity.
The Jurisdiction of Patriarchs
Outside of the patriarchal territory, in order to maintain the communion of the Eastern faithful with their patriarchal Churches and to provide them with appropriate pastoral service, it is desirable to study the question of extending the jurisdiction of the Eastern Patriarchs to cover members of their Churches wherever they live throughout the world, with a view to taking appropriate measures.
The Situation of the Catholic Faithful in the Gulf Countries
In a spirit of communion and for the good of the faithful, it would be desirable to form a commission bringing together the representatives of the relevant dicasteries, the apostolic vicars of the region and the representatives of the sui iuris Churches concerned. This commission would be responsible for studying the situation of the Catholic faithful in the countries of the Gulf, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and suggest solutions to the Holy See which it deems helpful for the promotion of pastoral action.
Vocations work supposes:
- prayers for vocations in the family, in the parish, etc.;
- promoting the Christian life in families so as to make possible the blossoming of vocations;
- the creation of vocations committees in each diocese involving priests, consecrated men and women and lay people to organize meetings for young people so as to present to them the various vocations in the Church and clarify their discernments;
- devise a plan of spiritual formation for young people involved in the ecclesial movements;
- making parishes and schools more aware of the different kinds of vocations, priestly, consecrated and lay;
- maintaining or setting up minor seminaries where feasible;
- calling on priests and consecrated men and women to witness by the coherence of what they say and do in their lives;
- to intensify an ecclesial communion between priests, which requires an openness to the different pastoral needs of dioceses. This can help remedy the low number of priests in some dioceses; and
- to attract young people to consecrated life by the example of a deep, radiant, happy spiritual life.
The Arabic Language
The experience of the synod for the Middle East has highlighted the importance of the Arabic language, above all that it has contributed to the development of the theological and spiritual thought of the universal Church, and more precisely the patrimony of Arabic Christian literature.
The proposal was made to make greater use of the Arabic language in the major institutions of the Holy See and their official meetings, so that Christians of Arab culture have access to information from the Holy See in their mother tongue.
B. Communion Among the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful
To make sure the clergy have a reasonable and dignified standard of living, especially when they are advanced in years and not in active service, it is necessary:
1. to put in place a system of solidarity that ensures an equal salary for all priests who are active or inactive, as set out in the canonical norms;
2. to institute a system of social protection according to the conditions of each country that should be extended to men and women religious, as well as to the wives of married priests and to their children who are minors.
Clerical celibacy has always and everywhere been respected and valued in the Catholic Churches, in the East as in the West. Nonetheless, with a view to the pastoral service of our faithful, wherever they are to be found, and to respect the traditions of the Eastern Churches, it would be desirable to study the possibility of having married priests outside the patriarchal territory.
By Baptism, lay people participate in the triple function of Christ's priesthood, becoming prophets, kings and priests. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council recognized the role and mission of the laity in its decree on the lay apostolate (Apostolicam actuositatem). Pope John Paul II convoked a synod on the laity and published the apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici in which he expressed esteem for "the very important apostolic collaboration which the lay faithful, men and women, bring to the life of the Church through their charisms and all their activity in the cause of evangelization, the sanctification and the Christian animation of the temporal realm" (no. 23).
The synod fathers commit themselves in the same way, especially since lay people in the East have always played a role in the life of the Church. The fathers want lay people to share in a greater degree of responsibility in the Church, encouraging them to be apostles in their workplace and to witness to Christ in the world in which they live.
Formation of seminarians
As a way of developing our unity in diversity, seminarians are to be formed in the seminaries of their respective Churches as well as to receive their theological formation in a joint Catholic faculty. In certain places and for pastoral and administrative reasons, however, it may be helpful to have a single seminary for different Churches.
The Consecrated Life
At the heart of the Church is consecrated, apostolic, monastic and contemplative life. The synod fathers show deep gratitude to consecrated men and women for their evangelical witness. They remember especially the martyrs of yesteryear and the present day. They ask that the consecrated life, adequately renewed, be welcomed, encouraged, and integrated ever more closely into the life and mission of the Church in the Middle East.
Our Churches recognize the importance of the place of consecrated women and women religious in society, by virtue of their witness of faith, their disinterested service and their precious contribution to "the dialogue of life".
Women and Children
Our Churches are to take the appropriate means to foster and reinforce the respect, dignity, role and rights of women. The competent and generous devotion of women at the service of life, the family, education and healthcare need to be highly appreciated. Our Churches are to ensure that they are integrated and take a full part in pastoral activities by listening carefully to them.
Children are the crown of marriage and a special gift for the world, the Catholic Church and Catholic parents have always shown a special interest for the health and education of all their children. Every effort must be made to safeguard and promote the respect of their natural human rights from the moment of conception, and to provide them with healthcare and Christian education.
C. Communion With the Churches and Ecclesial Communities: Ecumenism (ad extra)
Unity between the disciples of Christ in the Middle East is above all the work of the Spirit. It is to be sought through a conversion of the heart, in a spirit of prayer, respect, perseverance and love, far removed from any trace of the mistrust, fear and prejudice which constitute such obstacles to unity. We wish to see our Churches renew their ecumenical commitment through practical initiatives:
- by supporting the Council of the Churches of the Middle East;
- by providing our parishes, schools and seminaries with formation in an ecumenical spirit, underlining the achievements of the ecumenical movement;
- by implementing any pastoral agreements which may have been made;
- by organising meetings of the faithful and pastors for prayer, meditation on the Word of God and collaboration in all areas;
- by adopting a standard Arabic translation of the Our Father and the Nicene Creed; and
- by working for a common date for the celebrations of Christmas and Easter.
The Eastern Catholic Churches, living in communion with the Church of Rome and in fidelity to their Eastern traditions, have a vital ecumenical role to play.
The synod fathers urge these Churches to inaugurate an ecumenical dialogue at the local level. They recommend also that the Eastern Catholic Churches take part as much as possible in international commissions for dialogue.
Feast of Martyrs
To inaugurate an annual feast in common for all the martyrs of the Churches of the Middle East and to request each Eastern Church to draw up a list of its own martyrs, witnesses of the faith.
III. CHRISTIAN WITNESS
WITNESSES OF THE RESURRECTION AND LOVE
A. Christian Formation
To help adults to grow in a living faith, our Churches of the Middle East propose the creation of catechetical centres where they are lacking. On going formation and collaboration between the different Churches at the level of the laity, seminaries and universities are indispensable. All these centres should be open to all the Churches. Catechists in particular must be properly prepared through a suitable formation which takes into account current problems and challenges.
All the baptised are to be ready to give an account of their faith in Jesus Christ and are to be concerned about putting forward the Gospel without timidity but also without giving offence. Formation is to address the celebration of the mysteries, knowing, living and acting. Homilies are to be well prepared, based on the Word of God and linked to real life. It is important that formation includes learning about modern technology and communication science. Lay people are to witness firmly to Christ in society. The foundations which will enable them to become such witnesses are in Catholic schools which have always been recognised as the most important means of religious education for Catholics and for a social formation which leads to mutual understanding of all members of society. At the university level, we encourage the foundation of an association of institutions of higher education with particular attention to the social doctrine of the Church.
In order to form leaders and pastoral workers in various areas, we recommend the foundation of inter ecclesial formation centres in each country which employ the new technology of audiovisual communications. The resources they produce should be available on line and on DVD to make them as cheaply and widely available as possible.
Catholic schools and Educational Institutions
The synod fathers encourage Catholic schools and educational institutions to continue to be faithful to their mission of educating new generations in Christ's spirit, in human and Gospel values, and consolidating a culture of openness, conviviality, care and concern for the poor and for those who suffer from disability. In spite of the difficulties, the fathers invite them to maintain the educational mission of the Church and to further the development of young people who are the future of our societies. Given how important the role of these institutions is for the common good, we remind those in positions of responsibility to offer them their support.
The synod fathers have noted the pivotal importance of the new means of communication for Christian formation in the Middle East, as well as for the proclamation of the faith. They are communication networks which hold out the promise of special opportunities for the spreading of the Church's teaching.
Concretely, the synod fathers advocate the aid and maintenance of the existing structures in this area, such as "Télé lumière Noursat," "la Voix de la Charité" and others, so as to fulfil the objectives for which they have been established in an ecclesial spirit. Some synod fathers have even wanted to support the creation of a media city for Noursat both regionally and internation¬ally.
The synod fathers heartily recommend to those in charge of audiovisual structures in our Churches:
- the creation of a team with technical and theological expertise;
- the establishment of programmes of biblical formation for pastoral purposes; and
- the use of subtitles in Turkish and Farsi for Christians in Turkey and Iran.
Heirs of an apostolic spirit which has taken the Good News to distant lands, our Eastern Catholic Churches are asked to renew their missionary spirit in prayer, through formation and through being sent on mission. The urgency of the mission both ad intra and ad extra is an incentive for the Churches.
The family, the basic unit of society and the "domestic Church," needs to be accompanied and supported through its problems and difficulties, especially in the urban environment. In order to attain this objective, we need to make better provisions in centres for marriage preparation, counselling and guidance centres, spiritual and human guidance of young families, and their on going pastoral support, above all those facing difficult situations (emotional difficulties, disability, drugs etc.). Child bearing and the good education of children should be encouraged. The practice of home visiting by pastors should be revived.
"Youth are the future of the Church", said Pope John Paul II. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI continues to encourage youth: "Despite these difficulties, do not let yourselves be discouraged, and do not give up on your dreams! Instead, cultivate all the more your heart's great desire for fellowship, justice and peace. The future is in the hands of those who know how to seek and find sound reasons for life and hope" ("Message for the XXV World Youth Day", 7, 28 March 2010). Moreover, he appeals to them to be missionaries and witnesses in their societies and in their way of life. He calls them to deepen their faith and grow in their knowledge of Jesus Christ, their Ideal and Model, so as to participate with him in the salvation of the world.
The synod fathers commit themselves:
- to listen to them so as to respond to their questioning and their needs;
- to ensure their necessary spiritual and theological formation, suitable to assist them in their work;
- to build with them bridges of dialogue so as to bring down the walls of division and separation in societies; and
- to put to use their creativity and their know how so they can serve Christ, their peers and the society in which they live.
A New Evangelisation
Our Churches are called upon to adopt the mentality of a New Evangelisation by taking into consideration the cultural and social context in which people live, work and act today. This demands a profound conversion and renewal in light of the Word of God and the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist.
The synod fathers urgently recommend the diffusion of the social doctrine of the Church, which is oftentimes lacking. It is an integral part of faith formation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church are important resources in this area.
The synod fathers urge the bishops' conference of each country to form an episcopal commission to prepare and propagate the Church's social discourse, taking as its starting point the teaching of the Church, the various positions adopted by the Holy See regarding current affairs and the actual circumstances facing each country.
The synod fathers urgently recommend that the Eastern Churches take care of the elderly, of immigrants and refugees with their many different social needs and most especially of the disabled, setting up whatever structures are needed to meet their needs and facilitating their integration in society.
In fidelity to God the Creator Christians are to have at heart the protection of nature and the environment they call upon government and all men of women of good will to unite their efforts to safeguard creation.
B. The Liturgy
The biblical and theological wealth of the Eastern liturgies is at the spiritual service of the universal Church. Nonetheless, it would be useful and important to renew the liturgical texts and celebrations, where necessary, so as to answer better the needs and expectations of the faithful. This renewal must be based on an ever deeper knowledge of tradition and be adapted to contemporary language and categories.
C. Interreligious Dialogue
Christians in the Middle East are called upon to pursue dialogue with the followers of other religions, bringing hearts and minds closer together. For this to happen, they, along with their partners, are invited to work to fortify interreligious dialogue, to strive for the purification of memory through the forgiveness for the events of the past, and to seek a better future together.
In their daily lives, they are to endeavour to accept one another in spite of their differences, working to build a new society in which fanaticism and extremism have no place.
The synod fathers would like to see drawn up a formation plan which helps people to be more open, for use in teaching establishments as well as in seminaries and novitiates. This will help build a culture of dialogue based on human and religious solidarity.
Judaism has a central place in the Declaration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra aetate. Initiatives of dialogue and cooperation with Jews are to be encouraged so as to foster human and religious values, freedom, justice, peace and fraternity. Reading the Old Testament and getting to know Jewish traditions lead to a better understanding of the Jewish religion. We reject anti Semitism and anti Judaism, while distinguishing between religion and politics.
The Declaration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra aetate, alongside the pastoral letters of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, serves as the basis for the Catholic Church's relations with Muslims. As Pope Benedict XVI has said: "Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Pope Benedict XVI, "Meeting with representatives of Muslim Communities", Cologne, 20 August 2005).
In the Middle East, Christians share a common life and a common destiny with Muslims. Together they build up society. It is important to promote the notion of citizenship, the dignity of the human person, equal rights and duties and religious freedom, including both freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.
Christians in the Middle East are called to pursue a fruitful dialogue of life with Muslims. They are to take care to show an attitude of esteem and love, leaving aside every negative prejudice. Together, Christians and Muslims, they are called upon to discover their respective religious values. They are to offer the world an image of a positive encounter and a fruitful collaboration between believers of the two religions, combating together every sort of fundamentalism and violence in the name of religion.
Follow up on the Synod
The Churches which have taken part in the Synod are called upon to make sure that it is properly followed up by working together with the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East and the official structures of the relevant Churches, with a greater involvement of priests and lay and religious experts.
The Virgin Mary
Holy Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, who shows us how to listen to the Word of God, is the Blessed Daughter of our land. From the very beginning of Christian history, it was the theological reflection of our Eastern Churches which led to the decisive and glorious definition of Mary as "Theotokos", Mother of God.
In the liturgies of all our Churches, the Virgin Mary has a place of honour and is the object of the special love of all the People of God.
This Daughter of our land, whom all peoples call blessed, is justifiably invoked as Mother of the Church, especially since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
Aware of the special bonds which, by God's design, unite us to the Mother of Jesus, we propose that our Churches come together and jointly entrust the entire Middle East to the protection of the Virgin Mary.
[00209-02.04] [NNNNN] [Original text: Arabic]
MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD
During the Fourteenth General Congregation held on Friday 22th October 2010, the Synod Fathers approved the Nuntius, the Message to the People of God, at the conclusion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.
The full text of the English version is published below:
“Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32)
To our brother priests, deacons, monks, nuns, consecrated persons, our dear lay faithful and all people of good will.
1.May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.
The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East was for us a new Pentecost. “Pentecost is the original event but also a permanent dynamism, and the Synod of Bishops is a privileged moment in which the grace of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church’s journey” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Opening Liturgy, 10 October 2010).
We have come to Rome, We the Patriarchs and Bishops of the Catholic Churches in the Middle East with all our spiritual, liturgical, cultural and canonical patrimonies, carrying in our hearts the concerns of our people.
For the very first time, we have come together in a Synod, gathered around His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, with both cardinals and archbishops, who are heads of the various offices in the Roman Curia, presidents of episcopal conferences around the world, who are concerned with the issues of the Middle East, representatives from the Orthodox Churches and ecclesial communi¬ties and Jewish and Muslim guests.
We express our gratitude to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI for his care and for his teachings, which guide the journey of the Church in general and that of our Eastern Churches in particular, especially in the areas of justice and peace. We thank the episcopal conferences for their solidarity, their presence in our midst during their pilgrimages to the holy sites and their visits to our communities. We thank them for guiding our Churches in the various aspects of our life. We thank the different ecclesial organisations for their effective assistance.
Guided by the Holy Scriptures and the living Tradition, we have reflected together on the present and the future of Christians and all peoples of the Middle East. We have meditated on the issues of this region of the world which God willed, in the mystery of his love, to be the birthplace of his universal plan of salvation. From there, Abraham’s vocation was initiated. There, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. There, Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of life and the kingdom. There, he died to redeem humanity and free us from sin. There, he rose from the dead to give new life to all. There, the Church was formed and went forth to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world.
The primary aim of the Synod is pastoral. Thus, we have carried in our hearts the life, the pains and the hopes of our people as well as the challenges they need to confront each day “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rm 5:5). Dear sisters and brothers, we therefore address this message to you. We wish it to be an appeal to safeguard the faith, based on the Word of God, to collaboration in unity and to communion in the witness of love in every aspect of life.
I. The Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness throughout History
The Journey of Faith in the Middle East
2. In the Middle East, the first Christian community was born. From there, the apostles after Pentecost went evangelising the whole world. There, the early Christian community lived amid tensions and persecutions, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42), and no one of them was in need. There, the first martyrs, with their blood, fortified the foundations of the nascent Church. After them, the hermits filled the deserts with the perfume of their holiness and their faith. There, the Fathers of the Eastern Church lived and continued to nourish the Church in both the East and West through their teachings. In the early centuries and later, missionaries from our Churches departed for the Far East and the West, bringing with them the light of Christ. We are the heirs of that heritage. We need to continue to transmit their message to future generations.
In the past, Our Churches provided saints, priests and consecrated persons; they still do in the present. Our Churches have also sponsored many institutions which contributed - and still do - to the well being of our societies and countries, sacrificing self for the sake of the human person, who is created to the image of God and is the bearer of his likeness. Some of our Churches continue to send out missionaries who carry the Word of God to many places in the world. The pastoral, apostolic and missionary needs mandate us to put together a pastoral master-plan to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in order to ensure the Church of tomorrow.
We are now at a turning point in our history: The God who has given us the faith in our Eastern lands 2000 years ago, calls us today to persevere with courage, strength and steadfastness in bearing the message of Christ and witnessing to his Gospel, the Gospel of love and peace.
Challenges and Aspirations
3.1. Today, we face many challenges. The first comes from within ourselves and our Churches. We are asked by Christ to accept our faith and to apply it to all situations in our lives. What he asks from our Churches is to strengthen the communion within every Church sui iuris and that of the Catholic Churches of various traditions, and to exert every effort in prayer and charitable acts in order to attain the full unity of all Christians so as to fulfil the prayer of Christ: “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).
3.2. The second challenge comes from the outside, namely, political conditions, security in our countries and religious pluralism.
We have evaluated the social situation and the public security in all our countries in the Middle East. We have taken account of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the whole region, especially on the Palestinians who are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees. We have reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live. We have meditated on the situation of the holy city of Jerusalem. We are anxious about the unilateral initiatives that threaten its composition and risk to change its demographic balance. With all this in mind, we see that a just and lasting peace is the only salvation for everyone and for the good of the region and its peoples.
3.3. We have reflected in our meetings and in our prayers the keen sufferings of the Iraqi people. We have recalled the Christians assassinated in Iraq, the continued suffering of the Church in Iraq and her sons who have been displaced and dispersed throughout the world, bringing with them the concerns for their land and their fatherland. The synod fathers have expressed their solidarity with the people and the Churches in Iraq and have expressed their desire that the emigrants, forced to leave their country, might find in the welcoming countries the necessary support to be able to return to their homeland and live in security.
3.4. We have extensively treated relations between Christians and Muslims. All of us share a common citizenship in our countries. Here we want to affirm, according to our Christian vision, a fundamental principle which ought to govern our relations, namely, God wants us to be Christians in and for our Middle Eastern societies. This is God’s plan for us. This is our mission and vocation - to live as Christians and Muslims together. Our actions in this area will be guided by the commandment of love and by the power of the Spirit within us.
The second principle which governs our relations is the fact that we are an integral part of our societies. Our mission, based on our faith and our duty to our home countries, obliges us to contribute to the construction of our countries as fellow-citizens, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
II. Communion and Witness Within the Catholic Churches of the Middle East
To the Faithful of Our Churches
4.1. Jesus says to us: “You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world” (Mt 5:13.14). Your mission in our societies, beloved faithful, through faith, hope and love, is to be like “salt” which gives savour and meaning to life; to be like “light” by proclaiming the truth which scatters the darkness; and to be like the “leaven” which transforms hearts and minds. The first Christians of Jerusalem were few in number, yet they were able to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth because of the grace of “the Lord who acted with them and confirmed their Word by signs” (Mk 16:20).
4.2. We want to greet you, Christians of the Middle East, and we thank you for all you have achieved in your families and societies, in your Churches and nations. We commend you for your perseverance in times of adversity, suffering and anguish.
4.3. Dear priests, our co-workers in the mission of catechesis, liturgy and pastoral work, we renew our friendship and our trust in you. Continue to transmit to your faithful with zeal and perseverance the Gospel of life and Church’s tradition through your preaching, catechesis, spiritual direction and the good example of your lives. Build up the faith of the People of God to make of it a civilisation of love. Provide the sacraments to the People of God so that this People might aspire to be renewed. Gather them together in the union of love by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Dear consecrated men and women in the world, we express to you our gratitude and with you we thank God for the gift of the evangelical counsels – of consecrated chastity, of poverty and obedience – through which you have made the gift of yourselves as you follow Christ, the special love to whom you long to witness. It is thanks to your diverse apostolic initiatives that you are the true treasure and wealth of our Churches and a spiritual oasis in our parishes, dioceses and missions.
We unite ourselves spiritually to hermits, to monks and nuns who have dedicated their lives to prayer in contemplative monasteries, sanctifying the hours of day and night, carrying the Church’s concerns and needs to God in their prayers. You offer the world a sign of hope through the witness of your life.
4.4. We express to you, faithful lay people, our esteem and our friendship. We appreciate everything you do for your families and societies, your Churches and home countries. Remain steadfast amidst trials and difficulties. We are filled with gratitude to the Lord for the charisms and talents which he has showered you and which equip you to participate, through the power of your baptism and chrismations, in the Church’s mission and her apostolic work to permeate the temporal world with the spirit and values of the Gospel. We invite you to give the witness of an authentic Christian life, of a conscientious religious practice and of good morals. Have the courage objectively to proclaim the truth.
Those of you who suffer in body, in soul and spirit, the oppressed, those forced from your homes, the persecuted, prisoners and detainees, we carry you all in our prayers. Unite your suffering to that of Christ the Redeemer and seek in his cross patience and strength. By the merit of your sufferings, you gain God’s merciful love.
We greet each of our Christian families and we look upon your vocation and mission with esteem as a living cell of society and a natural school of virtue and ethical and human values, the “domestic Church” which transmits the practices of prayer and of faith from one generation to the next. We thank parents and grandparents for the education of their children and grandchil¬dren, who, like Jesus grow “in wisdom, in stature and grace in the sight of God and men” (Lk 2:52). We commit ourselves to the defence of the family through our pastoral programmes on its behalf, through marriage preparation courses and centres, open to all but mainly to couples in difficulty, where they can be welcomed and obtain counseling, and by defending the fundamental rights of the family.
We now wish to speak to the women of our Churches in a special way. We express to you our appreciation for what you are in the various states of life: girls, mothers, educators, consecrated women and those who engaged in public life. We revere you, because you harbour human life within you from its very beginnings, giving it care and tenderness. God has given you a special sensitivity for everything that pertains to education, humanitarian work and the apostolic life. We give thanks to God for your activities and we hope that you will be able to exercise greater responsibility in public life.
Young women and men, we look to you with the same love which Christ had for the young man in the Gospel (cf. Mk 10:21). You are the potential and renewing force for the future of our Churches, our communities and our countries. Plan your life under the loving gaze of Christ. Be responsible citizens and sincere believers. The Church joins you in your desire to find work commensurate with your talents, work which will help to stimulate your creativity, providing for your future and making possible the formation of a family of believers. Overcome the temptation of materialism and consumerism. Be strong in your Christian values.
We greet the heads of Catholic institutions of education. Pursue excellence and the Christian spirit in your teaching and education. Aim at the consolidation of a culture of harmonious living and concern for the poor and disabled. In spite of the challenges which confront your institutions, we invite you to maintain them, so as to further the Church’s educative mission and to promote the development and common good of our societies.
We address with great esteem those who work in the social sector. In your institutions you are at the service of charity. We encourage and support you in this mission of development, guided by the rich social teaching of the Church. Through your work, you strengthen the bonds of fellowship between people and serve the poor, the marginalised, the sick, refugees and prisoners without discrimination. You are guided by the words of the Lord Jesus: “Everything you do to one of these little ones, you do it to me!” (Mt 25:40).
We look with hope to prayer groups and apostolic movements. They are schools where our faith can mature and we can be given the strength to live that faith in family and society. We appreciate their activities in parishes and dioceses and their support for pastors, in accordance with the Church’s directives. We thank God for these groups and movements which are active cells in the parish and seed-beds for vocations to both the priesthood and the consecrated life.
We appreciate the role of the means of social communication, both printed and audio-visual. We thank you journalists for your collaboration with the Church in broadcasting her teachings and activities and, over the course of these days, for having given global news coverage to the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod.
We are pleased with the contribution of the media, both international and Catholic. With regard to the Middle East, Télé Lumiere-Noursat merits a special mention. We hope it will be able to continue its service of providing information and forming the faith, of working on behalf of Christian unity, of consolidating the Christian presence in the Middle East, of strengthening interreligious dialogue and the communion of all peoples of Middle Eastern origin, presently in every part of the globe.
To Our Faithful in the Diaspora
5. Emigration has become a generalised phenomenon by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. All emigrate for reasons arising from political and economic instability. However, Christians also emigrate from a sense of insecurity, in varying degrees, in many Middle Eastern countries. May Christians have trust in the future and continue to live in their dear countries.
We send our greetings to you, members of our Churches in the various countries of the Diaspora. We ask you to keep alive in your hearts and concerns the memory of your countries and your Churches. You can contribute to their development and their growth by your prayers, your thoughts, your visits and by various other means, despite the fact that you are far from the Middle East.
Look at your goods and your properties in your home country; do not abandon and sell them too quickly. Keep them as your patrimony and as a piece of the homeland to which you remain attached, a homeland which you love and support. The land is part of a person's identity and his mission. It is a vital aspect of the lives of those who remain there and for those who one day will return there. The land is a public good, a good of the community and a common patrimony. It should not be reduced to a question of individual interests on the part of those who own it and who alone decide, according to their desires, to keep or abandon it.
We accompany you with our prayers, you the children of our Churches and of our countries, forced to emigrate. Bear with you your faith, your culture and your patrimony, so as to enrich your new countries which provide you with peace, freedom and work. Look towards the future with confidence and joy. Hold fast to your spiritual values, to your cultural traditions and to your national patrimony, in order to offer to the countries which welcome you the best of yourselves and the best of that which you have. We thank the Churches of the countries of the Diaspora which have received our faithful and unceasingly collaborate with us to ensure the necessary pastoral services for them.
To the Migrants in Our Countries and Our Churches
6. We send our greetings to all immigrants of varying nationalities, who have come to our countries seeking employment.
We welcome you, beloved faithful, and we see your faith as a source of enrichment and a support for the faithful of our Churches. We joyously provide you with every spiritual assistance you might need.
We ask our Churches to pay special attention to these brothers and sisters and their difficulties, whatever may be their religion, especially when their rights and dignity are subject to abuse. They come to us not simply to seek the means for living but offer the services which our countries need. Their dignity comes from God. Like every human person, they have rights which must be respected. No one should violate those rights. That is why we call upon the various governments which receive them to respect and defend their rights.
Communion and Witness Together with the Orthodox and Protestant Communities in the Middle East
7. We send our greetings to the Orthodox and Protestant Communities in our countries. Together we work for the good of all Christians, that they may remain, grow and prosper. We share the same journey. Our challenges are the same and our future is the same. We wish to bear witness together as disciples of Christ. Only through our unity can we accomplish the mission that God has entrusted to us, despite the differences among our Churches. The prayer of Christ is our support; the commandment of love unites us, even if the road towards full communion is still distant for us.
We have walked together in the Middle East Council of Churches and we wish, with God’s grace, to continue on this path and to promote its activity, having as an ultimate goal a common testimony to our faith, the service of our faithful and of all our countries. We acknowledge and encourage all initiatives for ecumenical dialogue in each of our countries.
We express our gratitude to the World Council of Churches and to the different ecumenical organisations which work for the unity of the Churches and for their support.
IV. Cooperation and Dialogue with Our Fellow-Citizens, the Jews
8. The same Scriptures unite us; the Old Testament, the Word of God is for both you and us. We believe all that God revealed there, since he called Abraham, our common father in the faith, Father of Jews, of Christians and of Muslims. We believe in the promises of God and his covenant given to Abraham and to you. We believe that the Word of God is eternal.
The Second Vatican Council published the document Nostra aetate which treats interreligious dialogue with Judaism, Islam and the other religions. Other documents have subsequently clarified and developed the relationship with Judaism. On-going dialogue is taking place between the Church and the representatives of Judaism. We hope that this dialogue can bring us to work together to press those in authority to put and end to the political conflict which results in separating us and disrupting everyday life in our countries.
It is time for us to commit ourselves together to a sincere, just and permanent peace. Both Christians and Jews are called to this task by the Word of God. In his Word, we are invited us to listen to the voice of God “who speaks of peace”: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his holy ones” (Ps 85:9). Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable. On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God’s commandments, namely, according to God's bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.
V. Cooperation and Dialogue with Our Fellow-Citizens, the Muslims
9. We are united by the faith in one God and by the commandment that says: do good and avoid evil. The words of the Second Vatican Council on the relations with other religions offer the basis for the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslims: “The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men” (Nostra aetate 3).
We say to our Muslim fellow-citizens: we are brothers and sisters; God wishes us to be together, united by one faith in God and by the dual commandment of love of God and neighbour. Together we will construct our civil societies on the basis of citizenship, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Together we will work for the promotion of justice, peace, the rights of persons and the values of life and of the family. The construction of our countries is our common responsibility. We wish to offer to the East and to the West a model of coexistence between different religions and of positive collaboration between different civilisations for the good of our countries and that of all humanity.
Since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century and to the present, we have lived together and we have collaborated in the creation of our common civilisation. As in the past and still existent today, some imbalances are present in our relations. Through dialogue we must avoid all imbalances and misunderstandings. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that our dialogue must not be a passing reality. It is rather a vital necessity on which our future depends (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Representatives from the Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Our duty then is to educate believers concerning interreligious dialogue, the acceptance of pluralism and mutual esteem.
VI. Our Participation in Public Life: An Appeal to the Governments and to the Political Leadership in Our Countries
10. We appreciate the efforts which have been expended for the common good and the service to our societies. You are in our prayers and we ask God to guide your steps. We address you regarding the importance of equality among all citizens. Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties towards their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.
We appeal to you to redouble your efforts to establish a just and lasting peace throughout the region and to stop the arms race, which will lead to security and economic prosperity and stop the hemorrhage of emigration which empties our countries of its vital forces. Peace is a precious gift entrusted by God to human family, whose members are to be “peacemakers who will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).
VII. Appeal to the International Community
11. The citizens of the countries of the Middle East call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations conscientiously to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the Security Council’s resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.
The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security. The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders. The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State-solution might become a reality and not a dream only.
Iraq will be able to put an end to the consequences of its deadly war and re-establish a secure way of life which will protect all its citizens with all their social structures, both religious and national.
Lebanon will be able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and carry on in its vocation to be the model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, of dialogue between different cultures and religions, and of the promotion of basic public freedoms.
We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world.
Conclusion: Continue to Bear Witness to the Divine Path That Has Been Shown to Us in the Person of Jesus
12. Brothers and sisters, in closing, we say with the St. John the Apostle: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”(1 Jn 1:1-3).
This Divine Life which has appeared to the apostles over 2000 years ago in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and to which the Church has witnessed throughout the course of her history will always remain the life of our Churches in the Middle East and the object of our witness, sustained by the promise of the Lord:“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the time” (Mt 28:20). Together we proceed on our journey with hope,“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rm 5:5).
We confess that, until now, we have not done what is possible to better live communion in our communities. We have not done enough to better live communion among our communities. We have not done everything possible to confirm you in your faith and to give you the spiritual nourishment you need in your difficulties. The Lord invites us to a conversion as individuals and communities.
Today we return to you full of hope, strength and resolution, bearing with us the message of the Synod and its recommendations in order to study them together and to put them into practice in our Churches, each one according to the Church’s states of life. We hope also that this new effort might be ecumenical.
We make a humble and sincere appeal to you, that together we might embark on the road of conversion, allowing ourselves to be renewed through the grace of the Holy Spirit and again draw close to God.
To the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, under whose protection we have accomplished our Synodal task, we entrust our journey towards new, Christian horizons in the faith of Christ and through the power of his word: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).
[00208-02.02] [NNNNN] [Original text: Arabic]
Միջին Արեւելքի Եկեղեցիներու Փակման Նիստը։
Ուրբաթ 22 Հոկտեմբեր 2010-ի՝ յետ միջօրէին սիւնոդոսական նիստի ընթացքին ընթերցումը կատարուեցաւ սիւնոդոսի եզրափակիչ պատգամի վերջնական թղթածրարին որ շարադրուած էր պաշտօնական չորս
Միջին Արեւելքի Յատուկ Սիւնոդոս
Միջին Արեւելքի Եկեղեցինե ր ու Սիւնոդոսական Նիստը այսօր դադրած Է, առ այդ մեր Հարցազրոյց - հանդիպումներու շարքին ուզեցինք լսելի ընել նաեւ կազմակերպչական եւ քարտուղարական մարմնին
Միջին Արեւելքի Յատուկ Սիւնոդոս
Միջին Արեւելքի Յատուկ Սիւնոդոս
Հարցազրոյց - Հանդիպում Հայր Գէորգ Ծ վրդ Նորատունկեանին Հետ, սիւնոդոսական նիստի ընթացքին իր ունեցած միջամտութեան մասին։
Roma Capitale is promoting two major international events for the Synod of Bishops
On 19 October on the occasion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, Roma Capitale is promoting two major international events in collaboration with the Synod of Bishops, Vatican Radio, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Center of Communion and Liberation. On the morning of 19 October starting at 10 a.m. in the Protomoteca Hall at the Campidoglio, a conference will be held on “Christian Witness at the Service of Peace”; the following will participate: Gianni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome, Franco Frattini, Italian Foreign Minister, H. Ex. Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops,Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Radio and CTV, Don Juliàn Carròn, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., Custodian of the Holy Land. The coordinator will be Roberto Fontolan, Director of the International Center of Communion and Liberation.
Members of the Presidency, the Synodal Fathers and the other participants at the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops have been invited to the conference.
In the evening, at 9:00 p.m. at the Auditorium della Conciliazione of Rome, the international concert "Effata, Artists in Dialogue for the Middle East" will take place, promoted by Roma Capitale in collaboration with Hope and Radio Vaticana. As can be read in the official presentation of the event, "It is significant that it should be from Rome, the Eternal City by universal vocation, that the artists ‘in dialogue for the Middle East’, who come from the five continents, should want to renew in the hearts of all men and women of good will the invitation that gives the evening its title: do not close yourself up in yourself, but ‘Effata, open up!’"
Intervention of Rev. Raymond Leslie O'TOOLE, Assistant Secretary General, "Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences" (F.A.B.C.) (HONG KONG), auditor
The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences comprises regions that include East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. The Middle East is sometimes referred to as West Asia as it is in the Introduction of Pope John Paul II’s Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia. “Because Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again in the Holy Land that small portion of Western Asia became a land of promise and hope for all mankind”
I would like to address number 55-56 of the Intrumentum Laboris which refers to some responses from the Lineamenta. These responses suggest periodically calling (perhaps every five years) an assembly of the entire episcopate of the Middle East. In the Relatio ante Disceptationem this is worded “Hopefully a regional assembly can be established which gathers the episcopate of the Middle East at intervals determined by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East,”
I would like to underline the vital importance of such assemblies of the entire episcopate for purposes of unity and diversity and communio in general
Permit me to give a living example of communio in practice. In India we have three Rites. The Syro-Malankara, Syro-Malabar and Latin Rite. Every two years the three Rites meet in what is called the General Body assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. In the 1990s John Paul II of happy memory created the Episcopal Synods of Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar and the Latin Episcopal Conference. Before that there was only one Episcopal Conference, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. But the late Holy Father, in all wisdom, while creating the 2 new Oriental Synods and the Latin Rite Conference insisted on maintaining the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India as a structure whereby all three rites would meet regularly. An Episcopal Conference which is non-canonical in nature but provides a structure for the Unity of the Episcopate especially because of its diversity. And a forum for discussion of all the pastoral challenges that present themselves.
In Central Asia we have another example of Unity in Diversity and Communio - an assembly of the Episcopate and Ordinaries that includes a Holy See Delegate for the Oriental Catholics of Central Asia. He is a priest Fr. Vasyl Hovera who resides in Karaganda, Kazakhstan but is responsible for the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics in Central Asia. He is part of Conference of Bishops of Kazakhstan and attends all the assemblies of the Bishops and Ordinaries of Central Asia which meets every year. I have attended two of these meetings one in Bishkek I Kyrgyzstan and the other in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
I highlight these two examples of how important it is for the Bishops of all the Rites to meet regularly. I suggest for the Middle East that it become a permanent structure where by the entire episcopate meets every two years and that be a strong recommendation from this Special Synod to the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East.
Finally I would like to say that as a simple secretary for the Asian Bishops, I strongly recommend that our secretariats for the whole of Asia and the Middle East keep in close contact for the purpose of forging closer ties because many of our pastoral challenges as Churches in the Middle East and the whole of Asia are quite similar based on our being small flocks in the midst of countries where other religions are the vast majority. And quite often it is the secretariats that make things happen.
[00185-02.02] [UD026] [Original text: English]
RELATIO POST DISCEPTATIONEM
Today the General Relator, H. B. Antonios NAGUIB, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT), intervened for the reading of the Relatio post disceptationem (Report after the Discussion).In his second report, at the conclusion of the general discussion of the Synodal theme in the Hall, the General Relator summarized the different interventions heard in these days in the General Congregations and offered several guidelines for orientation to facilitate the works of the working groups.
After the break, Special Secretary H.Exc.. Mons. Joseph SOUEIF, Archbishop of the Maronites of Cyprus (CYPRUS)
The entire text is published below:
Most Holy Father,
Your Eminences, Beatitudes and Excellencies,Fraternal Delegates of the Sister Churches and Ecclesial Communities,
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Auditors, Experts, Invited Guests and Assistants,
“You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). On the day of Pentecost, the Apostles received the promised Holy Spirit and obeyed the mission that Christ entrusted to them. They traveled throughout the world, preaching Christ and the Gospel and bearing witness to him even offering the supreme witness of martyrdom. Each synod assembly is a renewal and a continuation of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is also at work today, with us and in us, as he always will be with his Church.
As a happy and providential happening, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops began its work on 11 October 2010, the 48th anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (11 October 1962) by the Blessed Pope John XXIII, whose feast is celebrated the same day. This year is also the 45th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops by Pope Paul VI on 15 September 1965.
In this Synod dedicated to “Communion and Witness”, there were cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, consecrated men and women, lay persons, invited brothers and sisters, united around the Holy Father and guided by the Holy Spirit in a ‘Communion’ for all to see, not in theory but in fact.
We would like to renew our gratitude to the Holy Father, who took the initiative of convoking this historical Assembly. We are experiencing its fraternal, warm and optimistic atmosphere, leading us to hope for many beneficial fruits for the future of our Churches and their mission. We would like this Synod to be of value for all Churches, in both the East and West, leading them all to a living, practical communion. We also thank the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for its preparatory work and guidance.
This Synod is essentially dedicated to the Churches of the Middle East, as its title indicates. But the Holy Father wished to add the Churches of North Eastern Africa, the Gulf, Turkey and Iran, which are closely related to our Churches. Just as he wished the participation of the heads of dicasteries of the Holy See, the representatives of our Churches of the Diaspora, the Union of Superiors General and the Catholic episcopal conferences, as well as the assistants to the Special Secretary, the auditors, the fraternal delegates of the Sister-Churches and ecclesial communities, and those specially invited guests from Islam and Judaism. This makes the Synod a good example of ecclesial communion, universal participation, and an ecumenical and inter-religious encounter.
A. The goal of the Synod
“Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7). I feel that it would be useful to recall once again the twofold aim of the Synod:
1) to confirm and strengthen the Church’s members in their Christian identity, through the Word of God and the sacraments; and
2) to foster ecclesial communion between the Catholic Churches sui iuris, so that they may offer an authentic and effective witness. Essential elements in this witness in our lives are ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and the missionary effort.
We would like to give our Christian people reasons for their presence in our countries and confirm them in their mission of being, and continuing to be, authentic witnesses of the Risen Christ, in every aspect of their lives. Amidst oftentimes very difficult yet promising circumstances in life, they are a visible icon of Christ, the “flesh and blood” incarnation of his Church and the present-day instrument of the Holy Spirit’s activity.
B. A reflection guided by Holy Scripture
The synod fathers illustrated this point well. Our region remains faithful to the revealed Word of God, written by the men of our lands, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The people and our lands incarnate the history of God’s love for humanity, becoming a message of love for all people. The Word of God will always be the source of inspiration of our communion, our fidelity, our love, our spirit of mission and our witness. We must become people of the Bible, animated by the spirit of the Gospel which transforms us into living Gospels, sown like seeds and leaven where we live, to cultivate there a Gospel culture and not be conformed to the materialistic, egotistical and relativist culture of society. The Word of God remains the spiritual source and the theological treasure of our living liturgies.
We were reminded that our faithful have a great thirst for the Word of God. If we are not able to give them to drink, they will go to drink elsewhere. This is why we need many academically trained persons in biblical matters, but especially those who are pastorally and spiritually specialized in Holy Scripture. “Priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all… In order that it might more effectively move men's minds, the word of God ought not to be explained in a general and abstract way, but rather by applying the lasting truth of the Gospel to the particular circumstances of life” (Presbyterorum ordinis, 4). Therefore, they should help the faithful to see Jesus Christ the fulfilment of the Scriptures and to allow the Word of God to shed light on the happenings of their own history (cf. Ps 118:105).
The concept of “revelation” needs to be more defined, because of its ambiguous character as a result of different trends in Islam. For us, revelation is the saving intervention of God in human history, through historical events experienced as God’s gratuitous acts of love to his faithful. It is the dialogue between God and humanity in history. The oral announcement of these interventions is part of this “revelation”, because it transmits faith from generation to generation. Holy Scripture is a synthesis of this revelation, but it remains a “dead letter” for readers if it is not received as the “transmission of faith” from their Church and their Christian community. Proclaiming, listening to, reading or meditating on the Bible is an encounter with the person of Christ himself. The Bible necessarily has a privileged place in the liturgy and the celebrations of the Word in small groups, as exemplified in the first Christian communities, for an existential understanding of the Word of God. Through celebration, the Word becomes life-giving and effective in the lives of those who listen, meditate, celebrate and find their way in life by its light.
The Word of God must be the foundation of all education and formation in our “households”, our Churches and our schools, especially in our minority status in societies with a non-Christian majority, where the culture and values of this majority prevail and permeate every area of public life and pose the risk of conditioning our thinking and behavior. The Word of God must evangelize our life, so that our life can evangelize society.
I. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE EAST
A. THE SITUATION OF CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
1. An Historical Sketch: Unity in Diversity
The light of Christ came from the East. Christ will always remain the true, invincible sun that will never be eclipsed. The face of Christ shines like the sun (Mt 17:2) and illuminates every aspect of human history.
The particular Churches find their origin in the Church of Jerusalem, born at Pentecost. From Jerusalem, from the East, our Churches and all the Churches of Christ were born. Christianity is rooted in the East, it grew there and spread from there to the West, and to the ends of the earth. St. Paul’s conversion occurred in Damascus, which he left as an Arab to become the “Apostle of the Nations”.
The Churches multiplied yet were united by the Word of God, the sacraments and the teaching of the Apostles. Unity is an essential component of the Christian and the Church of Christ: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
Unfortunately, following conflicts in the course of her history the Church has endured various divisions. To assist ecumenical dialogue, historical and theological studies need to focus more on these tragic periods and events.
2. Apostolic Communities in an Apostolic Land
“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15). These were Jesus’ words as he left his disciples. Jesus takes the initiative and places his trust in the apostles who did not believe those who had seen him risen, saying: “Go! Proclaim!” Jesus did not only command the apostles to proclaim the Gospel, but to proclaim it to the whole world. This is the Church’s mission. To be “Christian” is to be “missionary”. We cannot be Christian if we are not missionary. Proclamation is a duty of the Church and the Christian. Proclamation done in peace and respect is not proselytism.
The Apostles and the Church born in these lands were faithful to this commandment from the Master, taking the faith in Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, often at the cost of martyrdom. Their blood was the seed of many Churches. The first Churches are the fruit of the death and the resurrection of Christ. Our Churches were at the forefront of missionary activity. Apart from their roots and missionary histories, our Churches are open to oikouméné, “universality”, as the crossroads where East meets West.
Today, Jesus again asks us to continue the activity of the Apostles and our Churches of origin. Jesus never stops sending out his Church, sending us out “to all creation”. Therefore, we are sent on a mission in our world of schools, towns, work, countries and the entire planet. Jesus does not ask us to demonstrate the proof of things or to convince people through argument, he simply asks us to bear witness to our faith with joy and strength.
By her very nature, the Church is essentially missionary (Ad gentes, 20). The proclamation of the Gospel and the proclamation of Christ to all peoples is the supreme duty of our Churches and all Churches. Our Churches need to reawaken our missionary zeal and to renew in us the meaning, sense, ardor, enthusiasm and dynamism of our being missionary. Missionary activity must once again find a place in the life of our Eastern Churches. We must again renew our commitment to evangelisation, within as well as outside our countries. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). “Mission” and the “proclamation” must find their places in our Churches, according to the concrete possibilities in each country.
For this to happen, missionary formation is necessary for our faithful, especially those in leadership positions in the life of the Church. Moreover, a sense of mission must be closely bound to the vocation and ministry of the priest. We call for the establishment of an Institute for Missionary Formation, at least on the regional level. Above all, we must support the missions and missionaries through prayer.
3. The Role of Christians in Society, Although a Small Minority
Middle Eastern Christians are ‘indigenous citizens’. They are fully a part of the fabric of society and are identified with their respective countries. This conviction must be reinforced in the souls of the Pastors and the faithful, to help them live with serenity, strength and commitment in their homeland.
The synod fathers spoke a great deal about the favourable conditions for Christians in our countries. The socio-political context is an important factor in this area. “Positive laicity” was evoked as a favourable factor. But the term itself is not well accepted among us, because it is associated with atheism or secularism, which marginalises the religious dimension and an openness to God and the Absolute. We prefer the term “civic state”. However, migrants would find themselves faced with the term ‘laicity’. The term ‘citizenship’ is also problematic, inasmuch as its concept is narrower in the East than in the West.
The “civic state” designates a socio-political system based on respect for each person and individual freedom, equality and total citizenship, the recognition of the role of religion, even in public life, and moral values. This system recognizes and guarantees religious freedom, freedom of worship and freedom of conscience. It distinguishes between the civil and religious order, without either having dominance over the other, and respect for each one’s autonomy. Religion must not be politicised nor the State take precedence over religion.
A qualitative presence is required for the Church to have a real and effective impact on society. This requires a sound doctrinal, spiritual and social formation of Pastors and the faithful, especially youth. Our Churches must awaken a courageous commitment of the faithful to a visible and incisive presence in public life, administration, public works and multi-confessional democratic parties, making them ‘indispensable’ through their quality, effectiveness and capability in honestly serving the common good. The number of persons in the Church is not as important as their living their faith and effectively transmitting the message. In this regard, the family has an essential part in educating children in both this spirit and outlook.
It is also important to instill in people a spirit of ‘citizenship’ both in ways of thinking and the manner of living. Modern media (sms, website, internet, television, radio) have an important place in this field. They provide a powerful and valuable means for spreading the Christian message, for facing the challenges to the Christian message and for communicating with the faithful of the Diaspora. Key persons need formation to achieve these ends. Eastern Christians must commit themselves to working for the common good, in all its aspects, as they always have done.
Through the presentation of the Church’s social doctrine, which at times has been lacking, our communities provide a sound contribution in the construction of society. The promotion of the family and the defence of life should have a primary place in our Church’s teaching and mission. Education is the privileged area for activity and major investment. Where possible, our schools should better help the needy. Though the sacrifices are many, these schools, are, in a certain way, the core of our presence in cities, inasmuch as they are the privileged places – sometimes the only ones – which ensure a positive, constructive, ecumenical and inter-religious manner of living together. They promote and reinforce the Gospel and human values of human rights, non-violence, dialogue, openness, harmony and peace. In some countries, they are the only places of Christian formation. They must be maintained at all costs. We express our gratitude to those who provide assistance to achieve these goals. Through their social, healthcare and charitable activities, available to all members of society, our Churches visibly collaborate for the common good.
To ensure her evangelical credibility, the Church must find the means to guarantee transparency in the management of money, by clearly distinguishing between what belongs to the Church and what belongs personally to those in service of the Church. In this regard, appropriate structures are needed.
B. THE CHALLENGES FACING CHRISTIANS
1. The Political Conflicts in the Region
The socio – political situations of our countries have a direct impact on Christians, who feel more strongly their negative consequences. While condemning the violence whatever its origin and calling for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we express our solidarity with the Palestinian people, whose current situation encourages fundamentalism. We also call upon the political world to pay sufficient attention to the tragic situation of Christians in Iraq who are the main victim of the war and its effects.
According to the possibilities in each country, Christians must promote democracy, justice and peace, and positive secularism, with the distinction between religion and state, and respect for every religion. An attitude of positive engagement in society is a constructive response for society as well as for the Church.
The Churches in the West are asked not take the side of one party, forgetting the point of view and the conditions of the other.
2. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience
Human rights are the foundation which guarantees the good of the whole person, and the criteria of any political system. Religious freedom is an essential component of human rights. The lack of religious freedom is most often associated with deprivation of fundamental rights. Freedom of worship is an aspect of religious freedom. In most of our countries freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution. But even there, in some countries, certain acts or practices limit their application.
The other aspect of religious freedom is freedom of conscience, based on the free choice of the person. Freedom of conscience is confirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948, Article 18), and ratified by most of the countries of our region. Religious freedom is not a relativism that treats all faiths equally. Rather it is the result of the duty of every person to adhere to the truth by a firm choice of conscience, and with respect to the dignity of each person. With all people of good will, the Church seeks to promote pluralism in equality. Education in this sense is a valuable contribution to the cultural progress of the country, ensuring more justice and equality before the law.
Religious freedom includes also the right to confess one’s faith, which is a right and duty for every religion. This peaceful confession is very different from “proselytism” which the Church strongly condemns in all its forms. According to Wikipedia, "the term proselytism comes from the Latin word proselytus and the Greek προσήλυτος (prosêlutos), which means ‘new entrant (within a country)’. In the New Testament, this term is commonly used to designate a person who comes from paganism, to approach Jewish and then Christian monotheism (Mt 23:15, Jn 12:20, Acts 2:10, etc.). Proselytism, therefore designates the attitude of those who seek to create converts, new adherents to their faith. By extension, this means the zeal to indoctrinate people. The term now has a negative connotation in its use when referring to religious or political activities”. It should be noted that this meaning applies to these activities when they use fraudulent or dishonest means, or abuse their authority, their wealth or their power to attract new followers. The confession of faith that the Church proclaims is the contrary: it is the serene and peaceful proclamation and presentation of faith in Jesus Christ.
3. Christians and the Evolution of Contemporary Islam
Since the 1970s, we have been seeing in the region the rise of political Islam, which includes various religious currents. It affects the situation of Christians, especially in the Arab world. It wants to impose an Islamic way of life on all citizens, sometimes by violence. Therefore, it constitutes a real threat to all, and we must face these extremist currents together.
One of the major challenges threatening the presence of Christians in some countries in the Middle East is emigration. This topic is a common concern in all Churches, and should be considered in an ecumenical partnership. The main causes of this troubling phenomenon are economic and political situations, the rise of fundamentalism, and the restriction of freedoms and equality, exacerbated strongly by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq. Youth, the educated and affluent people are more likely to leave, depriving the Church and the country of its most valuable resources. Emigration has become a general phenomenon that affects Christians and Muslims. It deprives our Churches and our countries of valuable and moderate elements. The motives that cause people, especially Christians, to leave the region would constitute a good subject of sincere and frank dialogue with Muslims.
Emigration is a natural right left to the free choice of individuals and families, especially those located in harsh conditions. But the Church has the duty to encourage her faithful to remain as witnesses, apostles and builders of peace and welfare of their countries. Pastors should help the faithful become more aware of their vocation, their mission and their historical role in their countries, as bearers of Christ's message to their country, even amidst difficulties and persecution. Their absence would negatively affect the future. It is with deep faith that Christians find the motivation to live courageously and joyfully their Christianity in their country. It is important to avoid defeatist talk, or encourage emigration as a preferred option. On the other hand, we must foster the conditions that encourage the decision to stay. It is up to politicians to consolidate peace, democracy and development, to foster a climate of stability and confidence. Christians, along with all people of good will, are called to engage positively in achieving this goal. Greater awareness on the part of international bodies of the duty to contribute to the development of our countries would help a great deal in this regard.
Many speakers pointed out the very positive relationship between Eastern Catholic communities in the Diaspora and the local Latin Church of the host countries, including the United States, Oceania, Australia and many European countries. The Christians arriving from the Middle East appeal to the hospitality of their brothers and sisters in the West, and awaken their Christian consciences. Our Churches are very grateful to the Churches of the host countries for the valuable assistance they provide to our emigrant faithful. The synod fathers drew attention to the necessity and importance of communicating with the Christians of Europe the causes that make millions of Christians leave the Middle East. An Eastern Patriarchal Vicar could be appointed to coordinate the pastoral care for faithful of his Church in the Diaspora.
The host Churches should provide immigrants with their structures: parishes, schools, meeting centres, and others. This requires structures of reception, social and cultural tutoring and guidance. Most of the welcoming dioceses have special pastoral programmes for immigrants, with a special section for Eastern communities. With gratitude, we greatly appreciate their laudable concern and solicitude for solidarity. Western Christians are to express effectively their support for Christians in the Middle East, by helping and supporting their Eastern brothers.
The host Churches in their laws and sacramental practices are also invited to know and respect eastern theology, traditions and heritage. One of the roles of the host Churches is also to accompany migrants, overwhelmed by the painful memory of humiliating and offensive actions through a process of forgiveness. These Churches will act to ensure that their countries take appropriate measures to guarantee the respect, dignity and rights of the human person and of the family, which must remain united, and receive what is necessary to lead a dignified life, acceptable to God.
The Churches of North Africa want to collaborate with the Churches of the Middle East, and also seek the presence of Arab priests to strengthen their dialogue with Muslims. The Latin Catholic Church in the Maghreb is living in a pluralist and ecumenically satisfying context. Latin Churches in the Gulf have explained the complicated special situation in which they are located, and which makes them adopt structures and a pastoral style that appear restrictive. They confirm that they are doing everything possible to meet the vast needs of migrants, within the restrictive limits of civil and religious possibilities.
The synod fathers have emphasized the need and frequency of extending the jurisdiction of the Patriarchs to the faithful of their rite outside the territory of the Patriarchal Church sui iuris. They are eager to move from the territorial concept to the personal concept. Limiting the jurisdiction of the Patriarch to the faithful of his Church sui iuris is logical on the personal level and not a territorial one. How can one be “Father and Head" of a people without a head? This extension of jurisdiction arises in the context of an adaptation of pastoral service to the faithful in the eastern Diaspora. Communion is a personal relationship, animated by the Holy Spirit. This perspective is very important for ecumenical dialogue and the progress towards perfect unity.
Emigration is also a major support for the countries and the Churches. The Church of the original country must find ways to maintain close ties with her emigrated faithful and to ensure their spiritual assistance. It is indispensable to provide the faithful of the Eastern Churches, in Latin territories, with the Liturgy in their own rite. The selling of property in the homeland is highly regrettable. The retention or acquisition of land encourages return. The land affirms and reinforces identity and belonging, and this requires a rootedness in the land. Communities in the Diaspora have a role to encourage and consolidate the Christian presence in the East, to strengthen their witness and to support their cause for the common good of the country. Appropriate pastoral care should take care of internal emigration in each country.
5. The Immigration of Christians to the Middle East from the World Over
The Middle Eastern countries are experiencing a new phenomenon: receiving many African and Asian migrant workers, most of whom are women. They find themselves in an atmosphere of Muslim predominance, and sometimes with little opportunity for religious practice. Many feel abandoned, faced with abuse and mistreatment, in situations of injustice, and violation of laws and international conventions. Some immigrants change their names to be more accepted and supported.
Our Churches must make a greater effort to help them, by welcoming, by support, and by human, religious and social assistance. In each of our countries, our Catholic Churches should establish a special pastoral care proper for them in a coordinated effort among the bishops, religious congregations, and social and charitable organizations. This also requires cooperation between the Catholic authorities of the place, and the hierarchy of the Churches of origin.
C. RESPONSE OF CHRISTIANS IN THEIR DAILY LIFE
Christian witness at all levels is the primary response in the circumstances in which Christians live. The development of this witness, in following Jesus Christ ever more closely, is a requirement at all levels: clergy, religious orders, congregations, institutes and societies of apostolic life, as well as lay people, according to the particular vocation of each one. The formation of clergy and of faithful, homilies and catechesis must deepen and strengthen the sense of faith and conscience of the role and of the mission in society, as a translation and witness of this faith. Ecclesial renewal is required, including conversion and purification, spiritual growth and determination of priorities in life and mission.
A special effort must be made to discover and train the leadership needed at all levels. They should be a model of witness, to support and encourage their brothers and sisters, especially in difficult times. It is also advisable to train leaders to present Christianity to Christians who have little contact with the Church or are far from her, or to non-Christians. The quality of leaders is more important than the number. The ongoing formation is indispensable. Particular attention should be given to youth, who are the strength of the present and the hope of the future. Christians should be encouraged to be engaged in public institutions to build up public life.
The danger that threatens Christians in the Middle East comes not only from their minority status, or external threats, but above all from their distance from the truth of their Gospel, their faith and their mission. A divided life is more dangerous to Christianity than any other threat. The true tragedy of man is not when he suffers because of his mission, but when he has no more mission and thereby loses the meaning and purpose of his life. Even in difficult and tragic situations, a Christian response in daily life will be pastoral commitment, the works of charity and cultural and educational initiatives of high quality. Concrete examples illustrate this commitment, as in Turkey and elsewhere.
II. ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
A. PARTICIPATION IN THE PASCHAL MYSTERY: CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION
The mystery of the Church consists in its identity as the Body of Christ. The Church is essentially communion with Jesus Christ: "Abide in me as I do in you ... I am the vine, you are the branches" (Jn 15:4-5). "Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56). “Christ is the Head of the Body, the Church" (Col 1:18). He unites us to his Passover: all members should strive to be like him "until Christ be formed in them" (Gal 4:19). "To this end, we are introduced to the mysteries of his life ... associated with his sufferings as the body to the head, united in his passion to be united to his glory" (Lumen gentium, 7). He provides for our growth (cf. Col 2:19): to make us grow toward him, our head (cf. Eph 4:11-16), Christ has given to his body, the Church, the gifts and services by which we help one another on the path of salvation. Christ together with the Church are therefore the "total Christ". The Church is one with Christ. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 787-795)
The source and the model of communion are therefore, nothing less than the Trinitarian life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The participation of the baptized in the Trinity creates communion among persons and communities. The universal Church is a communion of Churches. The Church makes real the communion in the paschal mystery, the death and resurrection of Christ. Communion profoundly lives out unity in diversity, and diversity in unity. This should serve to bring out the beauty of the venerable traditions of our Churches in a deep communion that respects their specific riches.
Communion is the first requirement in the complex reality of the Middle East, and the best witness for our societies. “Without communion there is no witness” (Pope Benedict XVI). It is a communion of faith and love that binds us to the universal Church. We need to deepen an ecclesiology of communion. This will also help in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. We need better to appreciate, understand and to live out the unity of the Church. It is essential that we teach the Church as a “communion” in catechesis, homilies, and in the formation of clergy, religious men and women, and the laity. Communion is called first of all to be affective before becoming effective. It is important for us to cultivate a deep sense of spiritual communion, of belonging to one and the same Church.
B. PARTICIPATION IN THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH: ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC
1. Communion Within the Catholic Church (ad intra)
The “communion” among the Churches is the first goal and first task of this Synod. Communion is based on and nourished by the Word of God, the Sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist and unity with the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter. We are in the first place members of the same Body of Christ, of the same Church, and therefore called to close collaboration, and to a style of life lived in solidarity, charity and brotherhood. Pastors must help the faithful to know, appreciate, love and live the beautiful variety of the Church in unity and love. We must proclaim and teach the meaning of the Church as one, in parishes, schools, seminaries, in catechism, in houses of formation, in movements and in all the institutions of our Churches. The use of the media here is essential and very beneficial.
Communion must start within each Church sui iuris. That is why we must strengthen the structures of communion in the Patriarchal Synod of each Church. One concrete expression of this communion would be the solidarity of personnel and goods between Dioceses. It is desirable to establish structures of communion for common pastoral projects: one inter-ritual seminary in each country, one common pastoral work in the region for young people, for catechesis, for the family, and other common areas. The Popes and the Holy See call religious orders, congregations and movements of Western origin to adopt the language, the rites and the liturgy of the country where they conduct their mission, and to insert themselves fully into its overall pastoral effort. This will ensure a major inculturation into the spiritual, patristic, liturgical, cultural and linguistic heritage of the place and strengthen communion and witness. They must painstakingly avoid forming a separate group.
The difficult circumstances of the present moment encourage us to stronger cohesion among Christian communities, avoiding all confessionalism so as to give positive and constructive responses to the great challenges of the day. Confessionalism and exaggerated attachment to an ethnic group risk turning our Churches into ghettos, turning them in on themselves. An ethnic and nationalist Church impedes the work of the Spirit and is contrary to the universal mission of the Church. We need to see all the Churches in our region united in reflection and action on our common problems such as human rights and other crucial issues. Catholic communities must work together. A periodic meeting of Bishops of the region is to be encouraged. The Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East will be able to study this matter at its next Assembly, and to fix the date, place, and the financial participation of members. It is a powerful tool for the establishment of an overall pastoral approach for the region, and to make the Council of Patriarchs more present and more effective. A post-synodal structure should assure the follow-up of the Synod in the life of our Churches. We would like it to be in connection with the Holy Father and the Holy See.
Inter-ecclesial relations must be encouraged, not only among the Churches sui iuris in the Middle East, but also with the Eastern Churches and with the Latin Church in the Diaspora, in close unity with the Holy Father, the Holy See and the Pontifical Representatives. Our communion with the Churches of the West has deep historical roots. Europe owes its faith to the Eastern Churches (Acts 16:9-10). Monastic life in the West was inspired by monasticism in the Middle East. Today, the West welcomes and supports communities of immigrants from the Middle East, whether of old or recent date. We are most grateful to them. To achieve greater communion, the Latin clergy in the West need to be given a basic knowledge of the sacramental and ecclesial theology of the Eastern Churches and to make known to the Latin faithful the reality and the history of the Eastern Churches.
It is desirable also that the Patriarchs, as part of their identity as “Fathers and Heads” of Churches sui iuris, and who are part of the catholicity of the Catholic Church, be ipso facto members of the College that elects the Supreme Pontiff.
2. Communion Among Bishops, Clergy and Faithful
First of all, communion must be achieved visibly and clearly within each Church. And straight away we must remember that this can only be done by spiritual means: the Eucharist, prayer and the Word of God. The structures of communion and of pastoral work should be created or reactivated. The Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches defines some precious structures of communion. We should begin by making them known and putting them faithfully into practice. Inter-ritual pastoral councils should be created for this.
It is of vital importance to value the role of lay men and women and their participation in the life and mission of the Church. For this Synod to become for them and for the entire Church a true spiritual, pastoral and social springtime, we need to reinforce the commitment of the laity to the common pastoral work of the Church. Women, both consecrated and lay, need to find their proper place and mission there.
At the level of clergy, ecclesial communion is to be encouraged. Associations of common friendship and spirituality already exist, and should be supported and reinforced. The group ministry of priests is difficult to realize, but we should not despair. A synod father suggested the creation of a "bank of priests", or of an association of "priests without borders" to answer the needs of Churches who lack them, in a spirit of communion. The same thing could be done at the level of the laity, on the basis of the common priesthood of all Christians. The faithful and the entire Church of God expect from pastors, consecrated persons, and those responsible for pastoral activities a life in greater conformity with the radicality of the Gospel. Without this radiation of holiness, their lives and actions will remain fruitless. They are, above all, the living witnesses and icons of Christ.
At the level of men and women religious, consecrated persons and ecclesial movements, we have the duty to welcome them, encourage and integrate them, ever more closely into the life and the mission of the Church. The new ecclesial realities should neither be feared nor discarded. They are the precious and indispensible gift of the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the world today. We have to rediscover the value and the treasures of monastic and contemplative life, which are a part of our countries. The communities of contemplative life, where they exist, must be encouraged. Where they do not, we can prepare the terrain for the action of the Spirit to kindle contemplative life by prayer. Religious orders which already exist in our countries could give a precious service to our Churches by taking the initiative of establishing communities in other places or countries. Religious and monastic life is the soul of the Church.
3. Communion With the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities: Ecumenism (ad extra)
«That all of them may be one… so that the world may believe» (Jn 17:21). This prayer by Christ must be continued by his disciples in all ages. The division of Christians goes against Christ’s will, constitutes a scandal and impedes proclamation and witness. Mission and ecumenism are closely linked. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have so much in common that Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI all speak of an "almost complete communion". This must be highlighted above any differences. The positive achievements in the domain of ecumenism, too, must be highlighted and made known. At the same time, we need sincerely to examine our consciences about what we have not done.
A sincere effort is necessary to overcome prejudices, to better understand one another, and to aim for the fullness of communion in faith, sacraments and hierarchical service. This Synod should help further communion and unity with the Orthodox Sister Churches and the ecclesial communities. «The division between Christians is contrary to the same essence of the Church and constitutes an obstacle for her mission » (Letter 5 of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs on ecumenism). At an official level, the Holy See has taken up initiatives in relation to all the Eastern Churches, in collaboration with the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is necessary and very useful to make them known to the Christians of all Churches in our countries. The media need to help with this.
The Bible, the Word of God, is the fruit of dialogue between God and humankind. This is why it should be a privileged source for dialogue with other Christians, and believers of the other religions. A dialogue of respect, of life and of love, a dialogue of the present and of a sharerd future. It has been pointed out that ecumenism is going through a crisis today. On the other hand, we cannot deny the important positive steps which have been taken so far, through the action and the grace of the Holy Spirit. They are the reason and the cause for trust and hope. They call us to greater commitment in the light of the Word of God. It is urgent to make ecumenism a primary objective in Episcopal Assemblies and Conferences. The creation of an ecumenical commission in the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs was proposed. The media should be used to reinforce and vivify ecumenism. The creation and support of Christian ecumenical media could be envisaged. An ecumenical congress in each country, to study together the results, the appeals and the recommendations of the Synod would be very useful.
Ecumenical action requires appropriate behaviour: prayer, conversion, sanctification and the mutual exchange of gifts, in a spirit of respect, mutual charity, solidarity and collaboration. Unity is first of all the work of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Christ’s love to his Church. These attitudes should be cultivated and encouraged, by teaching and the media. The establishment of local commissions of ecumenical dialogue is to be hoped for. Studying the history of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as that of the Latin Church, would help clarify the context, mentality and the perspectives linked to their birth.
We must also reinforce the initiatives and structures that express and support unity, like the council of Middle Eastern Churches and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Everything must be done to consolidate the Council of Middle Eastern Churches and help it in accomplishing its mission. The "purification of memory" is an important step in the search for full unity. It is imperative that we all collaborate together for a common pastoral policy and activities. Thus, cooperation between biblical, theological, patristic and cultural studies would promote this spirit of dialogue. We could take common action in training media experts in the local languages. In proclamation and mission, we should carefully avoid any type of proselytism, and any means opposed to the Gospel. It would be good to encourage ecumenism of life, by looking together for better ways to live our faith.
The wish to unify the dates for Christmas and Easter between Catholics and the Orthodox has been expressed several times. This is a pastoral necessity, given the pluralistic context of the region, and the many mixed marriages between Christians of different ecclesial denominations. This is also a powerful witness of communion… How can this be accomplished? We also hope for the unification of an Arabic text for the primary prayers, beginning with the "Our Father". The plea by one fraternal delegate, to establish a "feast day of martyrs" to be celebrated by all Christians, was welcomed. Several synod fathers evoked the positive impact at the ecumenical and inter-religious levels of the Catholic Schools and Universities in the Middle East. Certain synod fathers expressed the hope that the Eastern Churches might be more involved in ecumenical dialogue between the Holy See and the other Churches, and that they might make their particular contributions to it.
Dialogue is an essential means for ecumenism. It requires a positive attitude of understanding, listening and openness to others. This will help overcome mistrust, and enable people to work together to develop religious values, and to collaborate in socially useful projects. Shared problems should be faced together. The repeated baptism of Catholics by the Orthodox is still a cause of suffering and it diminishes progress towards unity. We encourage practical ecumenical collaboration in the diakonia of service and charity. We would like to see the composition of a manual-guide for ecumenical action, adapted to the region or country. Theological dialogue and dialogue of the diakonia should be founded on spiritual dialogue and prayer, and be translated constantly into a dialogue of life. We will avoid all proselytism and any usage opposed to the Gospel. Perhaps a protocol could be established between Churches committing them to avoid any form of proselytism.
With prayer, reflection, study, and in docility to the action of the Holy Spirit, we must seek to respond to the request of the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (25 May1995), to set out a new way of exercising the primacy, which, not undermining the mission of the Bishop of Rome, draws on the ecclesial forms of the first millennium. If the Holy Father so desires, he could empower a pluri-disciplinary commission to study this delicate subject.
III. CHRISTIAN WITNESS: WITNESSES OF RESURRECTION AND LOVE
«That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim » (1 Jn1:1-3). The Apostles, the Church of the origins, and through them and after them, all Christians are witnesses of the resurrection and love. As in the case of Paul of Tarsus, this is a matter of a personal encounter with the Risen Christ, a spiritual but real encounter, which transforms the Christian into a true witness, even to the point of offering the supreme witness of martyrdom. This experience unites the Christian to the Apostles, saints and martyrs throughout the ages.
Saint Paul lists some necessary characteristics to being a good witness of Christ: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2-3). Only when good relations have been established can we speak about Jesus and his Word. We must make an effort at being faithful to this advice given to us by Saint Paul and welcome persons as they are and love them. The prophetic role of the Church and the faithful needs to be better known and developed as an important part in proclamation and witness.
A. CATECHESIS, WITNESS AND PROCLAMATION FOR THE CHURCH
A Catechesis for Our Times, by Properly Prepared Members of the Faithful
The Church bears witness to the Lord and proclaims his life, works and catechesis, especially initiation to faith and to the sacraments. A sound faith formation and a vibrant spiritual life are the best way of guaranteeing the consolidation of a luminous Christian identity, clear and radiant. Catechesis must address all age groups: children, youth and adults. Catechists must be well prepared for this mission, through a suitable formation which bears in mind today’s problems and challenges. After proper preparation, young people can be good catechists to their peers. Well-prepared parents are to engage in catechetical activities in their families and parishes. The Christian family has a primary role in transmitting the faith to children. Catholic schools, associations and apostolic movements are the privileged places to teach the faith. Our faithful should be formed to understand the Old Testament's part in the work of salvation, which will serve as a safeguard against politicising biblical texts.
Catechesis must be total and complete, taking into account tradition, life experiences, modernity according to Catholic teaching and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in truth and charity. The religious training of children, youth and adults must remedy the disappearance of Christian initiation before baptism, now conferred on babies. Religious education must be integrated with human education. The Church's social doctrine, sometimes lacking for the most part, is an integral part of faith formation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church are excellent resources. The pastorals on the family, childhood and youth have not been mentioned sufficiently in the preparatory documents of this Synod. The problem of sects is a serious challenge that affects our Churches. Catechesis must aim at strengthening our faith as we face socio-religious situations, which must be generally studied and a pastoral plan implemented. It is important to establish a post-baptismal catechumenate to welcome converts to Christianity. Catechesis must lead to an active commitment in the service to the poor, the suffering and the marginalised.
Without the witness of their lives, the action of catechists will remain fruitless. They are above all witnesses of the Gospel. Catechesis must also promote moral and social values, respect for one another, the culture of peace and non-violence as well as a commitment to justice and the environment. We wish to encourage the formation of faith in small groups or small communities, which are more inviting in personal relations. This might prevent our faithful from turning to the sects. In this way, the parish will become the community of communities. It was stated that Eastern Christians, like Western ones, need a new evangelisation for profound conversion and renewal in light of the Word of God and the Eucharist.
We must encourage all the faithful, but especially priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and those responsible in pastoral activity and the apostolate to follow the Church's teachings and to study the documents of the Magisterium, preferably through study in common. Communion also implies frequent contact among patriarchs, bishops, priests and the laity. The spiritual life and the journey of the universal Church must be the primary objectives of formation. Baptism must be given its true meaning and promote Gospel values. The vocation to sanctity must be at the center of faith formation at all stages and forms of the Christian life. Special care must be given to the family, which risks being torn apart and undermined by Western relativism and a dominant non-Christian outlook in our region. Families of mixed religions must be the subject of special pastoral care. The catechetical manuals must supply for what might be lacking and correct errors which are found elsewhere. The topic of "catechetical methodology" was seldom if ever mentioned during the assembly.
The use of modern means of communication is unavoidable in transmitting the faith, in religious formation, in mission and in evangelisation, in educational activity, in the pursuit of peace, in works of development and in activity for the integral development of our societies. The media are the place of witness to Christ and to Christian values. They form a new culture of global communication true and proper, characterised by new languages and new ways of thinking. They are the new areopagi in the global world. Attention needs to be given to avoiding the negative aspects of the media: mass manipulation, the flourishing of sects, violence and pornography and international anti-clericalism. However, it has been noted that the use of the media in our Churches, with few exceptions, is individual and at a primitive level, due to a lack of financial resources, and consequently professional resources, or because of an individualistic way of working. Some suggested the formation of a commission for the vitalisation and the coordination of the means of communication in the Middle East.
Our Churches need skilled persons in these areas. Perhaps we could help the more gifted persons in training them, and then hiring them for this work. Priests, starting in seminaries, and persons in religious life need proper training. The media and communication are a powerful means to consolidate communion. They greater unite the Churches of the Middle East and the world. We hope that Telepace and KTO and other Catholic media will use Arabic sub-titles in their broadcasts and dedicate air-time for broadcasting programmes in Arabic. Such action would also consolidate inter-religious relations. We must establish plans and the means to communicate the results of this Synod and to put into practice its directives and recommendations.
B. THE LITURGY, SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF COMMUNION AND WITNESS
The liturgy is a proclamation and an important wtiness of a Church which prays and not only acts. It "is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time, it is the font from which all her power flows." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). In our Eastern Churches, the Divine Liturgy is the centre of religious life. It has an important part in safeguarding a Christian identity, in strengthening membership in the Church and in animating the life of faith. We must preserve and cultivate the sense of the sacred, of symbols and of popular religiosity which needs to be purified and deepened. Attention needs to be given to the cleanliness and the dignity of holy places, vestments, vessels and holy books. Muslims also have a keen sense of the sacred. Little has been said about the renewal of the liturgy, although it is desired by many. It will be necessary to know how to unite the “old and the new” (Mt 13:52). Tradition is dynamic, tending to move towards perfection in harmony with the new demands of the development of the community (cf. Pope Benedict XVI). Religious communities and movements are called to a true inculturation in the liturgy of the country where they carry out their mission. It was also said that the Latin Church should limit itself to the celebration of the liturgy in Arabic for its Arabic-speaking faithful. It is important and urgent to agree on a unified Arabic text for the Lord’s Prayer for use in the liturgy, meetings and private and public prayer.
C. RELATIONS WITH JUDAISM
1. Vatican II: The Theological Basis for Relations with Judaism
The Declaration Nostra aetate of the Second Vatican Council specifically treats the relations between the Church and the non-Christian religions. Judaism has a special place in this document.
2. The Present-Day Magisterium of the Church
Initiatives for dialogue take place at the level of the Holy See and the local Churches. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects relations between Christians and Jews. Repeatedly, the Holy See has clearly expressed its position, appealing for both peoples to be able to live in peace, each in its own homeland, with secure and internationally recognised borders. A lasting security is based on mutual trust and is fostered by justice and integrity. We have the duty to remind everyone that living together peaceably is the fruit of an authentic recognition and practice of each one’s rights and duties. Prayer for peace is of major importance.
3. Dialogue with Judaism
Our Churches reject anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. The difficulties in relations between the Arab and the Jewish peoples is a result of the situation of political conflict. We distinguish between the religious and political realities. Christians have the mission to be artisans of reconciliation and peace, based on justice for both sides. Local pastoral initiatives of dialogue with Judaism are presently taking place, such as, praying in common, particularly the Psalms, and reading and meditation upon biblical texts. These initiatives create a willingness to make concrete efforts, together calling for peace, reconciliation, mutual pardon and good relations. Other initiatives are being made for a dialogue of the faithful of the children of the three Abrahamic religions.
The Vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Christians must help Hebrew society better know and understand the Church and her teachings. It was established for collaboration in the pastoral service of Hebrew-speaking Catholics and emigrants. This will lead to a peaceful Christian presence in the Holy Land. The misinterpretation of certain verses of the Bible justifies and even fosters violence. The reading of the Old Testament and a greater appreciation for Jewish traditions assist in better understanding the Jewish religion. They offer a common ground for serious study and an aid in better understanding the New Testament and eastern traditions. Other possibilities for collaboration present themselves in the current situation. Dialogue is necessary also at the academic level. Thus, there is need for contact and collaboration among institutes of formation. Catholic schools have an essential role in formation leading to mutual respect and peace.
D. RELATIONS WITH MUSLIMS
The Declaration Nostra aetate of the Second Vatican Council also provides the basis for the Catholic Church’s relations with Muslims. The document reads: “The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men” (No. 3). After the Council, numerous meetings have taken place among representatives of the two religions. At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI declared: “Inter-religious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to a temporary choice. It is indeed a vital necessity on which a large part of our future depends” (Benedict XVI, Meeting with representatives of Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005).
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue holds meetings of dialogue of major importance. We recommend the creation of local commissions of interreligious dialogue. A primary place needs to be given to the dialogue of life, which gives an eloquent, silent testimony and is sometimes the only means to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Only Christians who offer the testimony of an authentic faith are qualified as credible participants in interreligious dialogue. We need to educate our faithful for this dialogue. Eastern Christians can help those of the West to enter more profoundly into a constructive encounter with Islam.
There are many reasons for fostering relations between Christians and Muslims: all are fellow citizens, all share the same language and the same culture, not to mention the same joys and sufferings. Moreover, Christians are called to live as witnesses of Christ in their societies. From the beginning, Islam has had common roots with Christianity and Judaism. Arabic-Christian literature must be better appreciated and used as a resource in the dialogue with Muslims.
Our closeness to Muslims is strengthened by 14 centuries of living together, in enduring difficult moments as well as many positive ones. For a fruitful dialogue, Christians and Muslims must know one another better. Muslims and Christians share the essence of the 5 pillars of the Islam. Several examples of promising, successful initiatives have been mentioned in the area of dialogue and work in common among Christians and Muslims in Syria, Lebanon, the Holy Land, Egypt and elsewhere. Common activities are to be encouraged in the areas of culture, sport, social and educational work.
Hence the essential importance of our educational institutions, which are open to all, effectively providing an education in friendship, justice and peace. The ecclesial movements also make a very valid contribution in this area. The Loving God loves Muslims. Maybe it is necessary to find a new theological language to express this mystery and make it more accessible to them. In this regard, our testimony of life will be a powerful help. Hence the essential importance of the dialogue of life or the dialogue of the neighborhood ‘hiwar aljiwar’.
Dialogue with Muslims has often been mentioned, recommended and encouraged. Dialogue expresses the communion of the children of God. We are all inhabitants of the same earth, the same house of God. It has even been asserted: no peace without dialogue with the Muslims. Saint Francis of Assisi, in his meeting with King Al-Kamel in Egypt in 1219 gives us an example of dialogue through nonviolence and the dialogue of life. The Eastern Churches are the most qualified to promote interreligious dialogue with Islam. This duty is theirs because of their history, their presence and their mission. Contact with Muslims can bring Christians to a better appreciation of their faith by deepening and purifying it. Holiness of life is a mutually appreciated on both sides. A true relationship with God does not need noisy religiosity, but authentic holiness. Profoundly religious persons are an object of respect and veneration, a common reference point and the conscience of the society. The relationship with Islam postulates a profound spiritual life. If we are not open to God, how we can be open to people?
We have the duty to educate our faithful for interreligious dialogue and in the acceptance of religious diversity, in respect and in mutual esteem. The prejudices inherited from the history of conflicts and controversies, on both sides, must be carefully faced, clarified and corrected. In dialogue, encounter, acceptance of the difference of the other, free access, confidence, mutual understanding, reconciliation, peace and love are important. Dialogue is beneficial in the service of peace, in favor of life and against violence. Dialogue is the path of nonviolence. Love is more necessary and effective than discussion. We must not argue with Muslims but love them, hoping to elicit reciprocity from their hearts. Before disputing about what separates us, let us meet on what unites us, especially as regards human dignity and the construction of a better world. It is necessary to avoid any provocative, offensive, humiliating action and any anti-Islamic attitude.
To be authentic, dialogue must take place in truth. Dialogue is a testimony in truth and love. It is necessary to speak frankly about the truth, the problems and the difficulties, in a respectful and charitable way. If dialogue is inescapable and must continue, maybe it must enter a new phase of frankness, honesty and openness. This is all the more necessary as the Islamic announcement (da'wa) is more and more active in the West. We have to explain to one another our different visions of the truth. We have to treat serenely and objectively the subjects which concern the identity of man, justice, the values of a worthy social life and of reciprocity. This term of reciprocity needs to be clarified, according to some interventions. We have to consider also that the Muslims have various currents of teaching and of action.
There are the fundamentalists, the peaceful traditionalists - the majority - who hold Islam as the faith and the supreme standard and have no problem in living serenely with non-Muslims, and the moderates open to others, who are rather an elite. It has been suggested that we not limit ourselves to the present moderate currents of the Islam, but that it is necessary to have contact with the fundamentalists and the extremists, who affect profoundly the masses.
Religious freedom is fundamental to healthy relations between Muslims and Christians. It should be a main theme in interreligious dialogue. We would wish that the Koranic principle "no constraint in religion" should really be put into practice. Some synod fathers spoke about the constraints, about the limits to freedom, about acts of violence and the exploitation of migrant workers in some countries. No one quoted the Koranic verses on which the extremists base themselves to justify their attitude and acts of violence. This shows the praiseworthy attitude of the Pastors to see what unites and calms rather than what separates. In the dialogue with Muslims, it will be necessary to study a rereading of the hadiths which purportedly incite to violence, connected to a past historic context, and replaced by the current context of respect for human rights.
We all have to work together to transform sectarian mind-sets and attitudes into the spirit of life and action for the common good. It is a long-term task, in view of the fact that confessionalism has deep structural roots, which go back to dhimmi-status and the millet system. Dialogue will prevent the attitude of distrust and fear of one another.
Christians will have to put down roots into their societies asnd not succumb to the temptation of turning in upon themselves as a minority. They have to work together for the promotion of justice, peace, freedom, human rights, the environment and the values of life and the family. Socio-political problems are to be addressed, not as rights to be demanded for Christians, but as universal rights that Christians and Muslims defend together for the good of all. We have to exit from the logic of defending the rights of Christians, to engage ourselves for the good of all. The young people will have it at heart to undertake concerted actions from these perspectives, to cooperate together with people of good will, to face the urgent problems of the moment: freedom, equality, democracy, human rights, emigration and immigration, the consequences of globalisation, the economic crisis, violence and extremism and life.
It is necessary to eliminate prejudicial statements against others from school textbooks, and all that is offensive or misrepresents others. We shall try rather to understand the point of view of the other, while respecting different beliefs and practices. We shall emphasize what we have in common, in particular on the spiritual and moral level. The Holy Virgin Mary is a meeting point of great importance. The recent declaration of the Annunciation as a national holiday in Lebanon is an encouraging example. Religion is a builder of unity and harmony and an expression of communion among persons and with God.
E. CONSTRUCTING TOGETHER A CITY OF COMMUNION
In our countries, all citizens must together face two major challenges: the need for peace and the reality of violence. The situations of wars and conflicts in which we live generate violence. They are exploited by international terrorism, and also by extremist currents and movements in our region. The West tends to be identified with Christianity and the choices of States are often attributed to the Church. In reality, however, the governments of the West are secular and increasingly opposed to the Christian faith. It is important to explain this reality as well as the positive significance of the secular state, which distinguishes politics from religion. Within this context Christians have an obligation and a mission to live out Gospel values
Our Christian lay people must be offered the formation they need in order to deepen and strengthen their sense of a Christian calling. The Church is called to serve. Bearing testimony is not a way of bypassing explicit proclamation, nor can it be reduced to merely setting a good example. To give testimony is to live in the truth. From this arises the imperative of living an authentic Christian life. It is by our lives that we must testify constantly, without syncretism or relativism, but with humility, respect, sincerity, and love. "Physician, heal yourself!" (Lk 4:23). First we must heal ourselves; then we shall be able to reflect the light of Christ.
Our most important testimony in society is a freely given love for others. The Catholic Church gives an eloquent, extremely valuable witness by her numerous works and educational, charitable, sanitary and social development institutions. These are valued and frequented by all citizens, regardless of religion or background. They greatly contribute to breaking down walls of suspicion and rejection. The Church makes a preferential option to serve the poorest of the poor. The more conscious we are of our Christian vocation in society, the better equipped we shall be to manifest and radiate the power of the Gospel, which has force, even today, to transform human society. The Apostolic Exhortation of the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, A New Hope for Lebanon (10 May 1997), offers concrete guidance for Christian testimony in civic life. We should endeavour to appreciate its message to the full and live out of it, especially in Lebanon.
Whether we are Muslims or Christians, we must pursue a common path together. Although we differ in our understanding of man, of his rights and freedoms, we can together find a clear, definite foundation for joint action, for the good of our societies and our countries. The universal principles of human rights are most likely to provide us with common ground for peaceful study and shared activity. We shall be able to engage in fruitful dialogue with any individual who advocates the defense of human rights and an ethics based on the values of human nature, of the family, of life and of civic state. Let us encourage this tendency among moderate and sincere people. All of us have a reciprocal responsibility to promote the good of others. Let us build a City of Communion together!
*In the small groups it will be necessary to deal in more depth with themes which have received little treatment so far: Catechetical methodology; liturgical renewal; modernity; the specific, irreplaceable contribution of Christians; the future of Christians in the Middle East.
CONCLUSION: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST? “Do not be afraid, O little flock!” (Lk 12:32)
Present-day situations give rise to difficulties and concerns. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Gospels, we face them with hope and filial trust in Divine Providence. Today, we are a “little flock”. However, our actions and witness can ensure a significant presence. We must seriously consider our vocation and call to give testimony in service to humanity, society and our countries. Together we must work to prepare a new dawn for the Middle East. We are strengthened by the prayers, understanding and love of our brothers and sisters around the world. We are not alone. This synod has made that very clear, as we were told by the representative of the Bishops’ Conference of Oceania.
We want our brothers and sisters in the Middle East to know that we value our communion with them, that we are committed to solidarity with their hopes and sufferings, and that we shall assist them with prayers and practical assistance in the challenges they face today.
Furthermore, our faith teaches us that the Lord himself walks alongside us. His promise is always timely: “I am with you always, even to the end of time” (Mt 28:20). God is the Lord of History (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Opening Mass, 10 October 2010). Now, as the Synod will soon be finished, our true work begins. It consists in making known and passing on all that the Synod has given us, in implementing its directives and recommendations through appropriate structures, and in carefully following up this work in coordinated pastoral activity. In this way, we shall reap abundant fruit as a result of the power of the Holy Spirit. We have great hopes. “And hope does not let us down, for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us” (Rm 5:2-5).
“Do not fear, little flock!”, says the Lord. To respond to his words, we need more faith, more communion and more love. From this will come grace, strength, peace, joy, numerous vocations—and holiness. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, so greatly loved and honoured in our Churches, to model our hearts after that of her Son, Jesus. And let us heed her words: “Do whatever he tells you!” (Jn 2:5).
1. How can we recover what is essential to the Word of God, i.e. its capacity to get inside people’s existence to bring about a change in their lives leading to greater and more fruitful commitment? How can a regular encounter with the Word of God help to enhance Christians in their Being and Acting? The Word of God is an inexhaustible source of communion and of openness. How is it read and deepened within the Church so as to bring about communion, dialogue and of development of ecclesial community and of the world?
2. Sometimes the Old Testament is interpreted in a tendentious and biased fashion. How,in our current context, can we rediscover the wealth of the Old Testament in the light of the unity of the two testaments in Christ?
3. Our Churches are sometimes faced with situations of persecution even leading to martyrdom. What is our attitude to these situations today?
4. In the beginning, the Churches of the East were missionary Churches par excellence. Nowadays, this missionary spirit has weakened. How can we reawaken the missionary spirit in our Churches for a new evangelisation within each Church and at the service of the universal Church, in order to keep the spirit of the Gospel by reviving the faith of Christians and keeping the “memory of origins” alive.
5. For an effective and evangelical pastoral practice, what structures should be put in place to form pastoral workers who are creative managers and who can at once listen, offer a lead, give direction, support, show compassion and outline proposals?
6. Giving new dynamism to Christian communities in a world in which they are a minoritymeans helping them to return to the spirit of the Gospel, fortifying the faith and spirituality of our faithful and forging again the social bond and the solidarity between them but without succumbing to a ghetto mentality. What ecclesial structures and pastoral practice would help to strengthen a sense of spiritual and social belonging.
7. Between inculturation and fusion, does the Church ever find herself tainted by the politics and conflicts which are tearing apart the world around her? What strategies might help her remain a reference point of openness and evangelical dialogue? How are we to act in a multicultural world where freedom of expression sometimes depends on clan, on confession or on traditions which are incompatible with the Gospel? How should we equip young people to take part in a true dialogue which is neither fusion nor confusion but the expression of a true sharing and an evangelical desire to welcome, to be open and to love for the sake of truth and unity?
8. Faced with the fact of emigration, how could we help our faithful to live out their own ecclesial identity in close collaboration with the local Church of the host countries so as always to show unity in diversity?
9. When it comes to the pastoral demands of emigration, what factors should be borne in mind in the training of future ministers in our seminaries and theology faculties?
10. Our countries in the Middle East increasingly welcome immigrants for economic reasons. How can our Churches help to ensure that their fundamental human rights are respected and offer them suitably adapted pastoral accompaniment?
11. Given the ecclesial reality in the countries of the Gulf, how can we work together to set up better pastoral collaboration between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Roman Catholic Church?
12. Undeniably, the East is facing a vocations crisis compared to the abundance of the recent past. Vocations in the Church are the work of the Holy Spirit for the whole Church. What pastoral work in vocations promotion do we undertake, particularly for young people, which can touch their hearts, enabling them to dare to follow Christ generously and without fear? Faced with the shortage of priests in some places, how can we live a priestly ecclesial communion better able tocater for the needs of these Churches?
13. How does the particular identity and vocation of our Eastern Catholic Churches look to you in the light of the Second Vatican Council and of the ecumenical dialogue currently in progress?
14. How can we rediscover the correct sense of the Church as a mystery of communion to facilitate an evangelical presence and witness in the Middle East?
15. What should we do to prevent a real slide taking place whereby the Church’s undertakings become based solely on ethnic, cultural or political factors?
16. Our Churches are increasingly welcoming new apostolic movements and movements of Christian initiation. How can we ensure their harmonious integration into the pastoral reality of our Eastern Churches whilst respecting their particular charism?
17. Harking back to our shared roots in the experience of the Church of Jerusalem, can we find there an effective means to bring about the unity of which Christ speaks in His priestly prayer? What strategy would be necessary to attain it?
18. The situation of Christians in the Middle East is complex and often confusing. This is as true of the politico-cultural level as it is of the ecumenical and interreligious dimension. How, as Christians, can we approach others, in the footsteps of Christ, regardless of historical divergences of thought or ideology, so as to meet people, children of God just like us and, consequently, brothers and persons worthy of our respect and our esteem?
19. What measures can our Churches take in the area of the new means of communication to promote shared witness and evangelisation in an ecumenical and interreligious environment?
20. Pope Benedict XVI has just created a dicastery for the new evangelisation of countries with a long Christian tradition. Are our apostolic Churches in the Middle East aware of the interest of a New Evangelisation which can answer the problems of contemporary men and women?
21. The Church is used to a positive dialogue with moderate Muslims for the common good. Given the considerable impact of fundamentalist currents in Islam on the course of events, what should our attitude be to such currents?
22. In the tradition of the Eastern Church, the liturgy is the privileged expression of Christian faith and action (lexorandi, lexcredendi, lex vivendi). How can we adapt our ancient liturgical traditions, marked as they are by the vigour of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church, to the needs of man today?
23. Often religious instruction ceases when people leave school. Adults need solid faith formation to infuse their personal, family and professional lives. What can our Churches do to provide such formation? Should we work together for all our Catholic Churches of the Middle East to put together a basic catechetical plan for adults?
[00191-02.06] [NNNNN] [Original text: French]
PRESENTATION OF THE SCHEME OF THE MESSAGE
16 October 2010
At the opening of the Tenth General Congregation intervened, the President of the Commission for the Message H. Exc. Mons. Cyrille Salim BUSTROS, S.M.S.P., Archbishop of Newton of the Greek-Melkites (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) and the Vice President H. Exc. Mons. William Hanna SHOMALI, Titular Bishop of Lydda, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM) , for the reading in french of the draft of the Message (Nuntius), drawn in french and arabe.
At Synodal assemblies, it has been the practice to publish a Nuntius (Message) addressed to the People of God, particularly to the various categories of persons directly associated with the Synod’s topic. Pastoral in nature, the Nuntius’ purpose is to encourage the People of God to respond faithfully to their proper vocation, and to praise them for the efforts already being made.
DISCUSSION ON THE SCHEME OF THE MESSAGE
Then, a discussion took place on the draft of the Message, presented by the President of the Commission for the preparation of the Message.
After noting the observations of the Assembly during the discussion in the Hall, the Commission for the Message prepares the definitive text which is later submitted to the Assembly for its approval. The definitive text of the Nuntius is published at the end of the synod’s work and is reported in the different linguistic edition of the Synodus Episcoporum Bullettin.
SUFFRAGATIO PRO CONSILIO
After the break, the first vote in electronic form took place for the election of the Members of the Special Council for the Middle East of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
In the same way as in the Ordinary General Assembly, at the end of the Special Assembly a Special Council of the General Secretariat is constituted. Like the Ordinary Councils, it is formed of Members elected by the Special Assembly, with added Members nominated by the Roman Pontiff.
The election of the Members takes place by secret ballot and becomes legally binding when, the void votes having been subtracted, an absolute majority of voters is in favor, or, after the first unresolved ballot, a relative majority is obtained at the second. If the votes are equal, C.I.C., can. 119, 1st applies.
The Members of the Special Council of the Secretary General hold office for a period of five years, at the end of which the Roman Pontiff will decide on the extension of the council and confirm this or the substitution of its Members.
The Council of the Secretary General will collaborate with Secretary General in giving advice for carrying out what has been proposed by the Synod and approved by the Roman Pontiff, and on other questions assigned to it by the Roman Pontiff.
The Members of the Council of the Secretary General are called together twice a year by the Secretary General as well as on any other occasion when, in the judgment of the Roman Pontiff, it is opportune.
Intervention of Mons. Denys Antoine CHAHDA, Archbishop of Alep of the Syrians (SYRIA)
The society in which we live, in this century of complete globalization, is a society for the major part, materialistic, ignoring God and all that which is spiritual, instilling in men that they can find their happiness in money, power and in all sorts of pleasures.
The universal Church in all its components - and thereby the Churches of the Middle East - is touched by this spirit of the world. She has lost some of her power to attract men. This is why, I call the Synod Fathers’ attention to insist before everything on the spirit of renewal of all those baptized:
1. The renewal of our Church and of our Churches in Spirit:
A return of all the baptized to the Lord through a detachment from the spirit of the world and through a zeal in proclaiming the Good News in love and respect of those that do not share our faith. We are all invited without exception to follow the example of John the Baptist: “A voice of one that cries in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight’. ” (Mt 3:3). We are invited to be true missionaries that nourish themselves on the Word of God.
2. Unity of all the Churches:
Christ asks all the baptized to be united like he and his Father are One. He asks for this unity from his disciples so that they would be a sign that draws men to recognise his Father and to have faith in him. He wanted their unity to be a sign for the nations, and “Signum inter Gentes” a light that attracts the men to His Father and invites them to believe in Him. Because the division in the Church is an infidelity to its founder and a scandal for those who do not believe in Jesus. I think that what separates us from our Orthodox Brothers is the understanding of the Primacy of Peter. It’s up to the theologians to find a new interpretation. Why not reach a unity in faith, but in diversity? The Synod of Jerusalem in 49 could be a key to finding a solution to the division of the Churches. What is important is to listen to the Spirit...
Then, renewed by the spirit, united in faith, the Church will be “significant”, will be a “Signe inter Gentes”, and will attract men to her to become part of the Kingdom of God.
[00188-02.02] [IN124] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Michel ABRASS, Titular Archbishop of Myra of the Greek-Melkites, Bishop of the Patriarchal Curia of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites (SYRIA)
As regards our problems in Lebanon, they are many as well as complex. Leaving aside political problems, we satisfy ourselves with pointing our finger at three problems, that is to say that of the formation of seminarians, ecclesiastical Tribunals, and positive laity.
Regarding the formation of seminarians, there is first of all the problem of choice; it is useless to go by the back roads, the majority currently choose the ecclesiastical “career” and not the vocation, and this is to attain an eminent place in society or for economic reasons.
The confessional tribunals are of two different natures; some are State Tribunals, while others are an expression of the power of each community which designates its members.
At the time of the application of the theory of the character of the laws, it was the Sunnite tribunals who applied the “Shari’a” of Abou Hanifa, making up the “Corpus Juris” of the Ottoman Empire, to which were added other laws voted by the Parliament or promulgated by “Irada Sannia”, that is by Rescript or Imperial Edict. This first phenomenon was subsequently developed, especially after the “Gülhane Edict” promulgated in 1836. It is of this “Law” that the State Tribunals became the “zealous applicants”.
The problems of choice of “regime” applicable to Lebanon, presents itself with acuity to today’s laity; in fact, many lay persons ask themselves what will become of their life if they declare themselves as Christians, without shading their position with a measure of laity, depending on the degree of emancipation of their non-Christian interlocutor, often of the Muslim religion in the Middle East.
These Christians need a “certain positive laicity”.
Where do they go to find it?
Presently, our “lay flock” denies itself; it is a matter of their giving a legitimacy that the only ones with power to give it are the Ecclesiastics provided that it had been acquired by their statutes.
We think that Christians who so desire should be authorized to adopt lay statute, without betraying the Dogmas or the teachings of the Churches, keeping in mind that one is not in a solely Christian land.
[00183-02.03] [IN120] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Simon ATALLAH, Bishop of Baalbek - Deir El-Ahmar of the Maronites (LEBANON)
The question of Christian unity, this testament of our Lord Jesus Christ has evolved greatly throughout the centuries. In fact, Church unity has endured many crises, doctrinal ones, ecclesiological ones, with political interference and human considerations.
The 20th century was, on the other hand and happily so, the century of ecumenism par excellence. In fact, the great pastors of the Churches, Pope John XXIII and the Patriarch Athenagoras met and the obstacles were overcome. The gestures of love, of peace and of fraternity erased all the hatreds of the past centuries. Excommunications on either side were revoked. Vatican II and the Movements, such as the Work of Mary for Christian Unity, also known as Focolari, and others have played an important role in the positive evolution of the movement of unity, wanted by the Lord.
Will the 21st century, solemnly inaugurated by John Paul II, celebrating in the year 2000 the Jubilee of the Redemption of Humankind, continue the joyous ecumenical experiences of the 20th century or will it return into the obscure labyrinths of the 19th century or before that the 11th and 16th centuries?
The prayer for Christian unity should reflect a mentality and a vision. These last two should produce concrete ecumenical actions such as:
1. Going back to the needs of our vocation, which would allow us to free ourselves of all the complexes of feeling like a minority, and, as a result of this, of fear. In fact, because of our vocation, we cannot succumb to the temptation of feeling like a minority. In our Middle Eastern surroundings, we Christians, cannot speak about minority and majority. Christ did not tell we are a minority. He said to us: you are the leaven in the bread. From this perspective, we Christians, with Christ, are a majority.
2. The commitment to give an education of ecumenical culture to all our faithful, especially to our young people, in the parishes, in the novitiates of the institutes of monastic life, in the universities and the centers of Christian formation, etc.
Conclusion: this education in ecumenism throws the door wide open to inter-religious dialogue, to projects which when achieved would build peace between peoples.
[00177-02.01] [IN117] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Cyril VASIL', Titular Archbishop of Ptolemais in Libya, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (VATICAN CITY)
In agreement with the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches His Eminence Leonardo Sandri, I would like to present to this assembly a number of considerations about some aspects of the life of the Churches in the Middle East from that special observatory that is our Congregation. The Holy Father Benedict XVI in his historic visit for the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation’s seat on 9 June 2007 pointed out some topics that should be focused on because of their importance and urgency: synodality, formation, migrations and ecumenism.
Synodality has to do in a special way with the mechanism of the choice of candidates to the episcopacy. Checks on the suitability of the candidates should be carried out by the bishops and the Synod in a more appropriate manner than sometimes happens at present, in order to facilitate and speed up the process of Pontifical assent.
In the first place we have to constantly evaluate the current state of the formative and academic institutions for the level of cultural and spiritual formation that they offer. The difficulties that students encounter in their higher studies outside of the Eastern context, for example, in Rome, cannot be ignored and there is no point hiding them. We have to ask ourselves if the time has finally come to open a first cycle of Eastern theological studies here in Rome, in an Eastern theological faculty?
The phenomenon of migrations
Our Congregation is working towards the organization of Eastern ecclesiastical districts outside of their traditional territories. As regards the faithful who move from the Middle East, sometimes the “planetary” extension of the Patriarchs’ jurisdiction is claimed - as if this were a right and a universal solution to the problem of the pastoral for migrants. It should be remembered that between the claimed universal right and the detailed, justified request there is a great difference.
Vatican Council II reminds Easterners of that specific mission they have been entrusted with [...]of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially the Eastern ones... with... scrupulous fidelity to the ancient oriental traditions.
So as not to get stuck at the simpler and more visible questions, such as the style of clerical dress, we have to aspire to a greater knowledge and the observing of the more theological and pastoral elements. What is the situation in our Churches in the joint administration of all three of the sacraments of Christian initiation, Eucharistic communion to children, baptism by immersion - to mention just a few of the aspects requested by current canon law and by the abovementioned Instruction of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for the application of the liturgical prescriptions of the CCEO?
[00174-02.02] [IN114] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Mons. Krikor-Okosdinos COUSSA, Bishop of Alexandria of the Armenians (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT)
“It is through him, by faith, that we have been admitted into God's favor in which we are living, and look forward exultantly to God's glory. Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:2/5).
Most Holy Father ,
Beatitudes and Eminences,
Brother priests, monks, sisters and lay persons,
in my intervention I deal with numbers 120-123 that speak about hope.
“Be joyful in hope (your hope), persevere in hardship; keep praying regularly” (cf Rom 12:12).
In the joy of hope, perseverance in hardship and regular prayer, we share the experiences and the reflection on our commitment within our Churches on the patrimonial, cultural, historical, theological, liturgical and spiritual levels in a distinct way, a commitment that derives from our liturgical traditions because we are asked to make of this variety a means to enrich our different societies and to strengthen the unity of the Church of Christ and to witness faith, hope and salvation.
Abraham walked in this region of the world, our father in faith, and with him all his descendants. It is in Abraham that all Christians are called to answer God’s plea and abandon themselves to him to target true life. In this land God achieved the plan of His love, He sent His only Son, Jesus the Nazarene, to save the world and to gather the dispersed.
In Christ all the divine promises were realized, achieving victory over death and confirming hope in us.
Therefore it is from the Orient that the light of the Gospel has risen.
From the Orient the renaissance of evangelization and the mission sprung forth.
This is why this mission showed us how to build our churches and convents, our homes, our schools and our institutions on men and the sun and the wind.
We do not live in isolated caves or tunnels so that all men, whatever their religion or culture, can clearly see what we are doing. Our windows are large and made of transparent glass, “and light shines in darkness” (Jn 1:5).
Our witness and our communion are realized through this task in the land where divine providence wanted us to live and achieve our vocation, our faith and our mission.
This reason is subjected to the strongest and the greatest dangers. She wavers therefore between war and peace and in her also we can look for a new form of international relationships that is more respectful of the rights of man, of peoples and of their freedom.
Cohabitation wins over all disputes for the encounter of each with the other, with the Muslims and with the Jews as well.
Sometimes we feel threatened by fear, by despair and by persecution, and we forget that our Christian presence is linked to the dimension of our faith and its depth. The fundamental challenge for us is to realize ourselves as witnesses of the Redemptoris hominis in our lives, through our words and our actions in front of our non-Christian brothers.
From there we ask ourselves: what meaning does this Orient have if we are absent? My intervention is a message of hope addressed to the Christians so that they may see in the East the source of the hope of Christ who was born, crucified and rose again there.
The weapon of Christianity is not built in factories and does not come out of the earth taking on a form, a shape or any sort of color.
The weapon of Christianity is charity. This consists in raising bridges between man and his fellow man, so that there is neither near nor far. And if man can discover this weapon, he discovers himself and thereby knows his position. And when he knows, he loves, when he loves, he gives, and when he gives, he is reassured, and when he is reassured, he is stabilized, and when he is stabilized, he is exempt of all vice and pestilence.
Our hope is to live in peace. Let us therefore hold out our hands to Muslims and to Jews with a Christian hope and new life. Let us say to the Jews: stop killing the innocents and do not forget what you are told in the Talmud: in each man I see God.
Let us hold our hands out to our Muslim brothers in the hope for a cohabitation that allows the building of one nation, one society held up by charity, fraternity, understanding and dialogue.
The Church announces charity and fights against iniquity and fanaticism. She spreads education and does not work for herself but rather for the glory of God the supreme and confirmed hope.
We expect from this Synod that we manage to achieve the wish which is to continue our work in favor of that longed-for hope despite the trials and tribulations that surround us, so that witness and communion can only mature in the calamities and vicissitudes whose fruit is charity.
[00167-02.01] [IN107] [Original text: Arabic]
Intervention of Card. William Joseph LEVADA, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (VATICAN CITY)
My intervention will focus on the notion of the living Tradition of the Church as taught in the Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council, and on the understanding of the role of the Pope in the Apostolic Tradition, with reference to no. 78 of the Instrumentum laboris.
In Dei Verbum n. 9, the Council taught that “the Tradition that comes from the Apostles makes progress in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth of insight into the realities and words that are passed on.” As Blessed John Henry Newman, beatified in England last month, reminds us, this living Tradition knows a true development of doctrine in order to respond to new questions raised throughout the two millennia of the Church's history as the Communion of the Lord's disciples. Cardinal Newman, through his study of the Fathers of the Patristic age and of the first Ecumenical Councils, found precisely the living Tradition that led him to embrace the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church.
Examples of this development have not been absent from our discussions at this Synod: Think of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, which provides a new basis for today's relations with Jews and Muslims. Think too about the Synod discussion's references to religious liberty and freedom of conscience, which take their queue from the Council' s Declaration Dignitatis humanae. Pope Benedict XVI has made his own contribution to this ongoing development with his many interventions on behalf of the necessary interaction of faith and reason in political and public discourse, arguing with conviction that the secular or “lay” modern state needs the important voice of religion to ensure its ethical compass. In his insightful application of the teachings of Vatican II, he has insisted on the need for continuity with the Tradition as the condition of a true and faithful understanding of the Council's teaching, and hence of the development of doctrine.
These observations can be helpful when we consider the Church's teaching about the Roman Pontiff, the Bishop of Rome. This doctrine too has undergone a unique trajectory of development since Jesus proclaimed “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). Several Synod Fathers have made reference to the citation from the 1995 Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, about which the lnstrumentum laboris says, “Pope John Paul II voiced the responsibility of seeking to 'find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission' and keeping in mind the dual Latin and Eastern canonical tradition, would nonetheless be 'open to a new situation'.” (n. 78)
Subsequently the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sponsored a theological symposium to consider in greater detail those aspects of the papacy that are essential to the faith of the Church. In addition to publishing the acts of this symposium, the Congregation also issued its 1998 document on the question, called The Primacy of Peter in the Mystery of the Church.
More recently our Congregation has been considering a convocation of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Synods and Episcopal Conferences of the Eastern and Oriental Churches sui iuris to discuss doctrinal issues of mutual concern. In this context I would envision a useful study and exchange of views about how the ministry of the Successor of Peter, with its essential doctrinal characteristics, could be exercised in different ways, according to the diverse needs of times and places. This remains a chapter of ecclesiology to be further explored and completed.
Such theological reflection, however, does not supplant the vital testimony of the Catholics of the Middle East to their Orthodox and Muslim brethren about how Church doctrine develops in the living Apostolic Tradition, guided by Christ's gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church's Magisterium in every age. This Magisterium necessarily includes the role of the Pope as head of the Apostolic College of Bishops, together with Christ's commission to confirm his brethren in the unity of faith (cf. Lk 22:32) so that “all may be one” (Jn 17:21).
[00166-02.03] [IN106] [Original text: English]
Intervention of Rev. Rino ROSSI, Director of the "Domus Galileae", Corazin (ISRAEL), auditor
In the first chapter of the Instrumentum Laboris, speaking about apostolicity and missionary vocation, it says: “In being apostolic, our Churches have a special mission to bring the Gospel to the whole world”. I am a presbyter of the Diocese of Rome on a mission at the Domus Galilaeae International Center which is found on the upper part of the Mount of Beatitudes.
With the seminarians and young people who operate in our center, we have visited very many Christian families of the various rites of the Holy Land, Jordan and Cyprus. We came across so much suffering, the same problems that are found in the Church in other parts of the world: the crisis in so many families, the abandonment by young people of religious practices, the problem of abortion, being closed to life, gambling which destroys entire families, the dream of being able to go abroad to have an easier life. Not to mention drugs, pornography, the spread of sects.
When the Domus Galilaeae opened, a large number of Jews started visiting us. In the last year alone, more than a hundred thousand came. They are drawn by the welcome and the beauty of the house. Many of them do not know the Church or Jesus Christ. They ask us many questions about our faith. Very often they come back. We feel we have to welcome them and serve them as brothers.
I think that the Holy Spirit whom we invoked at the start of this Synod loves our faithful with an immense love and wants to save them from the attacks of the devil who seduces them, as only he knows how to do. He is the true enemy. But Christ has power over him and he gave this power to the Church, to you pastors. We have an enormous responsibility to the lost sheep of our parishes. Woe is me if I do not evangelize them! The Oriental Fathers in the first centuries, faced by the challenges of their time, in a pagan world, elaborated an itinerary for Christian initiation: the Catechumenate. The Church like a mother, in a slow journey with stages, handles eternal life for her children. Today we have to offer to our Christians a Catechumenate that is suited to their condition of being baptized.
The pastors of the Holy Land are aware of the challenges that await us today, and I can also bear witness to this with the initiative of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who, in communion with the Greek-Melchite and Maronite archbishops, opened a missionary seminary Redemptoris Mater, to prepare missionary presbyters for the new Evangelization.
[00155-02.02] [UD017] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Mons. Michel AOUN, Episcopal Vicar of the Archieparchy of Beirut of the Maronites (LEBANON), auditor
I firmly believe that this Synod could give an answer to our faithful’s expectations if it proposes strong pastoral programs for adults, which can lead our Christians to a mature faith, and which can help families in being the first school of faith.
It is true that every man needs security on all levels, but he cannot attach himself to his land if he does not have a sublime cause tied to his faith and to his existence as a Christian.
We often speak about the first community where we clearly see the united body which is none other than the mystical body of Jesus. Is it no longer possible today to favor the pastoral care that could help our faithful in understanding themselves as members of this unique body and where they could follow a path of faith based on the Word of God and the sacraments and experience the fraternal spirit between themselves?
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI never ceases to encourage the charisms that the Holy Spirit incites in the new ecclesial communities where the fruits are borne. Sometimes it is argued that these communities risk creating some division in a particular diocesan or parish body. Faced with this objection, I submit that communion is the condition for all pastoral success. Bishops and priests are first of all the guarantors of communion, and in the name of this communion, I would like this Synod to encourage a discernment of the fruits that these charisms bring to the Church and welcome them like a new springtime. This welcome should be in a paternal spirit and one of communion to help the faithful of these communities to integrate into the diocesan and parish ministry, to feel as fully active members of the one Body of Christ present in the particular Church.
[00154-02.02] [UD016] [Original text: French]
Intervention of H. Em. Georges KHODRE, Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan of Byblos, Botrys and Mount Lebanon (LEBANON)
“This communion within the Universal Church is manifested in two ways: firstly, communion in the Eucharist; secondly, communion with the Bishop of Rome”.
The ambiguity of this statement rotates around the use of the term Catholic Church as well as the tie of the Eucharist with the Pope. Now, the expression begins with Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and designates communion in a local Church united in Orthodox faith to his bishop in such a way that the liturgy mentions him without referring to another ecclesial authority. The mention of the Bishop of Rome in the liturgy outside of one’s own diocese introduces the idea of a universal Church mentioned in the Instrumentum laboris and repeated in the inaugural Mass of this synod. The word introduces a numeric, spacial, sociological note while the Catholic Church is constituted herself first locally by Lord as His Body. Does not the Universal Church have as her corollary the existence of a universal bishop who would exercise a jurisdiction over a world independently of the Eucharist, the only sign of communion between Christians? It is the Eucharist that makes us everywhere a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”.
In mentioning the Pope of Rome in the Eastern liturgies we are inviting the Churches to a practice the East has never known.
[00149-02.02] [DF005] [Original text: French]
Intervention of H. Em. Makarios TILLYRIDIS, Metropolitan of Kenya (KENYA)
On this special day, I am greatly honored and to the utmost humbled by this honor to speak before you. I also count it a blessing that I get to speak in your presence, Your Holiness, from this region which will always be unique in the history of Christianity, because it is here that creation credits its origins. To the majority of the world, the Middle East is a volatile region. But we, as believers in the Gospel of Christ know better, because our belief is founded on the teachings of the Prince of peace.
Your Holiness, your own words of insight, while speaking to the British Society recently, express this belief that, “This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world oj faith the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization”. This message is very much applicable and relevant here in the Middle East, where reconciliation, love and understanding are very essential for peaceful co existence and cooperation.
St. Thomas Aquinas once said that, “because of the diverse conditions of humans, it happens that some acts are virtuous to some people, as appropriate and suitable to them, while the same acts are immoral for others, as inappropriate to them”. This speaks out in a setup like the one we have here in this region where a mixture of religions and cultures abide, where one's belief is not similar to his neighbour's. In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, Le., the freedom to change one's religion for belief in another. The setup that once is faced with here is one where religion is a social and even a national choice, and not an individual one. Change of religion is viewed as betrayal to society, founded largely on a religious tradition. We however should always remember that this does not lock out love which is required for unity and the working together of all Christian churches in the Middle East. It is very important for us as Shepherds to cultivate togetherness, in love unfeigned, remembering Mother Teresa's words; “If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out.” We are therefore called to send out a message of love to all those who surround us and impact our lives in different ways.
Concerning the community of Muslim brothers and sisters as well as the Jewish community all around us, we can't fall to respect their belief and way of life. We need to cultivate respect and appreciation of all beliefs that surround us, while preaching the message of love and peace amongst the different religions. Co operation with the Non-Christians is very important in healing past injustices and promoting peaceful coexistence. As shepherds in this great vineyard of our Lord, I encourage you to forge ahead in humility, love and understanding, in advancing the great commission of our lord in Matthew 28:19 20. In humility, the message of our Lord will surely be heard among all races, creeds and cultures that surround us in this region.
Once again let me express my sincere gratitude for this special invitation, especially to your Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I wish you all peace from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May he keep us united in the Faith always
[00145-02.02] [DF001] [Original text: English]
Intervention of Mons. Paul DAHDAH, Titular Archbishop of Arae in Numidia, Apostolic Vicar of Beirut of the Latins (LEBANON)
In the text of the Instrumentum laboris, the theological, trinitarian, christological and ecclesiological foundations of ecclesial communion are clearly expressed. They are the basis of sacramental life and the commitment of those baptized in the activities necessary for the growth of the Church in fidelity and holiness and to the development of works of service and witness within the society of men. They are also the reference of legislation that manages the relations between the members of the Churches, hierarchy and faithful, between the Catholic Churches and with the sister Churches.
The text mentions the ecclesial organisms already in place to favor and develop communion between the Eastern Catholic Churches on a global level, then on the level of Patriarchates and finally Eparchies. It points out the central role of the Patriarch and then the Bishop to favor communion, cohesion, unity in diversity. The text also underlines the “serious spiritual and moral responsibility” of the ministers of Christ and consecrated persons. (No. 58).
Apparently, all has been said, all is clear; but the text suggests that the reality is far from the ideal presented this way and there is still much to be done to achieve communion. The diagram of ecclesial institutions and the legislation that rules these structures seems perfect, but does this beautiful machine work? In no. 55 we can see: “to foster a unity in diversity, a rigid or exaggerated confessionalism must give way to encouraging communities to cooperate among themselves, coordinate pastoral activities and manifest spiritual emulation and not rivalry”. Elsewhere (no. 58) we can read: “many of the faithful expect of them a greater simplicity of life, a real detachment from money and worldly goods, a radiating practice of chastity and a transparent moral purity”.
The text seems soothing and shy to us; however, we can read a clear denunciation of the harmful effects of confessionalism and clericalism, pettiness, hungerfor profit, the search for power, comfort and titles in the members of the clergy and religious men and women who act without complexes as functionaries and being noteworthy. These types of behavior can but lead to scandal, to the disintegration of communion, the disaffection and contestation of the Church and the Christian religion, and make the bed for all types of sects.
In several particular pastoral situations, the faithful are faced with problematic attitutdes from the clergy which concretely concern ecclesial communion:
- The Sunday practice in the closest Church, no matter the proximity (local, affective, linguistic or other);
- The celebration of marriage in the Church of the spouse and not in that of the husband;
- Catechesis and first communion in a parish other than that the ordinary parish, question of language and culture,
- the passage of a faithful to another Catholic Church;
- The sometimes exorbitant fees demanded for the sacraments (baptisms, marriages, etc...).
In these situations and others the clergy and the religious persons often show that they don’t
understand what “ecclesial communion” is.
[00133-02.04] [IN095] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Edgard MADI, Bishop of Nossa Senhora do Líbano em São Paulo of the Maronites (BRAZIL)
When we talk about monks, the Western world looks to the East. The Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” wrote an article last year on November 26th, 2009, about a Colombian brother Dario Escobar who has been living the Maronite monastic life for the past nine years in the convent of Our Lady of Houqa in the Canoubine Valley in Lebanon, which is connected to the local Lebanese congregation.
The world is in need of witness.
The Maronite Church is commemorating this year 1600 years since the death of Saint Maroun who was a monk and the patron of the Maronite Church. I suggest reviving the monastic life, the monastic and religious life in our Eastern Catholic Churches like the Orthodox Churches. This life renews the Church and forms a witness. It gives a trust for the Eastern Christians where they are partners in this East and provides vocations not only from the Middle East but also from the Diaspora.
The existence of religious persons and monks preserves Christians in their homelands and renews the Eastern Christian expansion throughout the world, it brings back its roots which are Eastern spiritual roots.I suggest forming a committee to go deeper into this issue and to make the Canoubine Valley in Lebanon not only a phase of ascetic history but also part of the present. This can be done through either founding a new Patriarchal congregation or by giving space in this Valley for all Catholic congregations to live “communion and witness”. Thus we will be like Mary who chose the better part.
[00095-02.03] [IN071] [Original text: Arabic]
Intervention of Bro. César ESSAYAN, Councillor of the General Delegation of the East and the Holy Land of the Order of Friars Minor (LEBANON)
The Word of God, so dear to our Father Saint Francis, is the place for meeting face to face with Christ. It is there, in meditation and contemplation, that I join He who is “my Lord and my God”. He who reveals Himself to me and reveals myself to me and invites me to become “the new man”, which Saint Paul spoke to us about in his letters. This is coming into communion with God the Creator and Savior.
Unfortunately, our Christians do not know Christ and His Gospel well. They often use the wrong words to speak about God, and concepts filled with other beliefs. The examples of this are many and all converge on the same idea: we have false images of God. Therefore it is a fundamental issue to return to the Word of God. Because our whole life depends upon, whether we want this or not, our concept of God.
And if God is relationship and communion in Himself, our divisions become the source of doubts, suffering and the faithful cannot but distance themselves from a Church that refuses within itself, forgiveness, reconciliation and communion.
Is it not time to walk together for the good of the People of God that are entrusted to us? What would it cost us to co-ordinate our efforts? Would it not be possible to also create indicatives common with our Orthodox brothers? Like for example, ‘Middle Eastern’ common initiatives for the young on the model of the WYD? Only when they feel that the Church embraces and encourages them through the Pastors will they be able to be witnesses that God expects them to be.
Therefore, this is not a question of speaking about our Christians but about ourselves: up to what point are we willing to take the risk of the Gospel which invites us to love our enemies (who are our brothers)? The risk of Reconciliation and Communion anticipated with our Orthodox brothers and those from the Reformed Churches?
“Have no fear”, Christ repeats and this Synod does so as well, “for I am with you until the end of the world”.
[00090-02.03] [IN069] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Jean TEYROUZ, Titular Bishop of Melitene of the Armenians, Curia Bishop of Cilicia of the Armenians (LEBANON)
1. “The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions... of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church. (Preamble of the Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite). “This tradition is to be attributed to Divine Providence”.
2. The Patriarchal Churches are at the first level. The Western Churches drew from their liturgical, spiritual, juridical and dogmatic treasures (DOE no. 14). The Patriarchal institution is the traditional form in Eastern Churches. (EO, no. 11). Patriarchs with their Synod are the superior instance for all patriarchal activities (EO, no. 9). To develop this global patrimony to conserve the fullness of Christian Tradition is to be recommended (DOE, no. 15).3. Who says emigration, says Diaspora. Some Patriarchal Churches have diaspora that count many more faithful than those on their own territories. Pope John Paul II asks to maintain and intensify the relationships between the Catholic communities of the diaspora and the different patriarchates. In fact, a local community cannot live cut off from its center of unity (New Hope..., No. 89). In the same Exhortation, the Pope speaks about the “historical roots of a religious nature that are part of the national identity” (1) and emphasizes their “prophetic character” (21).
4. The Orthodox Churches rejoice more in the powers in all affairs of their patriarchate. From an ecumenical perspective, to not give the Eastern Catholic Churches more legal powers constitutes a risk in seeing them disappear one day. To not plan for the future is to condemn oneself to failure. Life in its own way punishes the tardy ones. On the other hand, should these same Churches have greater jurisdiction, would this not be a stimulant to promoting the unity of Churches?
Finally, should the Catholic Church not give more jurisdictional powers to the Patriarchs of the “sui iuris” Churches for the good of all the Catholic and Orthodox Churches?
[00089-02.03] [IN068] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Youssef Anis ABI-AAD, Archbishop of Alep of the Maronites (SYRIA)
“We cannot welcome those that God places on our path if we do not welcome God in person. The more we discover God, the more we discover the holiness of God”.
The privileged place for the welcome of our brothers, in the event of our Muslim brothers, is, without a doubt, prayer.
There is a prayer we call contemplative prayer.
To contemplate is above all to contemplate the Trine God. To contemplate is also to contemplate, in the Spirit, the life of men, and, starting from offering it unto God with his joys and suffering, his progress and his regressions... all in having the spirit that we do not see in all the life of others, which remains a mystery to us.
In contemplation; it can happen that we cross, in a fleeting moment, a reflection of God’s gaze on people. This is a moment of grace, a moment of joy, because this gaze is creator, savior and full of love.
The first need is to try to establish a presence with our Muslim brothers, and with the others that we live with: simple, humble, fraternal presence that could favor dialogue under all forms, and mutual understanding.
[00094-02.03] [IN059] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Rev. F. Khalil ALWAN, Secretary General of the "Conseil des Patriarches Catholiques d'Orient" (C.P.C.O.) (LEBANON)
Paragraph 55 of the Instrumentum ;laboris did not take into consideration the large role that the Councils play in reinforcing communion between the Catholic Churches and in encouraging ecumenical and religious dialogue.
After having listed the activities of the CCEP, after 20 years of existence, on the level of pastoral theology, ecumenism, the common pastoral and coordination between Catholic Churches, I feel the CCEP suffers a handicap on the level of communication. I propose to the Synodal Assembly:
- Modifying the CCEP statutes to allow the assemblies of bishops from each country to be represented in the annual congress of the CCEP and that their representative may have the power to transmit and put into act the decisions within his assembly.
-The Organization of the congress of Catholic Patriarchs and bishops of the Middle East.
Finally, I see that the ecclesiastical authorities, the Roman dicasteries and the western episcopal conferences, and their associations seem to ignore this instance due to a lack of information. This is why, I propose also that the CCEP be added in the Annuarium Pontificium, like all the pontifical and other instances.
[00078-02.03] [IN056] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Guy-Paul NOUJAIM, Titular Bishop of Caesarea Philippi, Auxiliary Bishop and Syncellus for Sarba (LEBANON)
The Instrumentum laboris (no. 76), quoting Vatican II, declares that the division between Christians is the object of scandal and that it handicaps the most holy of causes: the preaching of the Gospel. Further on (no. 78), it recalls that His Holiness Pope John Paul II hoped for a new form of practice of the primacy without harming its mission, and inspired by the ecclesial forms of the first millennium which, while varied, did not stop the Christians from feeling at home in all its forms, be it spirituality, moral life or structure.
This is an invitation to review the role and the place of the Eastern Patriarchs in function of origins. A principle supported the organization of the Church at the time: in the same space, a single jurisdiction. And the Church that had spread or was more central than others, ensured unity by being elevated to the level of Patriarchate. The Council of Nicea in 325 mentions three Patriarchates: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. During the 5th century, the Pentarchy is achieved according to the following order: the Pope in Rome as the first, then the Patriarch of Constantinople, then of Alexandria, then of Antioch and finally the one from Jerusalem.
A return to union presupposes therefore a theology and a juridical organization of the Church which gives back to the Eastern Patriarchs their privileges from the first periods in the Universal Church, next to the Pope, the head of the entire Church. The main difficulties with this project:
- the foundation of new Patriarchates since the first millennium;
- the existence of several Catholic Patriarchs and one Orthodox Patriarch for the same see;
- a Roman Curia with badly defined prerogatives concerning the relationship with the Patriarchal curia.
Proposition: Your Holiness entrust a commission of theological, historical and pastoral experts to propose concrete solutions to these problems and the Church commits itself to apply them as soon as possible.
[00076-02.03] [IN054] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Gregory John MANSOUR, Bishop of Saint Maron of Brooklyn of the Maronites (USA)
The Preface to the Lineamenta, reminds us that the situation surrounding the missionary efforts of the first Christians is very similar to ours today. In the early days of the Church, the small Christian community in the Middle East faced numerous challenges and were in the minority. Today after much history, we are once again in the minority and facing numerous challenges.
From the perspective of a Maronite living in the United States, whenever I visit the Middle East I notice with great appreciation the ways in which Catholics make a profound difference in the lives of those around them. The schools, universities, hospitals, nursing homes, drug rehabilitation centers, hospices, orphanages, and other facilities which they operate are open to Muslim, Jew and Christian alike. These Catholics are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13 14).
Like the early Christians, we face seemingly unsurmountable challenges, and our chances seem slim. But we live by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). We may never convince with words our Muslim or Jewish neighbors that our presence is truly a real blessing for them, but the same antidote which helped the first Christians survive and overcome all challenges is also available to us: a share in God's generous and Holy Spirit and an apostolic love for one another that has the power to make us once again able to be “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
[00072-02.02] [IN049] [Original text: English]
Intervention of Rev. F. Umberto BARATO, Patriarchal Vicar Emeritus of Jerusalem of the Latins for Cyprus (CYPRUS)
Last June, Cyprus experienced intense, memorable days when His Holiness, Benedict XVI visited the island. We pray for the spiritually beneficial effect of the Visit to continue.
Cyprus falls under the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. There are four parishes: three administered by the Franciscans of the Holy Land, one by a priest of the Patriarchate.
The number of Latin Catholics is small. The four parishes, together with four congregations religious of women work above all for migrants and also for tourists.
Immigrants constitute an added wealth for the Church of Cyprus. The pastoral care toward them is particular and delicate. They only stay for a few years and are generally only free on Sundays. However pastoral care must be practiced as though they were remaining permanently within the parish. Catechesis is fundamental, above all for preparation for the sacraments. The ecclesial groups (Legion of Mary, charismatics, Neocatechumenal Way, Secular Franciscan Order, national groups for prayer, etc.) may be of great help in contact with the faithful, their knowledge and for collaboration in parish activities.
Pastoral action should be inspired by charity and indiscriminate acceptance, following the example of Jesus.
[00071-02.03] [IN048] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Mons. Dimitrios SALACHAS, Titular Bishop of Carcabia, Apostolic Exarch for the Catholics of Byzantine Rite living in Greece (GREECE)
The massive emigration of Eastern Catholic faithful from the Middle East to the West in territories of Latin ecclesiastical districts is an urgent problem of their pastoral care and of their legal status. Vatican II and later the supreme legislator in the Catholic Church, the Roman Pontiff, in his concern for the universal Church, with the promulgation of two Codes, one for the Latin Church and another for the Eastern Catholic Churches, thereby sufficiently provided them with adapted standards, prescribing faithful observance.
Foremost the Eastern Code enunciates a general principle, according to which the faithful of the Eastern Church, even if entrusted (commissi) to the pastoral care of a Bishop or a parish priest of another Church sui iuris, also included here is the Latin Church, remain however always members of their own Church, held to observe their own rite everywhere in the world, understood as their own liturgical, spiritual heritage and their discipline.
Another principle is as follows: In the places where a hierarchy for the Eastern faithful has not yet been established by the Apostolic See, one must retain as their own Hierarch (Ordinary) of the same faith, the Hierarch of another Church sui iuris, even of the Latin Church, that is, they are legally subject to the jurisdiction of the local Bishop, even of the Latin Church (can. 916,5).
In these cases, a right and duty of the Latin Bishop - who has Eastern Catholic faithful in his diocese - is to safeguard and guarantee to these faithful observance of their own rite, that is their own Liturgy and canonical discipline, and to provide and create that canonical ecclesial structure provided also by the Latin Code, as in for example the establishment of parish staff. Further, it is known that especially in the area of the Sacraments of Christian initiation and of marriage, the two Codes establish different norms, respectively codifying the legitimate diversity of the Latin and Eastern traditions. What this implies is that the Latin Bishop or parish priest should be sufficiently knowledgeable about these legitimate differences and encourage in practice the observance of the Eastern tradition for the Eastern faithful subject to their own jurisdiction, without imposing on the Eastern faithful - their subjects - the Latin discipline and practices, as often happens in Western countries simply out of ignorance.
It is urgent, therefore, that in the Latin seminaries in places where there are Eastern faithful, the students are also instructed in the area of the discipline that applies to the Eastern faithful. The same Bishops, the same parish priests in these Latin districts are required to know that discipline to guarantee the right and obligation of the Eastern faithful, their subjects, to observe their rite, that is to promote their Catholic and Eastern identity within the universal Church.
The supreme legislator has provided the Catholic Church with two canonical standards, that is two Codes, one for the Latin Church and one for the Eastern Church, which has recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its promulgation. Emigration therefore creates new, urgent pastoral needs which require even a summary, knowledge of this standard, that is that the Eastern Bishops know the Latin legislation, and that the Latin Bishops know the Eastern legislation. Vatican II (OE) teaches that, maintaining the unity of the faith and the one divine constitution of the universal Church, the Eastern Churches and the Western Churches have the right and the duty to practice according to their own discipline, more suitable for the good of the souls of their faithful.
[00065-02.03] [IN043] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Rev. F. Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, Custos of the Holy Land (JERUSALEM)
Too often the pastoral perspective in the Holy Land starts from the situation rather than the vocation of the Church. Our vocation has as its starting point Acts 2:9 12. Then as now, the Church of Jerusalem was born and developed as a universal Church.
The holy places of the Holy Land are not only the stable point of the local Christian identity, but they are a living memory of the Incarnation. This did not happen only in time but also in space. To live in that space is our vocation.
Pilgrimages from all over the world and the presence of Jews and Muslims appear to the eyes of faith as the fulfillment, even if only a partial one, of the prophecy of the gathering of all peoples on Mount Zion (Is 2: 2 4).
Pilgrimages and the multi religious character of the Church of the Holy Land ask us to be always more outgoing, hospitable, open to others. Being a minority urges us to be more proactive. The institutions of the Church are a living witness of this proactive approach.
In the end it is up to we Christians in the Holy Land to remember our duty to preserve the Christian character of the Land of the Lord.
[00063-02.03] [IN041] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of H. B. Baselios Cleemis THOTTUNKAL, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (INDIA)
Communion is basically derived from the most Holy Trinity. This Divine reality is reflected in all the salvific works of Lord Jesus Christ, hence, His body, the Church, has to transmit the same reality-communion. The Church universal is a communion of Churches, celebrating the one and the same saving acts of the Lord in diverse traditions, presided over by the bishops of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, the head of the Apostolic College. Hence Ecclesial Communion demands a deep sense of spiritual communion. Any attempt to deepen the sense and need of Ecclesial Communion, be it ad intra or ad extra, we all must inherit personally the spirituality of communion and transmit it as Christ’s body.
As we are engaged in deepening our Christian witnessing in the Middle East, I feel that our efforts for attaining full communion with our sister orthodox churches must be strengthened. As Pope John Paul II of happy memory suggested, a new form of petrine ministry is to be sought without abandoning what is essential to the ministry of the bishop of Rome as the supreme Pontiff (ut unum sint qs). Full communion with our sister churches in the Middle East will graciously increase our communion and witnessing in the world.
Our common commitment, with Muslims, Jews and all the religions and people of good will is to promote Justice everywhere by siding with those God loves and cares for, and asks us to do the same, so that human beings remain the crown of creation in our present world.
[00064-02.03] [IN043] [Original text: English]
Intervention of Mons. Ramzi GARMOU, President of the Iranian Episcopal Conference (IRAN)
In its conclusion the Instrumnentum laboris poses this very important and at the same time disconcerting question: What future for the Christians of the Middle East?
In my opinion this question sends us an urgent plea for a real and deep conversion of the heart to a life in conformity with the Gospel message. It is true, the future of the Church in our countries and in the entire world is in God’s hands, who watches over all His children like a Father full of tenderness and mercy. But it is also entrusted to our responsibility as pastors, successors of the Apostles, who have received the task of grazing God’s flock, not through cupidity, but through devotion, in becoming the models of the flock (1 Pet 5:2-3).
For this Synod to be the source of grace and renewal for our churches, we must listen to the what the Holy Spirit says to us. He can purify our hearts and free them from all that prevents us from being authentic and faithful witnesses of the Risen One. In this Holy Synod, we are asked to be meek and attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit who reminds us that the mission of the local church is to be of service to the people to whom it was sent; its main mission is to proclaim the good news of the Gospel according to the culture of that people. Fortunately, the working document warns us of the danger of confessionalism and an exaggerated attachment to the ethnicity that transforms our churches into ghettos and closes them in on themselves, whereas the mission of evangelization calls upon us to live the diversity that characterizes the venerable traditions of our churches in a deep communion that manifests their wealth and their beauty.
An ethnic and nationalistic church opposes the work of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s will who told us: “but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end” (Acts 1:8). Saint Paul, because of the passion he had to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, gave himself the title of “Apostle of the Nations”, he who could glorify himself in being Jewish and an Israelite. Let us listen to what he says: “I myself could rely on these too. If anyone does claim to rely on them, my claim is better... Circumcised on the eighth day of my life, I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. In the matter of the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for religious fervour, I was a persecutor of the Church; as for the uprightness embodied in the Law, I was faultless. But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses” (Phil 3:4-8). So that he could bear witness to the died and risen Christ in pagan nations, Paul sacrificed his nation and his ethnicity. Are we ready to imitate him on this so that our churches may find a new missionary breath, making the ethnic and nationalistic barriers fall, which threaten to asphyxiate and make them sterile?
The Instrumentum laboris almost ignored the vital importance of monastic and contemplative life for the renewal and the re-awakening of our churches. This form of life that was born in the East, was at the origin of an extraordinary missionary expansion and an admirable witness of our churches during the first centuries. History teaches us that the bishops were chosen among the monks, that is to say men of prayer and with a deep spiritual life, having vast experience in the “things of God”. Today, unfortunately, the choice of bishops does not obey the same criteria and we can see the results which are unfortunately not always happy ones.
The bi-millenary experience of the church confirms to us that prayer is the soul of the mission, it is thanks to this that all the activities of the church are fruitful and bear many fruits. Also, all those who participated in the reform of the church and gave back its innocent beauty and eternal youth were essentially men and women of prayer. For this reason our Lord invites us to pray without ceasing. With regret and bitterness we see that monasteries of contemplative life, source of abundant grace for the people of God, have almost disappeared in our Eastern Churches. What a great loss! How sad!
[00061-02.03] [IN039] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Antoine Nabil ANDARI, Titular Bishop of Tarsus of the Maronites, Auxiliary Bishop and Syncellus for Jounieh (LEBANON)
“Do not fear little flock” is a call for hope.
What are the possible paths towards the future for Christians, from the Lebanese experience?
This means to look at today’s main threats that are a burden on Christians, to consider and then propose practical suggestions in view of a future of peace.
-Among the main threats: the truncated accord of Taef, the decree of naturalization, the insidious land purchases by foreigners, rampant impoverishment...
-Among the suggestions to be considered: the re-establishment of confessional equilibrium, a “white paper” on the demographic situation and the illegal aspects of the naturalization decree, awarding citizenship to emigrants as well as their right to vote, to support the efforts of the Maronite foundation throughout the world, to repeal today’s laws on the sale of land to foreigners, to institute a “permanent Cenacle” of Arab Christian thinkers...
[00060-02.03] [IN038] [Original text: French]
Intervention of H. B. Fouad TWAL, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM)
The Mother Church of the Holy Land is a very concrete and living reality, even if a minority. Fundamentally, the Christians in our countries are not converted persons during a certain moment of history, but the descendants of the very first Community, formed by Jesus Christ Himself.
Some ecclesial and pastoral consequences for the Universal Church come from this:
- The Mother Church of Jerusalem, therefore is your Church where spiritually and ecclesially you were all born (Ps 87). She watches over the Holy Places of the Patriarchs, the Prophets, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Apostles for the whole Church. She is, as we were reminded by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, “the fifth Gospel”.
- The Mother Church of Jerusalem must therefore be the object of love, of prayer and of attention from all the Church, from all bishops, priests and faithful of the People of God. To be solidary with the Church of Jerusalem, to live communion and witness which this Synod speaks about, reveals our duties as shepherds and the episcopal collegiality.
- To love the Holy Land implies visiting the Holy Places and meeting with the local Community.
- To love the Holy Land is also to serve it: do not leave your Mother Church alone and isolated. Help her with your prayers, your love and your solidarity, avoiding that she become a great open-air museum. To be silent because of fear before the dramatic situation you all know about would be a sin of omission.
Also, we are very grateful to the Holy See, to the bishops, to the priests and to all the friends of the Holy Land for what they so generously do to support us spiritually and in a material way. We are also very thankful to the Congregation of Eastern Churches and to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
- The Christian Community of the Holy Land (barely 2% of the population) is suffering violence and instability. It is a Church of the Calvary. She has the weighty responsibility of perpetuating the message of peace and reconciliation. Despite the difficulties that seem overwhelming, we believe in God, the Master of history. For God “is the peace between us, and has made the two into one entity and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart... by restoring peace, to create a single New Man out of the two of them” (Eph 2:14-15).
[00056-02.04] [IN034] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Joseph ARNAOUTI, Patriarchal Exarch of Damascus of the Armenians, Bishop Emeritus of Kamichlié of the Armenians (SYRIA)
“When the completion of the time came” (Gal 4:4), God “sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ the Saviour, who took flesh as an Asian” (Ecclesia in Asia, no. 1) and who would return to the Orient (Mt 24:27). Christ is the incarnated, dead and risen merciful Love. He is the Son of the East. The Incarnation, whose jubilee we celebrated in the year 2000, John Paul II (Novo Millennio Ineunte) conceives it “not only as a remembrance of the past, but also as a prophecy of the future” (no. 3). The same Pope summarizes the 20th century as a century of barbarians and the manifestation of Divine Mercy. In reference to the Instrumentum laboris, 2nd goal and part of the Synod: “to foster ecclesial communion”, I will read the signs of the times, which summarizes a word by Pope Benedict XVI: “the mystery of Merciful Love was at the center of the Pontificate of my venerable predecessor” (John Paul II). I suggest the following propositions:
1. The institution of a liturgical feast of the Father. The “Our Father” is the ecumenical prayer par excellence.
2. To build together the Body of Christ: to be servants of communion, prophets of hope and witnesses of mercy (A New Hope for Lebanon). In the Middle East “different Catholic eparchies cross”. “This difficulty could be a grace... but should not impoverish it (no. 64). We note, “the absence of meaning of the Church as mystery of communion” (no. 80).
3. The primacy of Grace is that of Peter during the 3rd millennium. After Paul VI, John Paul II recognizes that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome “constitutes an obstacle” for the majority of other Christians and invites to search with him for forms of ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome. In fact, Vatican II states that the Bishop of Rome is the “permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion” (Lumen Gentium, no. 18). On the other hand, according to Pope John Paul II, from the human weakness of Peter, it is clear that his specific service is an act of grace. After his triple denial, Peter needs Divine Mercy for his service to be a service of mercy, born of multi-form Mercy of God (Ut Unum Sint). Accord¬ing to the same Pope, the Church must not “forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it” (Dives in Misericordia, No. 15).
[00054-02.03] [IN032] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Archmandrite Robert L. STERN, General Secretary of the "Catholic Near East Welfare Association" (C.N.E.W.A.) (USA)
“Church” has many meanings. The Church's mystery can be described using “models”, none of which is adequate to describe it. We use “models”, whether conscious of it or not. The early church saw unity in terms of “pax et communio”. The church is held together by the Holy Spirit and personal bonds among its members, nurtured by communication. This model is echoed in the internet. The church as a “communio” is a personal communication network in the Spirit. Models affect decisions: The limitation of the jurisdiction of Eastern heads of churches “outside” their homelands presumes a geographic model; if a personal network, this is not appropriate. In the model of network, many churches in the same territory is normal, and rivalries and attempts to proselytize or dominate are inappropriate. Canon law favors a geographic notion of church; although people live“in” a parish, in urban settings they choose their own. Emigration is similar: from the geographic view, we see traditional Christian populations diminish, but in the personal perspective we celebrate Christians wherever they choose to be. “Communio” grows with increasing and deeper personal communication, as do interreligious relations.
[00047-02.02] [IN025] [Original text: English]
Intervention of Mons. Jean Benjamin SLEIMAN, Archbishop of Babylon of the Latins (IRAQ)
My intervention relates to no. 55 of the .I.L which says: In inter-ecclesial relations among Catholics, this communion is manifested in each country by the various assemblies of patriarchs and bishops so that Christian witness might be more sincere, credible and fruitful. To foster a unity in diversity, a rigid or exaggerated confessionalism must give way to encouraging communities to cooperate among themselves, coordinate pastoral activities and manifest spiritual
emulation and not rivalry. In this regard, some responses suggest periodically calling (perhaps every five years) an assembly of the entire episcopate of the Middle East.”
The Communion is referred to about thirty times in the Instrumentum. That is the heart of our ecclesial identity, the dynamics of unity and of the multiplicity of our churches. From it depends our present and our future, our testimony and our engagement, our efforts to stem an emigration which weakens us and exorcize the disenchantment which erodes us.
But communion is especially contradicted by confessionalism. Rites are transformed into confessions. It is also essential that our churches sui juris rediscover the roots of this phenomenon which are buried in primitive Arab Islamic structures. They are invited to disengage from this historical heritage to " find the model of the community of Jerusalem".
[00044-02.04] [IN022] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Rev. F. Mauro JÖHRI, General Minister of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (ITALY)
In my intervention I recalled the characteristics of the presence of the Capuchins in the Middle East down through the centuries within the wider Franciscan tradition. I paid particular attention to the situation in Turkey. I remembered the cultural commitment and pastoral dedication of the Capuchin bishop Mons. Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar to Anatolia, who was brutally murdered last 3 June, and I recalled the grave difficulties Christians are subject to in that land.
Among the commitments of the Capuchins, apart from the pastoral care of Christians spread throughout an enormous territory, works of charity and evangelical witness, I recalled his commitment to promoting the symposia of Tarsus on Saint Paul and of Ephesus on Saint John, in collaboration with the Antonianum Spiritual Institute with the aim of promoting interest in the sites of the origins of Christianity, rediscovering their cultural importance, and not just for Christians. I also recalled his commitment to the promotion of meeting and dialogue with Muslims through the organization of symposia on inter-religious dialogue. To sum up, the commitment of the Capuchins, along with that of the other ecclesial realities, becomes concrete in wanting to be witnesses in the ecclesial communion of Christ as the hope of peace for everyone.
Finally I recalled, quoting the words of our murdered brother, that it is always possible to live this apostolic responsibility, even where, because of difficulties and discrimination, the only possible commitment “is that of being a presence. A witness. With a greatly reduced pastoral activity [...] the mission is presence”; this is then the only way to render justice to the witness of the martyrs who shed their blood in these lands for the Gospel of Christ.
[00043-02.02] [IN021] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Mons. Raphaël François MINASSIAN, Patriarchal Exarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Cilicia (JERUSALEM)
Communion is not a friendly social relationship, but it is rather the dedication of oneself for the good of one’s brother. This is the teaching of Jesus.
The local Church of the Holy Land in Jerusalem is aware of the acute problems of a socio-political nature faced by Christians in the Middle East, and has faith in the imperative importance of the media that can play a positive role in proposing solutions.
The technique of the mass media consists of the use of sound, image and text as means of communication that leads us to a “communicative” solution that is based on the unity of the Catholic Churches in the East. An ideal unity for a Christian testimony that facilitates communion and collaboration without damaging the identities of the various Christian Catholic Churches and without eroding their traditional culture.
The Catholic Church in the Middle East has remained faithful to the apostolic tradition that consisted of preaching, visiting and writing. Collaboration in the field of the mass media is still weak among the Catholics of the Middle East because of the differences between cultures and ecclesiastical traditions.
Recently the use of the mass media and means of social communication has become more frequent but at the level and on the initiative of single individuals. These means, despite the rapid progress in the world of the media, are still at a primitive level as a result of a lack of economic resources and therefore of professionalism.
The mass media can play an important role and be one of the most suitable means for creating a real communion between the various Catholic Churches, starting from an effective collaboration between them in such a way that the mass media might truly become a place of witness to Jesus and Christian values.
[00041-02.02] [IO018] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Mons. Maroun Elias LAHHAM, Bishop of Tunis (TUNIS)
To talk about Middle East/Maghreb relations does not mean to speak about Eastern;/Western relations. The Maghreb countries are also a part of the Arab world and the Muslim countries. One should know that there are more Muslims in Northern Africa than in the Middle East. It is true to say that the Middle East has the grace of having some Christian Arab minorities, while Christianity that existed in the first centuries has completely disappeared in the Maghreb region. Today, there are authentic local Churches implanted in the respective countries, but with foreign believers.
My intervention begins with these two points.
- The nations in the Maghreb are part of the Arabic Muslim world. There are a few peculiarities in one country or another. Life in Rabat, in Algiers, in Tunis or in Tripoli is the same as life in Amman, in Damascus, in Baghdad or in Cairo. This can be applied above all to relationships with Islam and in the fact of living the Christian faith in a very different context. The Churches in the Maghreb region have every reason to place themselves in relationship to their sister Churches of the Middle East in this domain, and to bring their specificity as dialogue of life and thought with Islam, a dialogue that lived from the point of view of foreigners and not as fellow citizens.
- The Maghreb Churches are Churches where the faithful are foreigners. In each Church in the Maghreb there are no less than 60 different nationalities. They are Europeans (businessmen, diplomats, residents, retirees, Christian women in mixed marriages...), Africans (students, employees of the African Bank for Development, military personnel, families, immigrants...), some Christian Arabs of the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan) and a handful of locals baptized in the Catholic Church (in Tunisia and in Algeria).
The collaboration required here is an exchange of priests, of religious persons, of consecrated lay persons or of volunteers to work in the parishes and in the different institutes of the Church in Northern Africa. Up until now, it was Europe that provided this. Today, this is no longer feasible, given the decrease in the priestly and religious vocations. Not having any local Christian families or residents for generations, our Churches have two directions in which to turn to for help: Africa and the Middle East.
It is true that the life of a priest in the Middle East does not resemble the life of a priest in the Maghreb context (I can say this from my own experience, being myself, as well as my brother from Algiers, Middle Easterners), however, with the grace of God and a serious effort in adaptation, it is possible and even enriching. For the religious, integration is easier, because they have the support of the community.
“Ask and you shall receive” said the Lord. We have asked, we wait to receive.
[00036-02.03] [IN014] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Antonios Aziz MINA, Bishop of Guizeh of the Copts (EGYPT)
This intervention of mine is not aimed at asking for a change in the current norms, but rather that of finding a way that might simplify the procedures in making nominations, maintaining the current norms and safeguarding at the same time Eastern tradition.
I suggest two alternatives, in order of preference:
- To consider the Roman Pontiff potentially present in all the meetings of the Synod, and implicitly assenting at every election that has taken place. Thus the Patriarch will have to ask the Holy Father to give his blessing at the end of the election but still before the publication of the nomination.
- The Patriarch should communicate the election result directly to the Holy Father in a special audience or by means of the Pontifical Representative, asking for his assent.
The jurisdiction of the patriarch over the faithful of the same rite outside of the patriarchal territories:
The principle of territoriality has been staunchly maintained by all the ecumenical councils.
On the other hand, the last 60/70 years have marked human history at a frenetic rate.
Mass immigration of entire families from one side of the world to another has led to many Eastern people leaving their territory to establish their home elsewhere. The extreme example of this is when the faithful belonging to a Church “sui iuris” are more numerous outside of the territory than within it.
It is not entirely logical that some faithful who belong to a Church “sui iuris” have no relationship with the Church they belong to other than liturgically.
My request is that the Patriarch be granted personal jurisdiction over the faithful of his Church wherever they might be.
Bishoprics for the Eastern faithful deprived of a hierarch:
This pre-Council juridical structure, that arose for the pastoral care of the Eastern faithful living outside their territories of origin, appears to be entirely outdated, in fact I would even go so far as to say it is contrary to the dispositions of present law.
I propose instead to look again at the juridical position of the existing bishoprics for the Eastern faithful deprived of a hierarch, with a view to their abolition.
The mission of married priests outside the patriarchal territories
Since the 1930s there has been a ban on the ordination of and the practice of the ministry by married priests outside the territories of the Patriarchy and the “Historically Eastern regions”.
I think, in line with whatever the Holy Father decides, that the time has come to take this step in favor of the pastoral care of the Eastern faithful throughout the Diaspora.
[00035-02.02] [INO13] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Card. Angelo SODANO, Dean of the College of Cardinals (VATICAN CITY)
A first requirement
Turning our gaze now to the actual Assembly, I would like to say immediately that I fully agree with what is written in our "Instrumentum laboris" and therefore that ecclesial communion is the first requirement that Christians must listen to in the current complex reality of the Middle East. This unity is then also the first evidence that Pastors and faithful may give to the society in which they live, whether one is in Cyprus, or in Kuwait, in Turkey or in Egypt, in a society where the Christian presence is a minority as in various countries on the Arab Peninsula or where it is very important like in Lebanon.
The hardships of today may indeed may become a stimulus to greater cohesion between the various Christian communities, also overcoming the denominationalism which is narrow-minded and limited. Christians, indeed, are, above all, members of the same Mystic Body of Christ. Before the differences of language, of nationality, of membership of various other denominations, there is, in fact, membership in the one Church of Christ, and therefore there is the duty of close cooperation and a charitable and fraternal style of living.
Even before the spread of Christianity in the Middle East, the anonymous author of the letter to Diognetus described the identity of Christians as "indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs .... or speak a strange dialect ...yet there is something extraordinary about their lives" (Letter to Diognetus, n. 5).
I remember that the late Pope John Paul II was very insistent on the subject of Christian unity and of solid openness to others during the Synod for Lebanon, in 1995. He then devoted in this respect some important pieces of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of 1997, reminding us that all the different Christian communities form one and the same Catholic Church united around the Successor of Peter and devoted to the service of humanity (post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Une espérance nouvelle" n. 8).
Sometimes the discussions in our communities are also born from differing pastoral attitudes, between one who prefers to give priority to the custody of the legacy of the past and the other that calls more for renewal. However we know, in the end, we must always be cognizant of the criterion given to us, the criterion of the "new things as well as old." (Mt 13,52), and thus the new and old to be extracted from the treasury of the Church.
This was also referred to recently by our beloved Holy Father Benedict XVI, speaking to a group of newly appointed bishops, telling them: "The concept of "guarding" does not only mean preserving what has been established although this element must never be lacking but includes, in its essence, also the dynamic aspect, in other words a perpetual and practical aspiration to perfection, in full harmony and continuous adaptation to the new needs that have arisen from the development and progress of that living organism which is the community". (L'Osservatore Romano, 13-14 September 2010).
Of course, the unity between Pastors and faithful in the Middle East also involves a close unity with the Church of Rome, where Providence guided the Apostle Peter to make his See. In this respect who does not recall what the great Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius, wrote to the Church of Rome?
This is an affective union which must then lead to effective union with the Holy See, through the numerous channels that exist today. In this regard I would also like to mention the opportunity for a closer union with the existing Papal Representatives in the countries of the Middle East. Eight were worthily posted by the Pope to Jerusalem and to Beirut, to Damascus and to Ankara, to Baghdad and to Tehran, to Cairo and to Safat in Kuwait with the plan to work together with local Pastors in this difficult hour of their mission.
In conclusion, we must all work together to prepare for a new dawn for the Middle East, using the talents that God has given us. Of course, it is urgent to facilitate the resolution of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yes, it is urgent to take action to end the aggressive elements within Islam. Of course we must always demand respect for the religious freedom for all believers. It is a difficult mission that you, venerable Pastors of the Church in the Middle East, have to carry out in such a dramatic moment in history. But know that you are not alone in your daily concern to prepare a better future for their community.
Intervention of Mons. Kyrillos WILLIAM, Bishop of Assiut, Lycopolis of the Copts (EGYPT)
The liturgy, according to the Instrumentum Laboris, is a deeply rooted feature of Eastern culture, thus one cannot lessen its strength in order to preserve the intensity of the faith today. History asserts that in our Middle Eastern countries, the liturgy has always been a school for education in the faith and Christian morality, especially when one considers our population, simple and for the most part illiterate, thanks to numerous biblical readings (six daily readings in our Coptic liturgy, even more on feast days and on certain celebrations) and to prayers composed of juxtaposed biblical quotations.
For this reason we must maintain it with reverence according to the text of Eastern canons law (cfr canon 39 of CCEO).
In the Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph four, Vatican II affirms the equality of all rites with regard to rights and dignity. In the conciliar decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Council fathers affirm a special regard for the patrimony of Eastern churches, and emphasize their kind deeds towards the Universal Church, quoting Leo XIII’s apostolic letter of November 30, 1894, “Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.
The Conciliar Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches likewise urges all Westerners who are in contact with these Churches, to apply themselves in learning and respecting Eastern liturgies... and it refers to the Motu Proprio “Orientis Catholici” of Benedict XV of October 15, 1917 and Pius XI’s Encyclical of September 8, 1926, “Rerum Orientalium”.
Canon 41 of the CCEO confirms this and requires them to know these liturgies precisely and to practice them.
Now, we can see that quite a few Latin religious persons translate the Latin liturgy into Arabic and they celebrate it for our Eastern faithful helping them thus to separate from their churches and to weaken their belonging to them.
With regards to the liturgical language (Instrumentum Laboris 72), we did not wait for Vatican II to translate our liturgical texts into the current language of our people. Since its origins, our Coptic liturgy was celebrated in the different dialects in Upper Egypt, and in the larger cities in Greek, the language of culture and of daily life. Since the beginning of the tenth century, we an find everything in Arabic. One factor which has helped to preserve the faith, and if we compare with other neighboring countries such as North Africa, we observe that several centuries later, Christianity, which flourished at the outset, has vanished; because a foreign liturgy in a little-known language had been imposed upon them.
I have an explanation to ask for and a wish to hope for: In a country such as ours, Egypt, where all (Catholics, non-Catholics and even non-Christians) are Copts, what is the purpose of the Latin liturgy in Arabic? If there are Latins, it is their right to celebrate the Latin Mass, but in a language other than Arabic, because this attracts our faithful and helps in their dispersal.
[00026-02.03] [IN004] [Original text: French]
Report of Mons. John Atcherley DEW, President of the "Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania" (F.C.B.C.O.), for Oceania
Geographically, Oceania could not be further from the Middle East, and yet the links between our two regions are strong.
I represent the Federation of Catholic Bishops of Oceania: Australia (32 dioceses) Papua New Guinea (22), New Zealand (6) the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific consisting of 17 dioceses and ecclesiastical territories. In total a diverse and scattered community of about 6 million Catholics, small “islands of humanity” (Radcliffe) in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean that covers one-third of the world' s surface.
In November 1998, all the Bishops of Oceania assembled here for the Synod for Oceania. We were challenged to "Walk the way of Jesus Christ, to tell his truth and to live his life." It is a communio of faith and charity that links us with the Churches of the Middle East, we have come to appreciate the rich diversity members of these Churches bring to Oceania. We recognize their vulnerability in living as minor Churches, and we "are eager to appreciate, understand and promote the traditions, liturgy, discipline and theology of the Eastern Churches." (EIO 12)
Out of Australia's five million Catholics there are a small, but significant number of Catholics who belong to the Eastern Catholic Churches. The two largest Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia are the Maronite and Melkite, each of which is an established diocese (eparchy), with a bishop (eparch) who is a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and who from time to time come to the New Zealand Conference meeting. As well as these Eastern Catholic Churches, there are also Chaldean, Syrian, Syro-Malabar and Coptic Catholic Churches.
The Maronite, Melkite and Chaldean Eparchies extend into New Zealand, offering pastoral and liturgical services to their communities there too.
The wider Middle East is present in Oceania through migrants and refugees who have made their home in the region: European Jews from earliest days of Australia and New Zealand settlement, as well as refugees from Germany in the 1930s, and survivors of the Shoah; Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians; Iraqi, both Christian and Muslim; and in more recent years, Kurdish refugees from Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
Our historical links are strongly marked by war and peace .
Australian and New Zealand troops (ANZACS) trained in Egypt during the early years of the Great War (1914 - 1918); sadly the next generation was back in Egyptian desert again in the early 1940s of the Second World War.
Fijian peace keeping forces have served with the United Nations in both Lebanon and Sinai.
These links are cemented today through the presence of many pilgrims from Oceania who visit the Holy Land; through refugee resettlement; aid development programmes of Caritas Internationalis; the presence of international religious orders who are dedicated to educational work, or the support of the Holy Places.
Response to the Instrumentum Laboris:
There are two themes of the Instrumentum Laboris I would like to respond to from the experiences of Oceania.
1.Communion and Witness;
The Instrumentum Laboris has brought to our attention in a new way the challenges facing the Christians in the Middle East: the complex political conflicts, questions of freedom of religion and conscience, living in daily contact as a minority in majority Islamic or Jewish communities, and the constant movement of peoples through emigration and immigration. We are far away, but aware that we are linked to all Christians in the Middle East through a common baptism, ecclesial tradition, faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to his mission. We would like our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East to know that we value this communion, that we commit ourselves to stand in solidarity as they suffer, and will support them in prayer and practical assistance in the challenges they face daily.
2. A commitment to interfaith relations:
The Churches in Oceania are novices in this field, we have much to learn from the sustained commitment of the churches of the Middle East to the dialogue of Abrahamic faiths. We recognize the complexity of the historical and cultural context in which this dialogue is carried out with the signs of hope in the peace process, as well as the setbacks of misunderstanding, persecution and betrayal.
The Introduction to the Instrumentum Laboris speaks of the need for Christians to get know their Jewish and Muslim neighbours well if they are to collaborate with them in the fields of religion, social interaction and culture for the good of society. Remembering the need for religion to become the basis of peace and for promoting the spiritual and material values of people the following efforts have been made in Australia and New Zealand.
[00021-02.04] [RC004] [Original text: English]
REPORT BEFORE THE DISCUSSION BY THE GENERAL REPORTER, ANTONIOS NAGUIB, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA OF THE COPTS
Most Holy Father,
Your Eminences, Beatitudes and Excellencies,
Fraternal Delegates of the Sister Churches and Ecclesial Communities,
Dear Experts and Invited Guests,
First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitude to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI for having appointed me as General Rapporteur of this Special Assembly for the Middle East. This is the first time I have taken on such an awesome task. I will try to carry it out to the best of my ability, relying on the Lord’s assistance and your understanding.
Saint Luke reports in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus, before taking leave of his apostles, gave them these instructions: «You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth» (Acts 1:8).
The Apostles, after having received the Holy Spirit, undertook their mission and began fearlessly to announce the Good News of the Lord’s life, death and resurrection (cf. Acts 2:32). Peter’s first proclamation resulted in the conversion and Baptism of approximately three thousand persons and many others after them, all of whom were radically transformed: «Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common» (Acts 4:32).
These happenings at the Church’s origin inspired the topic and the goal of our Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops: communion and witness — both communal and personal — flowing from a life grounded in Christ and animated by the Holy Spirit. Over the centuries, the example of the Church of the Apostles has always been the model for the Church in every age. Our Synodal Assembly aims at offering us assistance in returning to this ideal, in helping us examine our lives so as to give them a renewed energy and vitality which will purify, regenerate and invigorate us.
The Holy Father personally consigned to us the Instrumentum laboris of this Special Assembly, during his Apostolic Visit to Cyprus, a gesture which showed his particular concern for our Churches. Yesterday morning’s Solemn Eucharistic Concelebration, at which His Holiness was the principal celebrant, is the best guarantee of God’s blessing on this Assembly. Assured of this heavenly assistance and relying on the help and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we confidently approach our task.
All of us received the announcement of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops with great joy, enthusiasm, gratitude and fervor. The Holy Father’s decision was seen as his fatherly acceptance of a proposal which was of particular concern to us and a demonstration of his special care for our Churches as Bishop of Rome and as the Supreme Shepherd of the Catholic Church. We have already witnessed his special consideration on various occasions and frequently during his homilies and discourses. We experienced it in a particular manner, during his Apostolic Visits to Turkey (2006), to Jordan, Israel and Palestine (2009) and most recently to Cyprus (2010). However, the actual presence of the Holy Father in our midst, during these proceedings, brings the love, solidarity, prayer and support of the Successor of Peter, the Holy See and the entire Church.
As soon as the Holy Father announced the event on 19 September 2009, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops worked with the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East to prepare the Lineamenta, and, subsequently, the Instrumentum laboris. For the most part, these documents find their basis in Sacred Scripture, with references to the documents of Vatican Council II, the Codes of Canons of the Eastern Churches and the Code of Canon Law. Particular consideration was given to the 10 Pastoral Letters of the Council of Patriarchs of the Middle East. I believe that the work was well done, despite the limited time available in preparation.
I feel it would be useful to propose the following topics in the Instrumentum laboris for more detailed treatment in the course of our work.
A. The Goal of the Synod (nn. 3 - 6)
The twofold aim of the Synod was well received and appreciated in our Catholic Churches, namely:
1) to confirm and strengthen the Church’s members in their Christian identity, through the Word of God and the sacraments; and
2) to foster ecclesial communion between the Churches sui iuris, so that they may offer an authentic and effective witness. Essential elements in this witness in our lives are ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and the missionary effort.
The Instrumentum laboris insists on the need and importance that the synod fathers give our Christian people reasons for their presence in our countries and confirm them in their mission of being, and continuing to be, authentic witnesses of the Risen Christ, in every aspect of their lives. Amidst oftentimes very difficult yet promising circumstances in life, they are a visible icon of Christ, the “flesh and blood” incarnation of his Church and the present-day instrument of the Holy Spirit’s activity.
B. A Reflection Guided by Holy Scripture (nn. 7 - 12)
We are proud to come from lands where men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the Holy Books in some of our native languages. This, however, makes demands on us. Holy Scripture must be the soul of our religious life and witness, both as individuals and communities. The Holy Liturgy is the centre and summit of our ecclesial life, where we celebrate and listen regularly to the Word of God. In our reading, praying and meditating upon the Holy Bible, whether as a Church, in small groups or individually, we must look for and find the answers to the meaning of our presence in our countries, our communion and our witness, taking into consideration our surroundings and the present-day challenges of new situations.
The Instrumentum laboris draws attention to an insufficient response to the great thirst of our faithful for the Word of God, its understanding and its assimilation in their hearts and lives. In this regard, appropriate initiatives need to be considered, undertaken, encouraged and supported, particularly through utilising the modern media which are available today. Individuals, who, in virtue of their vocation, are more directly in contact with the Word of God, have a special responsibility to witness and intercede for the People of God. Memorisation of biblical texts is always beneficial and fruitful.
«Salvation history» needs to be highlighted in the exegesis and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, which reveal the unique, divine plan, unfolding over the ages and intimately bound to both the Old and the New Testament, a plan which finds its center and summit in Jesus Christ. Inasmuch as the Bible is the Book of the Christian community, the biblical text can only be correctly interpreted within the Church. Therefore, the Church’s tradition and teaching, especially in our Eastern countries, are the indisputable reference-point for understanding and interpreting the Bible.
The Word of God is the source of theology, morality and apostolic and missionary spirituality and vitality. The Word sheds light on life’s happenings, thereby transforming, guiding and giving them meaning. Some unthinking or bad-intentioned persons use the Bible as a “recipe book” or a basis for superstitious practices. We have the responsibility to educate our faithful not to give credence to such people. The Word of God also shed’s light on communities and personal choices in life, providing responses to the challenges of life, inspiration to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and the manner of dutifully approaching political life. The Word of God, therefore, needs to be the reference-point for Christians in education and witness, so as to indicate to people of good the path which leads to the God for whom they are searching.
I. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE EAST
A. The Situation of Christians in the Middle East
1. A Brief Historical Sketch: Unity in Diversity (nn. 13 - 18)
Knowledge of the history of Christianity in the Middle East is important for us, as it is for the rest of the Christian world. In these very lands, God chose and guided the patriarchs, Moses and the People of the Old Covenant. Here, he spoke through the prophets, judges, kings and women of faith. In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ, the Savior became man and lived in these lands, choosing and forming his disciples and accomplishing his work of salvation. The Church of Jerusalem, born on the day of Pentecost, gave rise to the particular Churches, which continued — and continue today — the work of Christ in time, through the action of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Holy Father, the Successor of Peter.
After initial, minor conflicts, the Church underwent successive divisions during the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451). Thus were born the «Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East», and the «Eastern Orthodox Churches»: Coptic, Syrian and Armenian. During the XI Century, the Great Schism between Constantinople and Rome occurred. These divisions, based on theological controversies, were mainly the result of political-cultural factors. To assist ecumenical dialogue, historical and theological studies need to focus more on these tragic periods and events.
As bitter fruits from the past, all these divisions still exist today in our countries. Thanks be to God that the Spirit is working in the Churches to fulfill Christ’s prayer: «that they may all be one...so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me» (Jn 17:21).
2. Apostolicity and the Missionary Vocation (nn. 19 - 23)
Our Churches, blessed by the presence of Christ and the Apostles, were the cradle of Christianity and the home of the first generations of Christians. For this reason, our Churches are called to keep alive the memory of the Church’s beginnings, to strengthen the faith of their members and to renew in them the spirit of the Gospel, so that God’s Word might guide their lives and relations with others, both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Apostolic in origin, our Churches have, in turn, the particular mission of cooperating in the proclamation of the Gospel. Studying the missionary history of our Churches would help stimulate this evangelical effort, which characterised our beginning. «Being missionary» is necessarily our duty, which arises from our Churches’ roots and our rich and varied patrimonies. What we have received, we must freely give to all in need. Our Churches must undertake the task of renewing within themselves the evangelical missionary effort. Becoming more open to the power of the Spirit will help us share with our fellow citizens the riches of love and the light of hope (cf. Rom 5:5). In fact, «We are, in the society we live in, a sign of the presence of God in our world. This invites us to be ‘with’, ‘in’, and ‘for’ the society we live in. It is an essential requirement of our faith, of our vocation and of our mission». «The Church cannot be measured statistically by numbers, but by the living conscience its children have of their vocation and their mission».
To ensure the future of our Communities, the Pastors must specially devote themselves to encouraging vocations through effective and suitable pastoral programmes, aimed particularly towards the young and families. While rendering thanks to God for the vocations in our Churches, we acknowledge that some dioceses and eparchies are seriously in need of them. Perhaps we need to begin assuming our duty of «being missionary» within the eparchies and dioceses of our Churches in the region. The good example of priests and women and men religious, who are devout, content, edifying and united in fellowship, is the best manner of attracting young people to totally consecrate themselves to God. This Synod could be the occasion to review the programmes, methods and way of life in seminaries and houses of formation.
Coordination and mutual aid among congregations, religious orders and bishops is of great assistance in generating vocations. We must also search for appropriate means in supporting and fortifying congregations and institutes of consecrated life. While encouraging contemplative life where it exists, we must, through prayer, prepare the terrain for the Spirit’s activity , if we are to bring about contemplative communities where they do not exist. The religious orders in our countries could take the initiative to establish communities in other countries and places in the region.
3. The Role of Christians in Society, Although a Small Minority (nn. 24 - 31)
Our societies, despite their differences, have certain characteristics in common: an attachment to tradition, a traditional way of life, confessionalism and a uniqueness based on religious affiliation. These factors provide bridges and a point of union between peoples, but they can also be a source of alienation and division. Christians are «native citizens» in their countries, members with full rights in their civic communities. They consider themselves “ at home”, and have oftentimes lived in countries for a considerable length of time. Their presence and participation in the life of a country are a valuable commodity to be protected and maintained. A positive laicity would permit an effective and fruitful contribution of the Church and help strengthen the idea of citizenship, founded on the principles of equality and democracy, for every person in the country.
In her pastoral, cultural and social activity, the Church needs to utilise, increasingly and in a more effective manner, modern technology and the means of social communications. Specialised persons should be formed with this in mind. Eastern Christians should commit themselves to working for the common good, in all its aspects, as they always have done. They can help create the social conditions that can foster the development of personality and society, in collaboration with the efforts of political authorities. Although they are a small minority in many countries, their dynamism is inspiring and much appreciated. They need to be supported and encouraged to maintain this attitude, even in difficult circumstances. While resisting the temptation towards a ghetto mentality, these persons could be greatly assisted by strengthening not only their life of faith but also their social ties and bonds of solidarity.
Through the presentation of the social doctrine of the Church, our communities offer a valuable contribution to building society. Promotion of the family and the defense of life need to be central in our Church’s teaching and mission programmes. Education is a privileged part of our activity and a major investment. As much as possible, our schools need to provide more assistance to those less fortunate among us. Through their social, healthcare and charitable activities, accessible to all members of society, schools collaborate in a real way for the common good. This is possible thanks to the generosity of local Churches and the magnanimity of the universal Church. To ensure her evangelical credibility, the Church needs to find the means to guarantee transparency in the management of finances and to establish appropriate means to clearly distinguish what belongs to the Church and what belongs personally to those in the service of the Church.
B. The Challenges Facing Christians
1. Political Conflicts in the Region (nn. 32 - 35)
The socio-political situations of our countries directly affect Christians, who more deeply feel their negative aspects. In the Palestinian Territories, life is very difficult and often unsustainable. The position of Christian Arabs is a very delicate one. While condemning violence whatever its origin and calling for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we express our solidarity with the Palestinian people, whose situation today is particularly conducive to the rise of fundamentalism. Listening to the voice of local Christians could help in better understanding the situation. Consideration should be given to the important status of the city of Jerusalem for the three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
It is regrettable that world politics does not sufficiently take into account the plight of Christians in Iraq, who are the primary victims of the war and its consequences. In Lebanon, greater unity between Christians would help ensure greater stability in the country. In Egypt, the Churches would greatly benefit from coordinating their efforts in strengthening the faith of the faithful and collaborating in works for the good of the country. According to the means available in each country, Christians should foster democracy, justice, peace and a “positive laicity” which distinguishes between the State and religion and respects all religions. Both the Church and society need to respond positively and dutifully.
2. Freedom of Religion and Conscience (nn. 36 - 40)
Human rights, the foundation guaranteeing the good of every human person and the criteria for all political systems, flows from the order of creation itself. He who does not respect God’s creation according to the order established by Him, does not respect the Creator. The promotion of human rights requires peace, justice and stability.
Religious freedom is an essential component of human rights. Freedom of worship is but one aspect of freedom of religion. In most of our countries, freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution. But even in this case, certain laws or practices in some countries limit its application. Another aspect is freedom of conscience, based on a person’s free will. Its absence impedes freedom of choice in those who wish to follow the Gospel, yet fear various acts of harassment to themselves and their families. Freedom of conscience can develop and exist only in relation to the growth of respect for human rights in their completeness and entirety.
In this regard, education towards greater justice and equality under the law is a precious contribution to the cultural progress of a country. The Catholic Church firmly condemns all proselytism. Perhaps some profit can result from calmly considering these questions at various places and on given occasions of dialogue in each country. The Church’s many educational institutions at our disposal are a privileged place in this matter. Health centres and social services are also an eloquent witness of love for one’s neighbour, without distinction or discrimination. Promoting days, events and celebrations dedicated to these topics, on the local and international level, helps spread and reinforce the positive aspects of culture, which should also be propagated by the mass media.
3. Christians and the Evolution of Contemporary Islam (nn. 41 - 42)
Since 1970, we have witnessed the rise of political Islam in the region, consisting of many different religious currents, which has affected Christians, especially in the Arab world. This phenomenon seeks to impose the Islamic way of life on all citizens, at times using violent methods, thus becoming a threat which we must face together.
4. Emigration (nn. 43 - 48)
Emigration in the Middle East began towards the end of the 19th century for political and economic reasons. In some case, religious conflict during some tragic periods was the cause. Today, emigration in our countries has increased primarily as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq, adverse political and economic situations, the rise of Muslim fundamentalism and the restriction of freedom and equality. Young people, educated persons and affluent people form the majority of those leaving, thus depriving the Church and the country of valuable resources.
Those in political life need to strengthen peace, democracy and development, so as to favor a climate of stability and trust. Christians, with all people of good will, are called upon to commit themselves to achieving this goal. A greater sensitivity to international bodies, whose duty is to contribute to the development of our countries, could greatly help in this matter. The particular Churches in the western world could provide a beneficial and effective influence in this activity. The Pastors need to make the faithful more aware of their historical role as bearers of the message of Christ in their countries, despite difficulties or persecution. Their absence could seriously affect the future. A defeatist attitude or encouraging emigration as a preferred choice need to be avoided.
At the same time, emigration brings notable support to the Middle Eastern countries and the Churches. The Church in the country of origin must seek to maintain strong ties with the emigrating faithful and ensure their spiritual assistance. It is essential to provide the Liturgy, in their respective rites, to the faithful of the Eastern Churches who find themselves in Latin territories. The sale of property in the country of origin is a great tragedy, since maintaining the property, or even acquiring land, could serve as an incentive to return. The communities of the Diaspora have the task of promoting and consolidating the Christian presence in the Middle East by strengthening Christian witness and supporting causes for the good of the country or the region. Appropriate pastoral activity should take into account emigration within the country.
5. Immigration of Christians to the Middle East from the World Over (nn. 49 - 50)
Middle Eastern countries are undergoing a new phenomenon, namely the arrival of many immigrant workers from Africa and Asia, the majority of which are women. Oftentimes, they are faced with injustice and abuse to the point that international laws and conventions are violated. Our Churches must make a greater effort to help them by welcoming them and providing religious and social guidance through appropriate pastoral care in a coordinated effort among bishops, religious congregations and social and charitable organisations.
C. The Response of Christians in Daily Life (nn. 51 - 53)
No matter what the circumstances, the appropriate response in all instances is Christian witness. From the beginning, monastic life has had an important role in Christian witness. In the contemplative life, the act of praying fulfills the mission of intercession on behalf of the Church and society.
Perfecting Christian witness, by seeking to follow Jesus Christ more and more, is a requirement for every Church member: clergy, members of religious orders, congregations and institutes and societies of apostolic life, not to mention lay people, each according to one’s vocation. The formation of the clergy and the faithful, homilies and catechesis must be concerned with strengthening and more deeply developing the meaning of faith and its role and mission in society and supplying the means of translating this faith into acts of witness. For ecclesial renewal to be achieved requires: conversion and purification, spiritual depth and determining the priorities of life and mission.
Special emphasis must given to highlighting and training key-persons and groups at all levels, so that they can be models of witnessing, and thereby provide support and encouragement to their brothers and sisters, especially during difficult times. These persons and groups should be so formed that they can properly present the tenets of Christianity to Christians with little contact with the Church or distant from it as well as to non-Christians. The quality of the these key-people is more important than their number. Ongoing formation is indispensable. Special attention must be focused on young persons who are the strength of the present moment and the hope of the future. Christians must be encouraged to take part in public life with the purpose of building civic society.
II. ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
Diversity in the Catholic Church, far from a detriment, is a source of enhancement. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the foundation of Christian communion. The Church is the Mystery and the Sacrament of Communion. Love is at the centre of this reality: «This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you» (Jn 15:12). Continuously faced with the challenges of pluralism, we are called to a constant conversion, passing from a mentality of confessionalism to an authentic sense of the Church.
A. Communion in the Catholic Church and Among the Different Churches (nn. 55 - 56)
The principal signs that manifest communion in the Catholic Church are: Baptism, the Eucharist and communion with the Bishop of Rome, Coryphaeus of the Apostles (hâmat ar-Rusul). The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (C.C.E.C.) regulates the canonical aspects of this communion, accompanied and assisted by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and the various Roman Dicasteries.
Among the Catholic Churches in the Middle East, communion is manifested by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East (C.C.P.O.). The Council’s pastoral letters are documents of great worth and very timely in their content. In each country, communion is reinforced by the assemblies of patriarchs and bishops or by episcopal conferences. In a spirit of brotherhood and cooperation, they study shared concerns, provide directives for Christian witness and coordinate pastoral activities. Hopefully, a regional assembly can be established which gathers the episcopate of the Middle East at intervals determined by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East. Although the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris are open to every Catholic, one must carefully seek to avoid causing anyone to leave their Church of origin.
Moreover, emphasis needs to be placed on relations among our Eastern Churches and the Churches of the Latin tradition («Western Church»). We need each other. We need their prayers, solidarity and long, rich spiritual, theological and cultural experience. At the same time, they too need our prayers, our example of faithfulness to the rich, varied heritage of our beginnings and our unity in variety and multiplicity. «The ancient living treasure of the traditions of the Eastern Churches enriches the universal Church and could never be understood simply as objects to be passively preserved». Communion between the Churches does not mean uniformity but mutual love and an exchange of gifts.
B. Communion among the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful (nn. 57 - 62)
In one’s Church, communion is achieved by following the model of communion with the Universal Church and the Bishop of Rome. In the Patriarchal Church, this communion is expressed through the synod of bishops with the Patriarch, the Father and Head of his Church. In the Eparchy, communion is manifested through the bishop, who must keep watch over the harmony of the gathering. Structures for these work-groups and pastoral coordination could help reinforce communion, which can only be achieved on the basis of spiritual means, notably prayer, the Eucharist and the Word of God. The Pastors, consecrated persons, animators and diocesan and parish authorities have the grave duty of being examples and models for others. This Synod provides the opportunity to make a serious assessment of life in light of a fruitful conversion, while considering as a model the primitive Christian community: «Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul» (Acts 4:32).
Participation of the lay faithful in the life and mission of the Church is an indispensable presupposition for communion. Present structures might perhaps hide a certain temptation for them to remain passive, or give the idea that these roles are exclusively for the Church’s leaders. Lay persons, however, need to participate effectively in reflection, the making of decisions and carrying out the task-at-hand. In union with the Pastors, their valid and positive pastoral initiatives should be encouraged as well as their commitment to society. The place and the role of women in the Church, whether religious or lay, must be broadened and developed. Pastoral, parish, diocesan and national councils need to be developed. International associations and movements need to adapt better to the mentality, traditions, culture and language of the Church and country which welcomes them, and work in close coordination with the local bishop. Integration in the Eastern tradition is greatly recommended. This equally applies to religious congregations of western origin.
III. CHRISTIAN WITNESS
A. Witnessing in the Church: Catechesis
1. A Catechesis for Our Times, by Properly Prepared Members of the Faithful (nn. 62 - 64)
To be a Christian means to be a witness of Jesus Christ, a witness who is animated and guided by the Holy Spirit. The Church exists to bear witness to her Lord, who is the centre of her proclamation. This witness is communicated by means of exemplary living, good works and catechesis, especially though initiation in the faith and the sacraments. The Church must address her message to all age groups—children, youth and adults alike. After due preparation, young people can be good catechists to their siblings. Well-prepared parents need to participate in catechetical activities in both their families and parishes. Catholic schools, apostolic associations and movements are the privileged places for teaching the faith.
The presence and assistance of a spiritual director among young persons and other age groups serve as a valuable assistance in religious formation by emphasizing the proper application of faith to the concrete instances of life. In parishes as well as educational and spiritual institutions, religious formation needs to be given its proper place and take into account the real problems and challenges of today. The formation of those who teach the faith should be guaranteed. Without the witness of their lives, the teaching of catechists remains fruitless, because they are primarily witnesses of the Gospel. Catechesis should also promote moral and social values, respect for others, a culture of peace and non-violence as well as a commitment towards justice and the environment. The social doctrine of the Church, at present somewhat lacking, is an integral part of formation in the faith.
2. Catechetical Methods (nn. 65 - 69)
Today, catechetical activity cannot be limited to oral communication only; actions are necessary. Children and young persons are naturally disposed to group participation, for example, in the liturgy, sports, choirs, scouts and other activities. Such opportunities for group participation need to be provided where non-existent. However, we must ensure that they do not become merely social activities without a place for formation in the faith.
The new media are very effective in proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel. Our Churches need people specialized in these areas. Perhaps we could help form those who are more talented in this area and hire them for this task. In Lebanon, «The Voice of Charity» (Sawt al-Mahabba) and TéléLumière/Noursat provide a great service to Christians in our region and are also heard and seen on other continents. Other countries in the area have undertaken similar initiatives, which should be given support and encouragement.
Catechesis must take into account the situation of conflict in the countries of the Middle East and seek to strengthen the faithful in their faith and form them so that they can live the commandment of love and be artisans of peace, justice and forgiveness. Commitment in public life is a duty which requires witness and a mission to build the Kingdom of God. This work demands a formation that goes beyond confessionalism, sectarianism and internal quarrels and sees God’s face in each individual and collaborates with others in building a future of peace, stability and well-being.
B. A Renewed Liturgy Faithful to Tradition (nn. 70 - 75)
Liturgy «is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.» In our Eastern Churches, the Divine Liturgy is at the centre of religious life. It plays an important role in maintaining Christian identity, strengthening a sense of belonging to the Church and animating a life of faith. The celebration of the Divine Liturgy is also a source of attraction to those who may be far from the faith or even disbelievers. Consequently, the Liturgy is an important part of the proclamation and witness of a Church which not only prays, but acts.
A great many people are deeply desiring liturgical renewal, which, while remaining faithful to tradition, would take into account modern sensitivities as well as today’s spiritual and pastoral needs. The work of liturgical reform would require a commission of experts. Perhaps some usefulness might result from adapting liturgical texts to celebrations with children and youth, while remaining faithful to each Church’s heritage. This could be the work of an interdisciplinary group of experts. Some look for liturgical renewal in the area of devotional practices. Whatever the case, adaptation and reform must consider the ecumenical aspect. The particularly delicate question of communicatio in sacris requires special study.
C. Ecumenism (nn. 76 - 84)
«May they all be one that the world may believe» (Jn 17:21). Christ’s prayer must be repeated by his disciples throughout the ages. The division of Christians is contrary to the will of Christ, a scandal and an obstacle to proclamation and witness. Mission and ecumenism are closely aligned. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have many elements in common to the point that Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI speak about an ‘almost complete communion’, which deserves greater recognition rather than differences. Baptism is the basis of relations with the other Churches and ecclesial communities which allows and even calls for many activities and initiatives in common. Religious instruction should expressly include ecumenism. Any offensive or troubling publications should be carefully avoided.
Sincere efforts should be made to overcome prejudices, better understand each other and seek full communion in the faith, sacraments and hierarchical service. This dialogue takes place on various levels. On the official level, the Holy See embarks on many initiatives with the Eastern Churches, representatives of which are participating at this synodal assembly. A new form of practice of primacy, without abandoning what is essential to the mission of the Bishop of Rome, must be found. A hopeful sign would be to establish local commissions of ecumenical dialogue. Studying the history of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as that of the Church of the Latin tradition, would permit the opportunity to clarify the context, attitudes and perspectives associated with their origin.
Proper actions are required in the work of ecumenicism: prayer, conversion, sanctification and the mutual exchange of gifts, all in a spirit of respect, friendship, mutual charity, solidarity and collaboration. These actions and attitudes should be cultivated and encouraged through teaching and the various media outlets. An essential part of ecumenism is dialogue, which requires a positive approach to understanding, listening and being open to others. This leads to overcoming mistrust, working together to develop religious values, joining in socially useful projects and facing together problems in common.
Initiatives and structures which express and support unity need to be further encouraged, such as, the Council of Churches of the Middle East and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The ‘purification of memory’ is an important step in seeking full unity. Collaboration and cooperation in biblical, theological, patristic and cultural studies foster the spirit of dialogue. Action in common could take place in the formation of media experts in the local languages. In both proclamation and mission, proselytism and anything opposed to the Gospel should be carefully avoided. Further efforts are needed in the work of establishing dates in common for the celebration of Christmas and Easter.
D. Relations with Judaism
1. Vatican II: The Theological Basis for Relations with Judaism (nn. 85 - 87)
The Declaration Nostra aetate of the Second Vatican Council specifically deals with the relations between the Church and non-Christian religions. Judaism holds an important place in these relations. This document was written in the context of both the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium and the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum. The first asserts that the People of the Old Testament were the recipients of covenants and promises and that Jesus Christ was born, according to the flesh, from this People which continues in that of the New Alliance and which points to the Old Testament pre-figurations of the Church. The second constitution considers the Old Testament as a preparation for the Gospel and an integral part of salvation history.
2. The Present-Day Magisterium of the Church (nn. 88 - 89)
Based on the above theological principles, certain initiatives for dialogue with Judaism were undertaken by the Holy See and local Churches. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected relations between Christians and Jews. Several times, the Holy See has clearly expressed its position, especially during the visit of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land in 2009.
At this time, he asserted the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state, secure and in peace with its neighbours, within ‘internationally recognized boundaries’. The city of Jerusalem «is called the mother of all men. A mother can have many children, she must gather and not divide.» The Holy Father voiced his hope to the Israelis that the two peoples could live in peace, having their own countries, with secure boundaries, which are internationally recognized. He said to the President of the State of Israel: «...lasting security is a matter of trust, nurtured in justice and integrity, and sealed through the conversion of hearts.»
3. The Desire and Difficulty of Dialogue with Judaism (nn. 90 - 94)
While our Churches denounce every form of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, they acknowledge that the difficulties in relations between the Arab and Jewish peoples are due to conflicting political situations, which necessitates a distinction between the religious and political reality. Christians are called to be artisans of reconciliation and peace, based on justice for both parties. Local pastoral initiatives for dialogue with Judaism are presently taking place, such as, praying in common, particularly the Psalms, and reading and meditating upon biblical texts.
These initiatives create a willingness to make concerted efforts, calling for peace, reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and good relations. Problems arise when certain biblical verses are erroneously interpreted to justify or foster violence. Reading the Old Testament and becoming more acquainted with Judaic traditions lead to a better understanding of the Jewish religion, thereby offering common ground for serious studies and assistance in better knowing the New Testament and Eastern traditions. Other possibilities for collaboration are also available today.
E. Relations with Muslims (nn. 95 - 99)
The Declaration Nostra aetate of the Second Vatican Council also serves as the basis for relations between the Catholic Church and Muslims. It states the following: «The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humankind.» In the years following the Council, many encounters took place between representatives of both religions. At the beginning of his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI declared: «Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.»
Later, the Holy Father visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey (30 May 2006) and the Al-Hussein Bin Talal Mosque in Amman, Jordan (11 May 2009). The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue continues this very important dialogue. We recommend the creation of local commissions for inter-religious dialogue. Primary place needs to be given to what is called “the dialogue of life”, which sets an example by an eloquent yet silent witness and which sometimes is the sole way to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Only Christians who are authentic witnesses to the faith can qualify as credible participants in inter-religious dialogue. Our faithful need to be educated in the ways of dialogue.
The reasons to foster relations between Christians and Muslims include: their status as fellow citizens and their sharing the same language and the same culture, not to mention the same joys and sufferings. Furthermore, Christians are called to live as witnesses of Jesus Christ in society. From its beginnings, Islam has found common roots with Christianity and Judaism, as the Holy Father mentioned. Arab-Christian literature should be given greater consideration and better valued.
The Islamic religion is not a uniformity, instead the profession of Islam has confessional, cultural and ideological differences. In fact, difficulties in the relations between Christians and Muslims generally arise when Muslims do not distinguish between religion and politics. On this basis, Christians sense an uneasiness at being considered non-citizens, despite the fact that they have called these countries “home” long before Islam. Christians deserve full recognition, passing from being merely tolerated to a just and equal status which is based on common citizenship, religious freedom and human rights. On this basis, harmonious living is guaranteed.
Christians are to become more integrated in the broader society and resist the temptation to retreat into closed minority groups. They need to join others in promoting peace, freedom, human rights, the environment, and the values of life and family. Problems arising from socio-political circumstances need to be faced, not so much as a right to be claimed for Christians as much as a universal right, which Christians and Muslims defend together for the common good. We must emerge from a logic in defence of the rights of Christians only and engage in the defence of the rights of all. With this in mind, young people are to join conscientiously with others in these efforts.
All prejudices concerning others and any offensive talk or argumentation needs to be eliminated from textbooks in schools. Instead, we should try to understand the other’s point of view, while respecting differences in beliefs and practices. We should develop common ground, especially in spiritual and moral matters. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a very important meeting-point, as exemplified in the recent declaration making the Feast of the Annunciation a national holiday in Lebanon. Religion is the builder of unity and harmony and an expression of communion between individuals and God.
F. Witnessing in Society (nn. 100 - 117)
All citizens in our countries have to face two common challenges: peace and violence. Our experiences of war and conflict are spurning further violence and are being exploited by world terrorist groups. Generally speaking, the West is identified with Christianity, and thus, the choices made by western countries are wrongly taken as those of the Church, despite the fact that today, these governments are secular and increasingly opposed to the principles of the Christian faith. This situation needs to be better understood and further explanation given to the meaning of “a positive laicity” which makes a distinction between politics and religion.
Within this context, each Christian has the duty and mission to speak of and live the values arising from the Gospel. Each one must also spread the word of truth (qawl al-haqq), when confronted with injustice and violence. To be artisans of peace demands great courage. Praying for peace is indispensable, since peace is primarily a gift of God.
1. The Ambiguity of “Modernity” (nn. 103 - 105)
The influence of modernisation, globalisation and secularisation in our societies has an effect on the members of our Churches. Modernity totally permeates all aspects of our societies, especially as a result of the TV networks of the world and the Internet. While the phenomenon introduces new values, others are lost in the process, thus making it an ambiguous reality. On the one hand, modernity has a sense of attraction with its promises of well-being and the liberation from traditions, of equality, of the defence of human rights and of protection for the vulnerable. On the other hand, many Muslims view modernity as atheistic, immoral and invasive, disturbing and threatening cultures to the point that many are aggressively fighting against it.
Modernity is a threat also for Christians, bringing the dangers of materialism, practical atheism, relativism and indifference and threatening our families, our societies and our Churches. As a result, we need to form individuals, through our teaching institutions and the media, in knowing how to discern and choose only what is best. We must be always mindful of the place of God in our lives, as persons, families, Churches and societies, and devote ourselves more to prayer.
2. Muslims and Christians Must Pursue a Common Path Together
(nn. 106 - 110)
We all have the duty as citizens, Muslims and Christians alike, to work together for the common good. Christians have an added motivation by reason of their mission to contribute to building a society more in keeping with Gospel-values, especially as regards justice, peace and love. In doing this, we follow in the footsteps of generations of Christians, who, through their example, have played an essential role in the building of societies. Many were pioneers in the renaissance of Arab nations and culture. Today also, despite their limited numbers, the role of Christians is acknowledged and appreciated, especially in the areas of education and the promotion of culture and social programmes. We should encourage the lay members of our Churches to make an even greater commitment in society.
Every national constitution of the countries in the Middle East affirms the equality of all citizens. However, in States with a Muslim majority, apart from some exceptions, Islam is the State religion and the sharia is the main source of legislation. As for the status of a person, some countries have special statutes for non-Muslims and recognize the jurisdiction of their courts in this regard. Others apply special statutes to non-Muslims in their ordinary courts. Freedom of worship is recognized but not freedom of conscience. With the increasing growth of fundamental¬ism, attacks against Christians are on the rise.
G. The Specific and Unique Contribution of Christians (nn. 111 - 117)
The specific contribution of Christians in the society in which they live is irreplaceable. Through their witness and actions, they enrich society with the values brought by Christ to humanity. Since many of these values are shared in common with Muslims, the interest and possibility exist to promote them together. Catechesis must form believers to be active citizens. A commitment to social programmes and civic life, devoid of Gospel-values, is a counter-witness.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Christians can and must make a specific contribution by bringing justice and peace to bear, in denouncing every kind of violence, encouraging dialogue and calling for reconciliation based on mutual forgiveness, which comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the only way to bring about a new reality. As part of their mission, Christians are also to assist those who suffer as a result of conflicts and help them open their hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit.
The contribution of Gospel-values by Christians depends on the situation in each country. Primarily, Christians need to be taught to view contributing to the common good as a sacred duty. They are to work with others for peace, development and harmonious living. They are to make efforts to promote freedom, responsibility and good citizenship, so that people are respected as individuals and not for their religion or social status. They are also to demand, by using peaceful means, respect for and the recognition of their rights.
Our most important witness in society is our love for others, which is freely given. This love is expressed and lived in our teaching, medical, social and charitable institutions by welcoming and providing service to the whole of humanity without distinction. Service on behalf of others is a specific characteristic of our identity as Christians and not to our belonging to a particular confession. Our primary task is to live the faith and allow our actions to speak; to live the truth and proclaim it with charity and courage; and to practice solidarity in our institutions. We must live a mature faith — not a superficial one — supported and animated by prayer. Our credibility requires harmony within the Church, the promotion of unity among Christians and a religious life of conviction, which translates into a good life. This eloquent witness demands education and ongoing guidance for children, young people and adults.
What Does the Future Hold for Christians in the Middle East? «Do not be afraid. O little flock!»
A. What Lies Ahead for Middle Eastern Christians? (nn. 118 - 119)
Present-day situations give rise to difficulties and concerns. However, empowered by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Gospel, we can face them with hope and filial trust in Divine Providence. Today, though we are not numerically significant in the region, our actions and witness can make us a considerable presence. In the Middle East, conflicts and local problems, as well as international politics, have led to imbalance, violence and flight to other lands. This is the primary reason for our responding to our vocation and engaging in our mission as witnesses in service to society.
Faced with the temptation of discouragement, we need to remind ourselves that we are disciples of the Risen Christ, the Conqueror of Sin and Death. He repeats to us: «Do not be afraid, O little flock!» (Lk 12:32). Through him, with him and in him, we indeed have a future! Our responsibility is to securely grasp it, in collaboration with all people of good will, for the sake of the vitality of our Churches and the growth of our nations in justice, peace and equality. «God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control» (2 Tim 1:7). We are guided by faith in our calling and the mission, entrusted us by the Lord, knowing full well that he is committed to us, to our being artisans of peace and to creating a culture of peace and love.
B. Hope (nn. 120 - 123)
Jesus Christ, born in the Holy Land, is the sole bearer of true hope for humanity. Since his first coming, this sure hope has strengthened and supported individuals and entire peoples in their moments of suffering. This hope remains the source of faith, charity and joy, even amidst today’s difficulties and challenges, in the formation of those who bear witness to the Risen Christ, who is present among us. With him and through him, we can bear our cross and our suffering. Moreover, hope gives us the strength to be «God’s fellow workers» (1 Cor 3:9) and to contribute to the construction of the Kingdom of God on earth. In this way, we build a better future for generations to come.
This work requires more faith, more communion and more love on our part. Our Churches need believers-witnesses among the Pastors as well as among the rest of the Church’s members. The proclamation of the Good News can only be fruitful, if bishops, priests, consecrated men and women and the laity are on fire with the love of Christ and zealously seek to make him known and loved. We are confident that this Synod will not simply be a passing event, but one which will truly allow the Spirit to move our Churches.
On 12 May 2009, in Jerusalem, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the following words to Christians in the Holy Land: «You are called to serve not only as a beacon of faith to the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom and equilibrium in the life of a society which has traditionally been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-reli¬gious.»
Let us implore the Holy Virgin Mary, who is honoured and beloved in our Churches, to form our hearts after the example of the Heart of her Son, Jesus and put her words into action: «Do whatever he tells you» (Jn 2:5).
 COUNCIL OF CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS OF THE MIDDLE EAST, 2nd Pastoral Letter on the Vocation of the Churches of the East: “The Christian Presence in the East, Mission and Witness", General Secretariat, Bkerké, 1992.
 COUNCIL OF CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS OF THE MIDDLE EAST, 1st Pastoral Letter “Message of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East”, General Secretariat, Bkerké, 1991.
 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Discourse to Consecrated Persons and Members of Church Movements (9 May 2009), Amman, Jordan: L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 20 May 2009, p. 6
 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.
 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (25 May 1995), 95: AAS 87 (1995) 977-978.
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Discourse during the Welcoming Ceremony at Bethlehem (13 May 2009): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 20 May 2009, p. 11
 CUSTODIAN OF THE HOLY LAND, Comments during Holy Mass in the Valley of Josephat in Jerusalem (12 May 2009): http://www.custodia.fr/SBF-Dialogue-Vallee-du-Cedron-in.html.
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Discourse at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv (11 May 2009): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 20 May 2009, p. 3.
 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Discourse to the President of Israel (11 May 2009): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 20 May 2009, p. 3
 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on the Church’s Relations with Non-Christian Religions Nostra aetate, 3
 BENEDICT XVI, Discourse to Representatives from Various Muslim Communities (Cologne, 20 August 2005): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 24 August 2005, p. 9
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Meeting with Journalists During the Flight (8 May 2009): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 20 May 2009, p. 2.
 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Homily to Christians in the Holy Land (12 May 2009): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 20 May 2009, p. 6.
[Translated version received from the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops]
REPORT BY THE GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, MONS. NIKOLA ETEROVIĆ (VATICAN CITY)
Your Eminences and Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:1, 2). Abram, born in Ur of the Chaldeans, heard these words addressed to him by God in Haran. He passed through the region and dwelt near the Oak of Moreh (cf. Gen 12:6). He then set up camp in Negeb (cf. Gen 12:9), went down into Egypt (cf. Gen 12:10-20), returned to Negeb, went to Bethel (cf. Gen 13:1, 2) and then to the land of Canaan (cf. Gen 12:12), where he came and dwelt at the Oaks of Mamre, in Hebron (cf. Gen 13:18). God made a covenant with his servant Abram, who became Abraham, because he was given a special mission: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17: 4, 5). Knowing the faith and justice of Abram (cf. Gen 15:6), God made him a threefold promise: a son, a people beyond counting and a land. The oath of the God of Israel will never fail, as St. Paul attests (cf. Rm 9:1-11:36).
“I am who am!” (Ex 3:14), are the holy words of the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who appeared on Mount Horeb in the burning bush which burnt but was not consumed. They were addressed to Moses to reveal his holy name and entrust Moses with the mission of freeing his people from slavery in Egypt: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings [...]. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Ex 3:7-10). Strengthened by the grace of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses surmounted numerous difficulties and guided the Hebrew people through the Red Sea and the desert to the Promised Land, which he could only view from “Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho” (Dt 32:49), where he died and was buried “opposite Beth-pe'or” (Dt 34:6). God established, through his friend Moses (cf. Ex 33:11), a covenant with the Chosen People on Mount Sinai. If the people will hear the voice of Yahweh and observe his law, they will be for him “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). God entrusted the Chosen People with “Ten Words”, the Ten Commandments, which were the terms and basis for the covenant (cf. Ex 20-24).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58). In his discussion with the Jews in the temple of Jerusalem, Jesus alluded to the divine name revealed to Moses (cf. Ex 33:14), implicitly declaring himself to be God, born in Bethlehem to save humanity (cf. Lk 1:4-14). “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad" (Jn 8:56). Jesus Christ, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1), also applies to himself the expression “Day of the Lord”, which was reserved in the Old Testament for God alone, thereby designating himself as the true object of the promise made to Abraham and the joy he experiences in the birth of his son, Isaac (cf. Gen 12:1-3).
After 30 years of his hidden life in Nazareth, Jesus, as he preached throughout Galilea (cf. Mt 4:23) and travelled “all the cities and villages” (Mt 9:35), had also to indicate his relation to the great prophet, Moses. At the beginning of his public life, as he walked along the lake of Tiberias, he called disciples who were convinced that they found “him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (Jn 1:45). Their conviction was confirmed on Mount Tabor, when “two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:30,31). In his discussion with his fellow-Jews in the Temple of Jerusalem, Jesus again refers to the testimony of Moses: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me” (Jn 5:46). John the Evangelist summarises in the following words the contribution of both in salvation history: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17).
These brief citations from the Old and New Testaments show the importance of the geographic area of the Middle East for all Christians, especially those who actually live in the Holy Land, the land which Jesus sanctified with his birth in Bethlehem, his flight into Egypt, his hidden life in Nazareth and his preaching in Galilee, Samaria and Judea, which was accompanied by signs and wonders, primarily his passion, death and resurrection in the holy city of Jerusalem. The events from salvation history, which took place in the Middle East, continue to be vividly remembered in the hearts of the inhabitants of the region, particularly Christians. In them, Bible peoples can be said to continue today. As a result, the events that took place centuries ago remain alive not only through the power of the Word of God, which is always alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12), but also through these peoples’ vital link to this land, which was sanctified by the special presence of God, who revealed himself in the fullness of time (cf. Heb 9:26) in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. If these “peoples of the Bible” exist today, so too “bishops of the Bible”, i.e., in reference to the places where they exercise their pastoral activity. There are many such Pastors in this synodal assembly which gathers all the ordinaries of the 101 ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Middle East, whom I greet in a special way. We add to these Pastors the 23 ordinaries from the Diaspora, who through their pastoral care nurture the faith of those who have emigrated from the Middle East to various parts of the world.
In a certain way, all bishops are “bishops of the Bible”. In addition to the bishops from the geographic locations mentioned in the Bible, there are also “bishops of biblical communion”. The presence of representatives from all 5 continents clearly shows the interest of the entire Christian world in the Catholic Church on pilgrimage in the Middle East. We further add to this group 19 bishops from neighbouring countries or those particularly involved in the spiritual and material assistance of their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.
The total number of synod fathers at this Special Assembly for the Middle East is 185, of which 159 participate ex officio and 17 by papal appointment. The synod fathers include 9 patriarchs, 19 cardinals, 65 archbishops, 10 titular archbishops, 53 bishops, 21 auxiliary bishops, 87 religious of which 4 are elected by the Union of Superiors General. As for the offices they hold, 9 are heads of synods of bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, 5 presidents of international meetings of episcopal conferences, 6 presidents of episcopal conferences, 14 heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, 1 coadjutor archbishop, 4 emeriti of which 2 are cardinals, 1 is the Latin patriarch emeritus of Jerusalem and 1 is its Patriarchal Vicar.
The Holy Land is dear to all Christians. I have the honour of extending special greeting to the fraternal delegates from 13 Churches and ecclesial communities.
The Middle East is also home to our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, because these two monotheistic religions were born there. Therefore, I am happy to announce that in the course of the synod we will have the joy of listening to presentations by a Rabbi and two eminent Sunnite and Shiite representatives of Islam.
I extend greetings as well to 36 experts and 34 auditors, who have graciously accepted the invitation to come to the synod and enrich our discussion with their witness and rich pastoral experiences, principally from the Middle East. Included in this group are representatives of organizations which provide concrete assistance to Churches in the region.
I am indeed grateful to the assistants, translators and technicians, not to mention the staff members of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, for their valuable assistance, fully aware that without their skill and generous efforts this synodal gathering would not be possible.
This report is divided into five sections:
I)Cyprus: An Ideal Opening for the Special Assembly;
II)Middle Eastern Statistics;
III)The Convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East;
IV)Preparations for the Special Assembly for the Middle East; and
V)Observations on Synodal Procedure.
I) Cyprus: An Ideal Opening to the Special Assembly
Most Holy Father,
In the name of the synod fathers and the entire group of participants at this synodal gathering and in anticipation of the remarks to be given by His Eminence, the President-Delegate, Cardinal Leonardo SANDRI, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, I have the honour of again offering a heartfelt greeting and thanks for having convoked this synodal assembly and for having provided its ideal opening at Nicosia, Cyprus, during your Apostolic Visit, from 4 to 7 June 2010.
The preparation-time for the Special Assembly for the Middle East was not long. Holy Father, you immediately welcomed the proposal of various bishops from the Middle East to call them to Rome to listen to their joys and sorrows and their hopes and concerns for Christians and all peoples of good will in the Middle East, a region of particular importance for the Church and the whole world. Your Holiness, this is the 4th synodal assembly being held in these 5 years of your pontificate. On one occasion, the Venerable, Servant of God, Pope John Paul II said that, considering the number of synods over which he presided, he would be remembered as the Pope of the Synod, the “synodal pope”. Your Holiness, it seems that you might also be embarking on a similar path in your concern as Bishop of Rome, in communion with your brother-bishops in the episcopate and in service to the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care.
During your brief pontificate, Your Holiness has already visited the Middle East three times. The First Apostolic Visit (28 November - 1 December 2006) was to Turkey. We still have vivid memories of your pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine (8 - 15 May 2009). Your latest visit was to Cyprus, when you consigned the Instrumentum laboris to the Catholic episcopate of the Middle East, represented by 7 patriarchs and the President of the Episcopal Conference of Iran. Sadly, His Excellency, Most Rev. Luigi Padovese, O.F.M.Cap., Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia and President of the Episcopal Conference of Turkey was absent due to his brutal death the day before the papal visit. During the consignment of the Instrumentum laboris, Your Holiness had affectionate words for him, expressing your gratitude for his significant contribution to the preparatory documents, namely the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris. We prayerfully call upon the Lord to receive his faithful servant into his kingdom of life, happiness and peace, so that from heaven he might intercede for the success of this synodal assembly. May his sacrifice open new paths of mutual understanding and collaboration in respect for religious freedom in all countries of the Middle East and the world. At the same time, we pray that those who were involved in his tragic death will have a change of heart.
During the consignment of the Instrumentum laboris, Your Holiness drew attention to the biblical motto of the synodal assembly: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32), stressing the timeliness of communion and witness in the Christian life. You then summarised in two points the purpose of our gathering: 1) “to deepen the bonds of communion between the members of your local Churches, as well as the communion of the Churches themselves with each other and with the universal Church”; and 2) “to encourage you in the witness of faith in Christ that you are bearing in the countries where this faith was born and developed”. Beyond these principal goals, the convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East represents a propitious occasion, “an opportunity for Christians in the rest of the world to offer spiritual support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East”, above all, to those who are enduring great trials as a result of the present difficulties in the region. Furthermore, the Special Assembly provides the occasion to “bring out the important value of the presence and witness of Christians in the countries of the Bible, not only for the Christian community on a global scale but also for your neighbours and your fellow-citizens.” Christians, who have lived in the Middle East for almost 2000 years, want to live in peace and harmony with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours. Christians deserve to be recognised for their invaluable contributions, which oftentimes include acting “as peacemakers in the difficult process of reconciliation”. Consequently, their human rights should always be respected, including freedom of worship and freedom of religion.
II) Middle Eastern Statistics
Together, we thank the Good and Merciful God for the abundant gifts which the Church in the Middle East has received in almost 2,000 years of her existence. The Lord Jesus’ disciples, oftentimes in adverse circumstances and even to shedding their blood, bore witness to a living faith, an ardent hope and a fruitful charity. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the ongoing presence of Christians in the Holy Land provides a strong basis for hope in their present situation and in the future, in a region of particular importance to them. The Holy Land is where they were born and is their homeland. Willing to collaborate with all peoples of good will, especially with the followers of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, Christians want to make a valuable and unique contribution to building thriving, democratic countries.
In this regard, some statistics on the Middle East might prove helpful. The preparatory documents of the synodal assembly, primarily the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris, list 16 countries in the Middle East, in addition to Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
This vast region covers more than 7,180, 912 kilometres. 356,174,000 people live in the Middle East, including 5, 707,000 Catholics, who represent 1.60% of the population. This information comes from the latest edition (2010) of the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae - 2008. Determining the number of Christians in the Middle East is not always an easy task. The approximate number of Christians is 20,000,000, that is, 5.62% of the population. The information, even if approximate, gives some idea of the presence of the Christian minority in a predominantly Muslim region, with the exception of Israel, where the percentage of the population is: Jews, 75.6 %, Muslims, 16.7% Christians, 2.1%, Druse, 1.6% and others, 4%.
In his discourse in Nicosia at the consignment of the Instrumentum laboris, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted the notable contribution of Christians to the integral development of the countries in which they live: “You contribute in countless ways to the common good, for example through education, care of the sick and social assistance and you work to build society.”
The data available clearly confirms what the Bishop of Rome said in the course of his Apostolic Visit to Jordan, 9 May 2009, when he blessed the cornerstone of the University of Madaba, which is supported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In the Middle East the Catholic Church operates 686 nursery schools with 92,661 children, 869 primary schools with 343,705 pupils and 548 middle schools with 183,995 students. There are also 13 Institutes of Higher Learning, including 4 Universities. As for the number of students, 2,443 frequent the Higher Institutes; 1,654 are ecclesiastical students; and 34,506 study at other Universities. It is useful to remember that the enrollment at these schools is not limited to Catholics and Christians only, but is open to those of other religions, particularly Muslims. Sponsoring educational facilities is a practical and effective way for the Church to contribute to educating the young, the hope of both the Church and society.The Catholic Church also has a significant presence in the apostolate of charity to the sick, elderly, disabled and the poor. In the Middle East, the Church has 544 Catholic healthcare structures: 76 hospitals and nursing homes, 113 healthcare institutions for the elderly, 331 healthcare centres and dispensaries, 24 healthcare facilities for the disabled and rehabilitation centres managed by various institutes of consecrated life. All these institutions are open to other Christians, Muslims and all persons in need.
Many initiatives, including those to help the most needy are operated by Caritas organisations in particular regions (the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Northern Africa).
Valuable assistance is offered to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and, primarily, the Congregation for Eastern Churches which coordinates assistance through various organisa¬tions, including the Group of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (R.O.A.C.O.).
III) Convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East
On 19 September 2009, during his meeting with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI announced his decision to convoke the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.
The idea of convoking this synodal assembly arose from two pastoral concerns. Firstly, various bishops, primarily from the more troubled regions in the Middle East, for example, Iraq, asked the Holy Father to gather the bishops of the region to listen personally to what they had to say about the oftentimes dramatic situation of the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care, and, with the grace of the Holy Spirit and in episcopal communion, seek possible ways to better the situation, beginning with the communion internal to the Churches and these Churches among themselves. Consultation in the matter came also from cardinals and prelates of the Roman Curia, who have frequent contacts with the Pastors and Christians of the Holy Land, either institutionally or in person.
Secondly, during his Apostolic Pilgrimage to Turkey and later to Jordan, Israel and Palestine, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI personally experienced the joys and sorrows of the various local Churches. As a result, he readily accepted the bishops wish to go beyond their feelings of isolation and strengthen the bonds of communion with the universal Church through the Bishop of Rome, who presides over the Church in charity. The announcement of the convocation of the synodal assembly was done in an atmosphere of profound communion with the Pope and the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, who were received in audience at Castel Gandolfo. This important gesture, a fraternal, love-filled encounter, was also sought by Your Holiness “to listen to the voice of the Church which you serve with admirable self-sacrifice and of strengthening the bonds of communion which bind them to the Apostolic See.” Moreover, Holy Father, you expressed your wish to “foster that synodality so dear to Eastern ecclesiology and greatly appreciated by the Second Vatican Council.” Recalling at that time the appeal for peace made by the patriarchs during the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, you turned your thoughts primarily to the suffering regions of the Middle East. In this context, you made the announcement of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, entrusting the results to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is greatly honoured in the venerated tradition of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as also among our brothers and sisters in other Christian Churches.
IV) Preparations for the Special Assembly for the Middle East
In the audience granted to me on 13 June 2009, the Holy Father spoke about the convocation of a Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. In this regard, he was prepared to schedule a meeting in the General Secretariat for 8 July 2009 to discuss the matter-at-hand. The participants at this meeting were the heads of the 4 dicasteries of the Roman Curia having frequent contacts with the Eastern Churches, namely, the Prefects of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Evangelization of Peoples as well as the Presidents of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Representatives from the Secretariat of State, from the Section for Relations with States, were also present. After an initial exchange of information on the situation of the Church and society in the region, various proposals were made concerning the convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East, possible topics to be treated, the number of participants and the actual dates for the special assembly. At the same time, all agreed that a Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East needed to be formed to prepare the necessary documentation.
In the subsequent papal audience granted to me on 7 September, I presented to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI the results of the meeting of the study group. After further reflection, His Holiness made his decision to convoke the Special Assembly for the Middle East to take place from 10 to 24 October 2010 to treat the topic: The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4: 32). As previously mentioned, the announcement of this very important event was made personally by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on 19 September 2009. At the same time, His Holiness also established the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East, whose members included all 7 patriarchs, namely, 6 of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the two presidents of the episcopal conferences of Turkey and Iran.
Considering the relatively limited time for the preparation of this synodal gathering, the General Secretariat organised the first meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East for 21 to 22 September 2009, immediately following the Holy Father’s meeting with the patriarchs and major archbishops.
The purpose of this meeting was to prepare the Lineamenta, the document presenting the topic of the synodal assembly. After an ample exchange of opinions on the complex situation in the Middle East, the Council members agreed on an outline for the Lineamenta and made specific suggestions on its contents.
In a subsequent meeting from 24 to 25 November 2009, the members of the Pre-Synodal Council examined a draft of the Lineamenta. Well aware of the pastoral situation in each country of the Middle East, they made various observations which were later inserted in the text. The document was then sent by electronic mail to the Council members for their final approval, with the request to submit any further suggestions before the end of November. After examining their comments, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops finalized the document, which was later translated into 4 languages: Arabic, English, French and Italian.
On 19 January 2010, in the Holy See Press Office, His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola Eterovi, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops and the Under-Secretary, Rev. Msgr. Fortunato Frezza presented the Lineamenta, which carried the date, 8 December 2009. The document was widely distributed in the region and was also available on the internet, at the Vatican website, on the pages dedicated to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
The Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Union of Superiors General and all interested parties had until Easter, 2010 – which providentially was observed by all Christians of every tradition on 4 April – to submit to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops their response to the Questions in the Lineamenta. The responses were to serve in drafting the Instrumentum laboris, the “document for work” setting the agenda for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.
Despite the limited time to study and reflect upon the Lineamenta, the percentage of responses was very satisfactory. These responses were categorically divided according to the various institutions with which the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has official contact.
Institutions n. - Responses (%)
Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris 6 - 6 (100%)
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem 1 - 1 (100%)
Episcopal Conferences 3 - 3 (100%)
Dicasteries of the Roman Curia 26  - 14 (56%)
Union of Superiors General 1 - 1 (100%)
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops also received observations from various institutes of higher study, universities, religious communities and lay groups, not to mention individual lay persons, all of whom have a deep concern for the present and future of the Catholic Church in the Middle East.
The Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East met on 23 and 24 April 2010 to examine the responses which arrived at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. At this time, with the assistance of experts, they drafted the Instrumentum laboris, which essentially maintained the structure of the Lineamenta, thereby facilitating the Council’s work in examining the document. Taking into consideration the submissions by the previously mentioned episcopal bodies in each country, the Pre-Synodal Council members enriched the draft with the bishops’ fruitful pastoral experiences and valid observations. The General Secretariat then undertook the work of finalising the text. Subsequently, the document was send by electronic mail to the Pre-Synodal Council members with the request to submit any further observations by 15 May 2010. These recommen¬dations were then incorporated in the text and the final document was translated into 4 languages: Arabic, English, French and Italian. On 7 June 2010, in Nicosia, Cyprus, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI graciously consigned the document to the members of the Pre-Synodal Council, who represented the entire episcopate of the Middle East.
After the consignment of the Instrumentum laboris by the Holy Father, who again expressed his deep gratitude to the Council members for their tireless work, the document was widely distributed by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, employing, among other means, its webpage on the Vatican website.
The Appointment of Members with Special Roles at the Synod
On 24 April 2010, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI appointed those who were to exercise special roles at the Special Assembly for the Middle East:
Two Presidents-Delegate ad honorem: His Beatitude, Cardinal Nasralleh Pierre SFEIR, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; and His Beatitude, Cardinal Emmanuel II DELLY, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq.
Two Presidents-Delegate: His Eminence, Cardinal Leonardo SANDRI, Prefect of the Congrega¬tion for Eastern Churches; and His Beatitude, Ignace Youssif II YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon.
General Rapporteur: His Beatitude, Antonios NAGUIB, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt.
Special Secretary: His Excellency, Most Rev. Joseph SOUEIF, Archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites, Cyprus.
V) Observations on Methodology
At a Synod of Bishops, the privileged place of episcopal communion, bishops strengthen the bonds of effective and affective communion among themselves and, together, with the Roman Pontiff. This communion is not based on feelings alone, however noble, but is, instead, an ecclesial reality which requires an arduous presence, a patient listening, a great openness, an attention to one’s neighbour, consideration for the needs of others, collaboration with one another and sacrifice for the good of all. I am sure that with such a spirit of ecclesial service, each synod father will be ready to accept and fulfill the task which will be entrusted to him, through election, appointment or designation, each making his proper contribution to the outcome of the synodal assembly. Oftentimes, this service is hidden but nonetheless important for the outcome of the synodal assembly. To maximize the number of synod fathers taking an active role in the assembly, each synod father is asked to undertake one task only.
In the audience granted to me on 26 March 2010, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI approved the criteria for participation at this synod assembly which was agreed upon by the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at its meeting on 24 and 25 November 2009. After the Supreme Pontiff’s approval, this criteria was communicated to the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris and the presidents of the episcopal conference of the region.
According to the decision of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, the ex officio members of the synod are all active bishops in the Middle East, Ordinaries and Auxiliaries, and those exercising a corresponding responsibility. This group includes cardinals regardless of age and heads of the major Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris. Moreover, the bishops of the Diaspora from their respective Eastern Catholic Churches are also entitled to participate at the synodal assembly.
The Holy Father then gave his approval for bishops to represent the countries of Northeastern Africa. In addition, His Holiness agreed to have the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the five continents take part. Their presence is a sign of the close bonds between the world episcopate and that of the Middle East. To this group were added bishops representing countries which welcome the faithful from the Middle East and offer notable assistance to the Catholic Church in the region through the work of women and men missionaries and financial resources. In conformity with the norms of the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, the Holy Father completed the number of synod fathers with appointments of his own.
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI willingly accepted the proposal of the Pre-Synodal Council to invite a significant number of women and men auditors, who are involved in evangelisation and human promotion in the Middle East. Their presence and comments will allow us to have a vision of life in the Church and society in the region as seen by the laity. A significant number of experts are also present to offer assistance to the Special Secretary and General Rapporteur through their studies and experiences.
Synod methodology has not undergone great changes in relation to that already seen in recent synods at which the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has presided. Nevertheless, we should indicate some important points:
1) Each synod father is strongly asked to read attentively the Vademecum which he has received. Following the norms of the Apostolic Letter Apostolica sollicitudo and the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, not to mention synod practice over the years, this document describes synodal procedure in detail;
2) The Vademecum is printed in 4 languages: Arabic, English, French, and Italian and for convenience the Kalendarium, i.e., work schedule, is in Latin, the official language of the Synod of Bishops. As noted, there are 14 general congregations and 6 small-group meetings;
3) To maximise participation during this Assembly, each synod father will be able to make a 5-minute presentation in the synod hall. We hope that as many synod fathers as possible will be able to speak. If a synod father is unable to speak, he can, if he wishes, submit to the General Secretariat his written presentation, which will be duly examined and considered in drafting the proposals and in other documentation;
4) To promote a thorough examination of the topics on the agenda, the final hour, 6:00 - 7:00 P.M., of the afternoon session of the General Congregations will be devoted to an open discussion. The synod fathers will have the opportunity to speak for no more than 3 minutes;
In this regard, please permit me make two observations. During the open discussion, it is important to focus on the topic of the synod: “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness”, a very significant and particularly rich subject which requires thorough examination from various perspectives in the Church and translation into pastoral initiatives. The presidents-delegate are therefore asked to make sure that the discussion does not wander from the established topic. It is also helpful that during our open discussions each synod father speak freely and not from a written text, as in the case of his official presentation during the general congregations. They can possibly have notes, but should speak freely, including asking questions and making spontaneous observations, even if their formulation is less than perfect;
5) To avoid any unnecessary repetition of subjects, I ask the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches to agree upon the subjects of the presentations of each member in such a way that the position of the respective synods of bishops of each Church sui iuris can be faithfully presented, in its entirety and rich variety. The General Secretariat will ensure that the voice of every Eastern Catholic Church is heard, even those who have few bishops. To give some order to the presentations, the synod fathers ought to submit a request to speak as soon as possible. Because the synodal assembly is to last for the brief period of two weeks, only the first week will be dedicated to the presentations of the synod fathers in the synod hall.
6) The synod fathers are cordially asked to make a summary of their presentation, which is customarily published. If, for some reason, someone does not wish his summary to be published, he is asked to notify the General Secretariat. This is also the case for texts in scriptis, which can always be submitted to the General Secretariat.
7) The General Secretariat has arranged for simultaneous translations in the 4 official languages of the synodal assembly: Arabic, English, French and Italian. Presentations can be made in these languages in the course of the synod’s work.
8) The Propositiones can also be drafted in these 4 languages. It is strongly recommended that each proposal be concise and treat one subject only. While giving due consideration to the teachings of the Church, which does not need to be repeated in the Propositiones, the synod fathers should be intent instead on proposing what might foster ecclesial communion and invigorate Christian witness in the Middle East for the good of the Catholic Church.
9) To promote communion among the members in a significant way, the synod fathers will be divided into three language-groups for discussion: Arabic, English and French. You will shortly receive the list of members for the groups, which are generally formed according to the choices you indicated on the participation forms, submitted to the General Secretariat. Changing groups can only be done for a serious reason and in accord with the General Secretary.
10) Electronic equipment will be employed during this assembly to facilitate the synod’s work. The Vademecum provides specific directions for its use. If necessary, the synod fathers should assist each other, particularly in the initial days of work, by showing those around them how to use the equipment. In any case, technicians, present in the synod hall, can be asked for assistance. It is important that each synod father occupy the seat which has been assigned to him according to precedence, since each seat corresponds to a given number in the electronic system for voting. Among other things, this electronic equipment will be used in taking attendance each day. During various elections and at the time of voting, each synod father will receive a small electronic device.
11) The participation of fraternal delegates, representing other Churches and ecclesial communities and now customary synodal practice, is particularly significant in this synodal assembly, considering their presence in the Holy Land and the Middle East. They will be able to address the assembly and participate in the small discussion groups. Christians everywhere, but particularly in the Land of Jesus, are called to proceed on the path which will lead to the unity of all those who believe in the Lord Jesus and who have received the Holy Spirit, so they can glorify Our Father, who is in heaven, in word and, above all, in deed.
12) In the course of the synod’s work, we await three specially invited guests: Rabbi David Rosen, the Director of the Department for Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee and the Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding (Israel); and two Muslim representatives: Muhammad al-Sammak, Political Counsellor of the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, a Sunnite, and Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Ahmadabadi, Ph.D., Professor in the Law Department of Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, and Member of the Iranian Academy of Science, a Shiite.
We are grateful that these three invited guests accepted the Holy Father’s invitation to take part in this synodal assembly, which is seen as a significant gesture of the Catholic Church’s determination to continue the dialogue with the Jewish people, with whom we share a major part of the books of the Old Testament. The presence of two well-known Muslims also represents the Church’s desire to proceed in the vital dialogue between Christians and the world of Islam for the good of not only the faithful belonging to these respective religions but all inhabitants of the Middle East and the entire world.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). These words were pronounced by the Risen Lord at Jerusalem, before ascending into heaven and taking his place at the right hand of the Father (cf. Mk 16:19). The Master assured his disciples “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). Therefore, the Lord accompanied the propagation of the Gospel, which began in the Holy Land and went out to the entire world: “And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it” (Mk 16:20). The proclamation of the Good News presupposes two essential aspects: communion and witness, which are connatural to Christianity, from the very beginning. Jesus Christ chose Twelve Apostles (cf. Mt 10:1-4; Mk 13:13-19; Lk 6:13-16), forming the nucleus of the Church. Subsequently, Jesus designated another 72 disciples, sending them “two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come” (Lk 10:1). Included among his disciples, whose number grew steadily, were “also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities..., who provided for them out of their means” (Lk 8:2,3). In their many vocations and the tasks entrusted to them, all were dedicated to living the ideal of the Christian life: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). At the same time, the Lord, before ascending into heaven, said to his disciples: “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
The Lord Jesus’ word was put into practice, as witnessed in the mission of the Apostles in the then-known world. This is seen in the shedding of their blood in martyrdom and in the foundation of the first Christian communities according to the Gospel ideal of “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). In our being in Rome, we are obliged to evoke with gratitude the example of Sts. Peter and Paul, who, leaving their homeland, carried the Gospel to the centre of the Roman Empire and concluded their preaching in martyrdom, the supreme expression of Christian witness. Since their time in Rome, the Christian community has flourished under its head, the Bishop of Rome, who, through God’s Providence, presides over the Church in charity. The 264th Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, Pope Benedict XVI, united to the apostolic patrimony which is St. Paul’s, extends a cordial welcome to his brother-bishops who have come from the Holy Land and are gathered for the Special Assembly: to provide him personally with information on the situation of the Catholic Church in the Middle East; to strengthen the bonds of Catholic communion, mindful of its ecumenical aspects; and to inspire Christians in their witness to Christ. Undoubtedly, under the wise guidance of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, these proposals will be realized. At the same time, the synod fathers of the Middle East are very grateful to the Holy Father for his constant support, which is expressed in this synodal assembly and his untiring efforts in seeking a just and ongoing solution to the serious problems of the region, primarily that justice and peace will prevail. They are also grateful to the Supreme Pontiff for the Petrine charism which will assist them in achieving the purpose of this synodal assembly. Hopefully, after returning to the Middle East at the end of the synod, the Pastors of the Eastern Catholic Churches and all the Churches of the Latin tradition will be able to glorify God for a renewed sense of communion and inspiration in Christian witness in the places where they live and in the relations they have not only with Christians, but also with members of other religious denominations, primarily Jews and Muslims.
To bring this about, we invoke the intercession of all the saints of the region, in particular the numerous martyrs of the Holy Land, and, above all, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church. She will surely watch over the beloved Catholic Church in the land where she lived and cooperated in fulfilling the sublime mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption of humanity as a whole and each person. She tells us: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), she encourages us to put our trust, not in human strength and plans but in the promise: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32).
Thank you for your patience in listening. May the grace of the Holy Spirit guide us in the work of the synod which lies before us.
 JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences - FABC (15 January 1995), L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 24 January 1995, p. 6.
 BENEDICT XVI, Ad Patriarchas et Archiepiscopos Maiores Orientales: AAS 101 (2009) 858.
 Cf. Calendario Atlante De Agostini 2010, Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Piotello (MI) 2009, p. 678.
 BENEDICT XVI, Discourse at the Consignment of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops (6 June 2010), Nicosia, Cyprus; L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 9 June 2010, p. 13
 The Statistics are taken from the Annuariuimn Statisticum Ecclesiae 2008, Vatican City 2010, pp. 281 and 285-287.
 BENEDICT XVI, Ad Patriarchas et Archiepiscopos Maiores Orientales: AAS 101 (2009) 858.
 Even though the Lineamenta was sent to all 26 dicasteries, responses came from those with major interest in the ecclesial situation in the Middle East and whose heads normally take part in synodal assemblies.
 Cf. L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 5 May 2010, p. 4.
[ Translated version received from the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops]
GREETING BY THE PRESIDENT-DELEGATE, CARD LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE ORIENTAL
Most Holy Father,
We give thanks to God, together with Your Holiness, for the communion with the Successor of Peter which makes us feel like the Church of Christ, eternally loved by Him. Through his holy people, He loves humanity and wants to present Himself , as the Lord of history, even today. We render thanks for this expression of episcopal collegiate fraternity for the benefit of the Church in the Middle East.
With You, Holy Father, we trust in the mercy of God and ask that His kingdom of truth, love and justice arrive to the East and the West soon.
Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35): this is the confirmation we receive these days, while we are always listening “to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:11) and to what Your Holiness confided to the Christians of the Middle East.
Now, here in Rome, we carry the East in our hearts, the precious treasures of its spiritual traditions: the glory and worth, as well as the trials of its past; the suffering and expectations for the present and the future. A “precious tie” unites all the eras of the Eastern Church: this is the Christian martyr. Even today this demonstrates a faithfulness to the Gospel, which has written indelible pages of ecumenical brotherhood. While seeing some improvement in the situation, in some contexts the Catholics along with other Christians still endure hostility, persecution and the lack of respect for the fundamental right of religious freedom. Terrorism and other forms of violence do not even spare our Jewish and Muslim brothers. Humanly shameful events multiply and strike innocent victims. The loss of individuals and goods, and of reasonable perspectives, generates the reality of emigration, which is sad and unfortunately persists beyond some positive exceptions. Distress often flourishes giving rise to the crucial question of whether there ever can be days of peace and prosperity in the Middle East or if in the future the same survival of the “plebs sancta Dei” is not at risk.
You, Holy Father, have never lost hope. Rather, you instill it in the Churches of the East because they live the mystery evoked by the Prophet Ezekiel, the “glory of Yahweh” which “arrived at the Temple by the east gate” (Ez 43:4).
The East answers by persevering in communion and in witness; answering with the firm will to offer and receive the hope of the Cross.
During the Synodal supper “sub umbra Petri” the sons and daughters of the Eastern Churches wish to join with their pastors: they wish to be “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32) and make theirs the priestly prayer of Christ “ut unum sint” (Jn 17:21). The East confirms its mission before Your Holiness, the mission of cooperating in the unity of all Christians especially the Eastern ones according to the mandate of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II (cf. OE 24).
Today, October 11th, is the liturgical memorial to the blessed John XXIII. To the beloved Pontiff, “sincere friend of the East”, we entrust the prayer for the synodal work.
We see the same love in you, Holy Father. Therefore, I vouch for the faithfulness and complete adhesion to Your Person and to Your Magisterium by the faithful of the Middle East, while in the name of the Delegate Presidents, the General Relator, the General and Special Secretaries and all the participants I express our deepest gratitude to Your Holiness.
May the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God bear abundant fruit for this providential initiative for the good of the Church in the hope of peace for the Middle East and for the world.
Thank you, Holy Father.
Միջին Արեւելքի Յատուկ Սիւնոդոս - Երրորդ Նիստ
Երեքշաբթի 11 հոկտեմբեր 2010, կը շարունակուի միջին արեւելքի համար գումարուած սինդոսական նիստը որ պիտի տեւէ մինչեւ 24 Հոկտեմբեր:
Նիստին սկիզբը, Ղպտի եկեղեցւոյ ծէսով կատարուեցաւ Երրորդ Ժամու ժամասացութիւնը որուն աւետարանի ընթերցումը կատարեց Ղպտի Եկեղեցւոյ Պատրիարքը՝ Անթոնիոս Նակիպ:
Ապա շարունակուեցան օրուան զեկուցումները միջամտութեամբ՝ Կարտինալ Անճելօ Սոտանոյի՝ Կարտինալական Համահաւաք Դասի Նախագահին, որուն յաջորդեցին զանազան եկեղեցիներու
Միջին Արեւելքի Յատուկ Սիւնոդոս
Հայր Միքայել Թ. Ծ. վրդ. Մուրատեան տպաւորութիւններ
Հարցազրոյց Գերապայծառ Պետրոս Միրիաթեանի Հալէպի եւ Բարձր Ճէզիրէի առաջնորդ "Եկեղեցւոյ Համամիութիւնը" զեկուցումի մասին
Պենետիկտոս ԺԶ Սրբազան Քահանայապետին Գործունէութիւնը
Սրբազան Հօր Կոչը Միջին Արեւելքի Քքրիստոնեաներուն. ՜՜Չվհատիլ Յաչս Դժուար Կեանքի Պայմաններուն։
Կիրակի օրը, հանդիսաւոր պատարագով, Պենետիկտոս ԺԶ Սրբազան Քահանայապետը բացումը կատարեց Միջին Արեւելքի եպիսկոպոսական սիւնոդոսին։
Մարեմեան Հրեշտակ Տեառն աղօթքին, Նորին Սրբութիւնը հրաւիրեց քրիստոնեայ աշխարհը աղօթելու՝ Միջին Արեւելքի քրիստոնեաներուն համար, որպէսզի անոնք չվահատին հակառակ իրենց կեանքի