Միջամտութիւններ սրահին ներքեւ
BENEDICT XVI: ANGELUS DOMINI of Sunday, 24 October 2010
At the conclusion of the solemn Eucharistic Concelebration in St. Peter’s Basilica, before the Recital of the Angelus Domini in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father said:
Dear brothers and sisters!
With the solemn Celebration this morning in the Vatican Basilica, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme, "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness" came to an end. Furthermore this Sunday is World Missionary Day which has as its motto: "The construction of the ecclesial communion is the key to the mission". The similarity between the themes of these two ecclesial events is striking. Both invite us to look at the Church as a mystery of communion that, by its nature, is destined to the whole man and to all men. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI affirmed: "The Church exists to evangelize, that is to say, to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, to perpetuate the sacrifice of Christ in the Holy Mass which is the memorial of his death and of his glorious Resurrection" (Apostolic Exhortation. Evangelii nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, 14: AAS 68, , p. 13). For this reason, the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in 2012, will be dedicated to the theme of "The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith". In every time and in every place - today in the Middle East as well – the Church is present and works to welcome every man and offer him the fullness of life in Christ. As the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini wrote: "The reality "Church" implies the whole fullness of the Christian being that develops throughout history, insofar as this embraces the fullness of the human that is in a relationship with God” (Formazione liturgica, Brescia 2008, 106-107).
Dear friends, in today’s Liturgy we read the testimony of Saint Paul regarding the final crown the Lord will give “to all those who have longed for his Appearing” (2 Tm 4:8). This is not an idle or solitary wait, on the contrary! The Apostle lived in communion with the risen Christ “so that the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear” (2 Tm 4:17). The missionary task is not to revolutionize the world, but to transfigure it, drawing the strength from Jesus Christ who "calls us to the table of his Word and the Eucharist, to enjoy the gift of his Presence, be educated at his school and always live more knowingly united to him, Master and Lord” (Message for the 84th World Missionary Day). The Christians of today as well – as it says in the Letter to Diognetus - "show how marvelous is … their extraordinary associated life. Their existence is on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but they surpass the laws in their own lives … They are put to death and yet they are endued with life. Doing good, they are … punished and increase more and more daily ". (V, 22.214.171.124; VI, 9 [SC 33], Paris 1951, 62-66).
To the Virgin Mary, who received from the Crucified Jesus the new mission of being Mother to all those who want to believe in Him and follow Him, we entrust the Christian communities of the Middle East and all the missionaries of the Gospel.
After the Recital of the Angelus Domini, the Pope said:
[In French] Today we close the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. I ask you to pray for all the peoples of that region, asking the Lord to create throughout the world men and women of peace and reconciliation.
[In English] We give thanks to God for the blessings received during the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which concluded this morning in St. Peter's Basilica.
Pope Benedict XVI: Homily at Mass for the Conclusion of the Middle East Synod
HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER:
At 9.30 this morning, 24 October 2010, XXX Sunday in ordinary time, in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the Holy Father Benedict XVI presided at the Solemn Concelebration of the Eucharist with the Synodal Fathers, for the conclusion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was celebrated in the Synod Hall of the Vatican from 10 October 2010, on the theme 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).
The entrance into the Basilica began at 9.15 with the singing Iubilate Deo. The Concelebrants, led by the Masters of Ceremony took their places around the Altar of Confession. Then Their Eminences and the Components of the Presidency of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops joined the Holy Father in the entrance procession.
Concelebrating with the Pope were 177 Synod Fathers (19 Cardinals, 9 Patriarchs, 72 Archbishops, 67 Bishops and 10 Priests) and 69 Collaborators.
The Presidents Delegate H. B. Card. Nasrallah Pierre SFEIR, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bishop of Joubbé, Sarba and Jounieh of the Maronites (LEBANON), ad honorem, H. B. Card. Emmanuel III DELLY, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (IRAQ) , ad honorem,
H. Em. Card. Leonardo SANDRI, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (VATICAN CITY), H. B. Ignace Youssif III YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians (LEBANON); General Relator H. B. Antonios NAGUIB, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT);General Secretary H. Exc. Mons. Nikola ETEROVIĆ, Titular Archbishop of Cibalae (VATICAN CITY); Special Secretary H. Exc. Mons. Joseph SOUEIF, Archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites (CYPRUS) all joined at the Altar for the Eucharistic Prayer.
The first reading was in French, the responsorial Psalm in Latin and the second reading in English. The Gospel was proclaimed in Latin and in Greek. The Prayer of the Faithful was in Arabic, English, Farsi, Turkish, Hebrew. The songs “Maior est caritas”, in Latin, and the“Cherubic Hymn”, in Greek, accompanied the Offertory; “Bonus Pastor”, in Latin, and “Let Us Give Praise”, in Arabic, accompanied Communion. At the end of the celebration, the Marian antiphon “Ave Regina Caelorum” was sung.
During the Sacred Rite, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced the following homily:
HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER
Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear brothers and sisters,
Two weeks on from the opening Celebration, we are gathered once again on the Lord’s day, at the Altar of the Confession in St. Peter’s Basilica, to conclude the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. In our hearts is a deep gratitude towards God who has afforded us this truly extraordinary experience, not just for us, but for the good of the Church, for the People of God who live in the lands between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. As Bishop of Rome, I would like to pass on this gratitude to you, Venerable Synod Fathers: Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops. I wish to especially thank the Secretary General, the four Presidents Delegate, the Relator General, the Special Secretary and all the collaborators, who have worked tirelessly in these days. This morning we left the Synod Hall and came to “the temple to pray”: in this, we are touched directly by the parable of the pharisee and the publican, told by Jesus and recounted by the evangelist St Luke (cf. 18:9-14). We too may be tempted, like the pharisee, to tell God of our merits, perhaps thinking of our work during these days. However, to rise up to Heaven, prayer must emanate from a poor, humble heart. And therefore we too, at the conclusion of this ecclesial event, wish to first and foremost give thanks to God, not for our merits, but for the gift that He has given us. We recognize ourselves as small and in need of salvation, of mercy; we recognize all that comes from Him and that only with his Grace we may realize what the Holy Spirit told us. Only in this manner may we “return home” truly enriched, made more just and more able to walk in the path of the Lord.
The First Reading and the responsorial Psalm stress the theme of prayer, emphasizing that it is much more powerful to God’s heart when those who pray are in a condition of need and are afflicted. “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds” affirms Ecclesiasticus (35:21); and the Psalmist adds: “Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted, he helps those whose spirit is crushed” (34:18). Our thoughts go to our numerous brothers and sisters who live in the region of the Middle East and who find themselves in trying situations, at times very burdensome, both for the material poverty and for the discouragement, the state of tension and at times of fear. Today the Word of God also offers us a light of consoling hope, there where He presents prayer, personified, that “until he has eliminated the hordes of the arrogant and broken the sceptres of the wicked, until he has repaid all people as their deeds deserve and human actions as their intentions merit” (Ecc 35:21-22). This link too, between prayer and justice makes us think of many situations in the world, particularly in the Middle East. The cry of the poor and of the oppressed finds an immediate echo in God, who desires to intervene to open up a way out, to restore a future of freedom, a horizon of hope.
This faith in God who is near, who frees his friends, is what the Apostle Paul witnesses to in today’s epistle, in the Second Letter to Timothy. Realizing that the end of his earthly life was near, Paul makes an assessment: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). For each one of us, dear brothers in the episcopacy, this is a model to imitate: May Divine Goodness allow us to make a similar judgment of ourselves! St Paul continues, “the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear” (2 Tm 4:17). It is a word which resounds with particular strength on this Sunday in which we celebrate World Mission Day! Communion with Jesus crucified and risen, witness of his love. The Apostle’s experience is a model for every Christian, especially for us Shepherds. We have shared a powerful moment of ecclesial communion. We now leave each other so that each may return to his own mission, but we know that we remain united, we remain in his love.
The Synodal Assembly which concludes today has always kept in mind the icon of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). It is a reality that we experienced in these past days, in which we have shared the joys and the pains, the concerns and the hopes of Christians in the Middle East. We experienced the unity of the Church in the variety of Churches present in that region. Led by the Holy Spirit, we became “united, heart and soul” in faith, in hope, and in charity, most of all during Eucharistic celebrations, source and summit of ecclesial communion, and in the Liturgy of the Hours as well, celebrated every morning according to one of the seven Catholic rites of the Middle East. We have thus enhanced the liturgical, spiritual and theological wealth of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as of the Latin Church. It involved an exchange of precious gifts, from which all the Synodal Fathers benefitted. It is hoped that this positive experience repeats itself in the respective communities of the Middle East, encouraging the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations of other Catholic rites, thus opening themselves to the dimensions of the Universal Church.
Common prayer helped us to face the challenges of the Catholic Church in the Middle East as well. One of these is communion within each sui iuris Church, as well as in the relationships between the various Catholic Churches of different traditions. As today’s Gospel reminded us (cf Lk 18:9-14), we need humility, in order to recognize our limitations, our errors and omissions, in order to be able to truly be “united, heart and soul”. A fuller communion within the Catholic Church favors ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities as well. The Catholic Church reiterated in this Synodal meeting its deep conviction to pursuing such dialogue as well, so that the prayer of the Lord Jesus might be completely fulfilled: “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21).
The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular potency in the places in which, by Divine Providence, it was written, and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence. From a purified heart, in peace with God and neighbor, may intentions and initiatives for peace at local, national, and international levels be born. In these actions, to whose accomplishment the whole international community is called, Christians as full-fledged citizens can and must do their part with the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation to the benefit of all society.
Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life of dignity for human beings and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” we are told in the Psalm (122:6). We pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for peace in the Middle East, undertaking to try to ensure that this gift of God to men of goodwill should spread through the whole world.
Another contribution that Christians can bring to society is the promotion of an authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom becomes essential to guarantee to all the members of the various religious communities the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the Synodal Fathers. During the work of the Synod what was often underlined was the need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church. What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots. The recent creation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization also responds to this profound need. For this reason, after having consulted the episcopacy of the whole world and after having listened to the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: “Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam - The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”.
Dear brothers and sisters of the Middle East! May the experience of these days assure you that you are never alone, that you are always accompanied by the Holy See and the whole Church, which, having been born in Jerusalem, spread through the Middle East and then the rest of the world. We entrust the results of the Special Assembly for the Middle East, as well as the preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace. Amen.
[00210-02.02] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]
CONVIVIUM: SPEECH OF BENEDICT XVI TO THE SYNODAL FATHERS
During the course of the convivium in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall, in the Vatican, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, H.E.R. Mons. Nikola Eterović, presented the Pope with the principal data regarding the works in which 173 Synodal Fathers took part . There were 14 General Congregations and 6 meetings of the Working Groups. There were 10 meditations and homilies. There were 125 interventions plus 5 that were handed in in writing. There were a further 12 interventions by Fraternal delegates and 12 reports were presented. In addition, there were 111 free interventions in the presence of the Pope. The president delegate H.B. Ignace Youssif III Younan, thanked the Pontiff for the opportunity offered to the Churches of the Middle East to have their voice heard, ensuring that the pastors of the Eastern Churches will return to their lands to proclaim, without fear, the Gospel in charity and truth, and to live it every day. The Greek-Melchite Patriarch H.B. Gregorius III Laham gave a present of a splendid Eastern liturgical vestment to the Holy Father. The Pope said that the best gift of the Synodal Assembly is the communion in the diversity of the Eastern Churches, a communion that becomes witness:
according to a beautiful tradition established by Pope John Paul II, the Synods end with a lunch, a convivial act that also sits well in the climate of this Synod that speaks of communion: non only did it speak of it, but it led us to create communion.
This for me is the time to say thank you. Thank you to the Secretary General of the Synod and his staff, who prepared and are still preparing the follow-up to the work. Thank you to the Presidents Delegate, thank you, above all, to the Relater and the Deputy Secretary, whose work was incredible. Thank you! I too was once relater at the Synod on the family and I have some idea of the work you have undertaken. Thank you also to all the Fathers who presented the voice of the Church in the East, to the Auditors, to the Fraternal Delegates, to everyone!
Communion and witness. In this moment we thank the Lord for the communion he gave us and continues to give us. We have seen the wealth and the diversity of this communion. You are Churches with different rites, who form, all the same, with all the other rites, the single Catholic Church. It is beautiful to see this true Catholicity, that is so rich in diversity, so rich in possibilities, of different cultures; and, yet, this is truly the way in which grows the polyphony of a single faith, of a real communion of hearts, that only the Lord can grant. For this experience of communion we thank the Lord, I thank all of you. It seems to me that this is the most important gift of the Synod that we have lived and realized: the communion that links us all and that is in itself witness.
Communion. Catholic, Christian communion is an open communion, one of dialogue. Thus we were in permanent dialogue as well, internally and externally, with the Orthodox brothers, with the other Ecclesial communities. And we felt that it is truly in this that we are united – even if there are exterior divisions: we felt the deep communion in the Lord, in the gift of his Word, of his life, and we hope that the Lord will guide us to move on in this profound communion.
We are united with the Lord and so – we can say – we have been “found” by the truth. And this truth does not close, if does not impose borders, but it opens. For this reason we are also in frank and open dialogue with our Muslim brothers and our Jewish brothers, all of whom together are responsible for the gift of peace, in a real way for the gift of peace in that part of the earth that is blessed by the Lord, the cradle of Christianity and also of the other two religions. We want to continue on this journey with strength, tenderness and humility, and with the courage of the truth which is love and which opens up in love.
I said that we are ending this Synod with a meal. But the real conclusion tomorrow is the living together with the Lord, the celebration of the Eucharistic. The Eucharistic, in reality, is not a conclusion but an opening. The Lord walks with us, he is with us, the Lord sets us on our way. And thus, in this sense, we are in Synod, that is, a walk that continues even once we have dispersed: we are Synod, in a shared journey. Let us pray to the Lord to help us. And thank you to all of you!
Intervention of Mons. Mounged EL-HACHEM, Titular Archbishop of Darn, Apostolic Nuncio (LEBANON), “IN SCRIPTIS”
The Koran contains verses which prescribe tolerance, especially with regard to Christians. The first Caliphs and provincial leaders appealed to Christians to help them in governing. But it is primarily in the domains of culture and medical care that Christians held the top posts.
Relationships deteriorated with the Crusades and especially under the Mameluke regime. At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, the Arab world and Muslims faced enormous difficulties: countries in Northern Africa had been colonized by France, the Arab language had nearly disappeared, the Turkish empire had begun to become the “sick man”. Numerous Christian intellectuals, in particular the Lebanese and Syrian, emigrated to Egypt and there brought about a rebirth of Arab language and culture.
Today, particularly since September 11, 2001, the Muslim world faces great challenges, despite its wealth, especially its immense oil and gas reserves.
Let us recall some of them:-Its difficult relationships with the West, especially with Europe and the United States of America
-Its political regimes: military dictatorships and hereditary monarchies
-Absence of democracy, of freedoms (of opinion, expression, association, religion...)
-Respect for human rights, according to the signing of the Treaty of 1948
-The status of women and their equality with men
-Tension between Sunnis and Shiites
-Wars and conflicts: Palestine, Iraq, Yemen,...
-Confusion between Spiritual and Temporal, Religion and State
Numerous Christians and associations work on Islamic-Christian dialogue, beginning with the Islamic Section in the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Some practical suggestions for concrete collaboration:
1. Encourage accurate knowledge, even elementary, on one side as well as the other: “man is the enemy of what he ignores”. This teaching must be done at all levels: from elementary school up through university.
2. Create academic manuals which provide accurate teachings of both religions.
3. Encourage mixed schools, and exchanges between Christian and Muslim schools; this is being done more and more in Lebanon
4.Organize joint camps where young Muslims and Christians can live together.
5.Carry out social, charitable, and humanitarian activities together.
It is desirable that religious leaders of the same country take initiatives which encourage collaboration between the faithful of both religions; in Lebanon, for example, The National Committee for Islamic-Christian dialogue, instituted by the leaders of the six most important religious communities, is achieving noteworthy results. The government has created two shared books of history and civic education for all students. These must reach the masses and not be limited solely to the elite.
This dialogue of life is an implementation of the theme of this Synod: “Communion and Witness”.
[00198-02.05] [IS005] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Flavien Joseph MELKI, Titular Bishop of Dara of the Syrians, Curia Bishop of Antioch of the Syrians (LEBANON), “IN SCRIPTIS”
Paragraph 25 of the Instrumentum laboris calls on the Middle Eastern Christians to put everything into practice, together with the moderate and illuminated Muslims, to be able to establish in the Islamic States, where they live, a “positive Laicity” which would guarantee equality for all citizens, recognizing the beneficial role of religions. This reform of the political and theocratic regime of our country “would make the promotion of a healthy democracy easier”.
These propositions, as hoped for and legitimate as they may be, is there any possibility of them being put into practice? Is it even thinkable that the Arabic countries of the Middle East, where fundamentalism is becoming more entrenched, will accept in the near future abandoning their theocratic regimes founded on the Koran and the Sharia, which constitute flagrant discrimination towards non-Muslims? To me this seems to be in the domain of utopia, for the centuries to come.
Apart from Lebanon, Middle Eastern Christians, who number about 15,000,000, have been for the past 14 centuries, submitted to forms of multiple persecution, massacres, discrimination, taxation and humiliation. Even today, in the third millennium, we watch powerless, with a wounded heart, the trials of our brothers in Iraq and their massive exodus.
Must we wait for the disappearance of Christians in the Middle East to raise our voices and speak up with force, liberty, equality and justice for these religious minorities threatened in their very existence? Will the civilized world remain indifferent towards their extinction?
We must act quickly to reform the Islamic regimes. Middle Eastern Christians by themselves cannot achieve this goal. They must be helped by the Universal Church and the democratic nations.
1 - The Holy See could intervene in this with the countries with which they have diplomatic relations.
2 - European countries, the United States and the countries that respect human rights should put pressure on all levels on the regimes who infringe the inalienable rights of the human being, to lead them to reform their laws, inspired by the Islamic Sharia, that treat religious minorities like second-class citizens.
And why not ask the international tribunals to plead the cause of Christians, victims of discrimination, and demand that Islamic countries treat their Christian subjects, following the example of the European states, who give Muslim minorities, who have become citizens, the same rights as the original inhabitants.
In mobilizing international opinion this way, Christians would have reasons to hope and find their dignity as citizens once again, which would induce them to stay.
We must constantly claim our damaged rights and our unrecognized dignity and act unceasingly to resolve this abnormal situation following the Word of Christ: “Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened”. Or again, following the example of the poor widow in the Gospel, without any defense, who through insisting finally obtained justice from an iniquitous judge, without faith and without heart,
[00196-02.03] [IS004] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Raboula Antoine BEYLOUNI, Titular Archbishop of Mardin of the Syrians, Curia Bishop of Antioch of the Syrians (LEBANON), “IN SCRIPTIS”
For several years in Lebanon we have had a national committee for Islamic-Christian dialogue. There was also an episcopal commission from the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon entrusted with Islamic-Christian dialogue. It was recently suppressed to give more importance to the other committee, also because because it had not produced any results.
Sometimes dialogue occurs here and there, in the Arab countries, such as in Qatar, where the Emir himself invites, at his expense, personalities from different countries and from the three religions: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. In Lebanon the Télélumiere and Noursat networks, and other television networks, sometimes broadcast programs on Islamic-Christian dialogue. Often a topic is chosen, and each side explains or interprets according to their religion. These programs are usually very instructive.
With my intervention, I wished to draw attention on the points that make these encounters difficult and often ineffective. It should be clear that we are not discussing dogma. But even the subjects of a practical and social order are difficult to discuss when the Koran or the Sunna discusses them. Here are some difficulties which we have faced:
- The Koran inculcates in the Muslim pride in being the only true and complete religion, taught by the greatest prophet, because he was the last one. The Muslim is part of the privileged nation, and speaks the language of God, the language of Paradise, the Arabic language. This is why, he comes to dialogue with a sense of superiority, and with the certitude of being victorious.
The Koran, supposedly written by God Himself, from beginning to end, gives the same value to all that is written: dogma that supercedes all law or practice.
In the Koran, men and women are not equal, not even in marriage itself where the man takes several wives and can divorce at his pleasure; nor in the heritage where man takes double; nor in the testifying before judges where the voice of one man is equal to the voice of two women, etc...
The Koran allows the Muslim to hide the truth from the Christian, and to speak and act contrary to how he thinks and believes.
In the Koran, there are contradictory verses which annul others, which gives the Muslim the possibility of using one or the other to his advantage, and therefore he can tell the Christian that he is humble and pious and believes in God, just as he can treat him as impious, apostate and idolatrous.
The Koran gives the Muslim the right to judge Christians and to kill them for the Jihad (the holy war). It commands the imposition of religion through force, with the sword. The history of invasions bears witness to this. This is why the Muslims do not recognize religious freedom, for themselves or for others. And it isn’t surprising to see all the Arab countries and Muslims refusing the whole of the “Human Rights” instituted by the United Nations.
Faced with all these interdictions and other similar attitudes should one suppress dialogue? Of course not. But the themes that can be discussed should be chosen carefully, and capable and well-trained Christians chosen as well, as well as those who are courageous and pious, wise and prudent... who tell the truth with clarity and conviction...
We sometimes deplore certain dialogues on TV, where the Christian speaker isn’t up to the task, and does not give the Christian religion all its beauty and spirituality, which scandalizes the viewers. Worse yet, when sometimes there are clergyman speakers who, in dialogue to win over Muslims call Mohammed the prophet and add the Muslim invocation, known and constantly repeated: “Salla lahou alayhi was sallam”.
Finally I would like to suggest the following:
Like the Koran spoke well of the Virgin Mary, insisting on her perpetual virginity and miraculous and unique conception in giving us Christ; just as Muslims take her greatly into consideration and ask for her intercession, we should turn to her for all dialogue and all encounters with the Muslims. Being the Mother of us all, she will guide us in our relations with the Muslims to show them the true face of Her Son Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind.
If it pleased God that the Feast of the Annunciation was declared a national feast day in Lebanon for Christians and Muslims, may it also become a national feast day in other Arab countries.
[00194-02.03] [IS003] [Original text: French]
Intervention of Mons. Antonio Maria VEGLIÒ, Titular Archbishop of Eclano, President of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (VATICAN CITY), “IN SCRIPTIS”
In recent decades, Christians, and especially young people in many countries of the Middle East, have left their homeland in droves. It is under the eyes of all, as a result, that Christians in the Middle East are in great difficulty, they are few in number and are often powerless and resigned.
In this important meeting, feelings of spiritual closeness, support and encouragement for Christians in the Middle East spontaneously emerge, also recalling the ultimate sacrifice that Mons Faraj Raho, Mons Luigi Padovese, Don Andrea Santoro and other priests and many men and women, well-known and admired by by Christian communities, offered to the world .
There are also positive aspects in the phenomenon of migration as it had increased the number of Catholics in the region who pour into to certain areas of the Middle East, so much so that there are many Christian communities composed almost exclusively of immigrants, always more in greater contact with people of other religions, especially Muslims.
In this scenario, it is decisive to urge for a political commitment at a global level that addresses the causes of this hemorrhaging of men and women that empties the Churches of the Middle East and the places where Christianity was born and developed. It would be terrible if the Holy Land and its neighbors, the cradle of Christianity and home of the Prince of Peace, were to become a museum of stone, a beloved memory of past times! Equally indispensable and is a cultural commitment, that is, formation with respect to the centrality and dignity of every human person, the opposition to xenophobia, sometimes encouraged by the media, and support in integration that safeguards people’s identity..
While I view the emerging social problems with concern, I also notice the risk that the individual Eastern Catholic Churches should fold back on themselves. Christians Communities of the Middle East should be encouraged towards a better mutual understanding, which helps them to respect and appreciate each other more, to cooperate and work together in order to carry more weight.
This meeting will certainly show solidarity and support for Christians in the Middle East, so that they will feel encouraged to remain in their countries, in order to carry out their mission as “leaven”, through the life and witness of communion and , where possible, also with the explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ the only Lord and Savior.
Finally, in confidence: I am very happy with this Synod, which will help you Eastern Churches get to know each other better along with the Latin Church. And if know each other, we will love and help each other more.
[00193-02.06] [IS002] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of Card. Lubomyr HUSAR, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč (UKRAINE), “IN SCRIPTIS”
I intend to intervene on two topics that, among numerous others, are present in the Instrumentum laboris and that constitute elements that require close attention, in my opinion, and constant concern insofar as they involve us as Eastern Churches, going beyond our geographical and historical boundaries. Then I will conclude with two concrete proposals.
1. The first point I intervene on is the whole world of emigration. We Ukrainian Greek Catholics share with the brothers of the Middle East the drama of the migration of our faithful, even if the reasons are different. The statistics show that in these last few years five million Ukrainians emigrated towards the rest of the world and Western Europe in particular, half of whom came from the regions where the majority of our faithful live.
We have to acknowledge that generally in the countries they have emigrated to they have been welcomed by the Latin dioceses, but this does not relieve us of the serious responsibility we have of safeguarding the faith according to the Eastern tradition to which they belong and in which they have to be looked after with the appropriate specific pastoral care of their own rites, in line with what is also written clearly in canon law
In the Instrumentum laboris this right-duty of ours is recognized at no. 6 where we read: “The faithful of the Churches sui iuris are understood to be individual persons and their respective communities as a whole”. It seems evident that these, although having left their homeland, have to be placed in a position where they can exercise their faith of origin with the guarantee of all the means which their Church has at its disposal for pastoral care: their own priests, their own rite, their own spirituality, their own community life.
The objection might be raised that this guarantee could constitute an obstacle to integration in the new situations in which our faithful have decided to live. Our centuries-old experience teaches us that this is absolutely not true: our faithful in the Americas and in Australia, as well as in the various countries of Europe, are perfectly integrated today while maintaining intact their patrimony and exercising full membership of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Allow me to make an observation as regards this: one Church Father defined it as “circumdata varietate” to mean that the unity of the Church should not be identified with uniformity, but should express the richness of God the Creator in the harmony of differences and multiplicities, wishing to employ the term chosen that is also used in the Instrumentum laboris. As St. Ignatius of Antioch explains clearly with the image of the strings of a cithara and the symphony of a choir that sings, diversity is not a danger but an inalienable treasure for the Universal Church, bearing in mind, naturally, that the Successor of Peter has the divine mandate of conducting the choir to avoid flat notes and thus guarantee the symphony of truth and charity.
We have to find the courage in the Holy Spirit to live the harmony in multiplicity or diversity in all those regions that, up to few decades ago, were characterized by the presence of a single rite and were used to a sort of monopoly. We can observe that territory, faced by the growing challenge of migration, today is no longer a geographical but an anthropological concept. Applying the principle enunciated in the abovementioned quotation from the Instrumentum laboris, it seems to me we have to conclude that the territory of all the Churches sui iuris is made up of people of faith there where, for various reason, they have decided to live. Wehave to, therefore, rethink and review the instruments, including juridical ones, to ensure this principle practically, to guarantee the salus animarum of our faithful for whom we are responsible wherever they are as pastors, and to overcome the eventual danger of assimilation that impoverishes the structural nature of the Church as desired by Our Lord Jesus Christ.2. The second topic I wish to offer for shared reflection comes from no. 20 of our Instrumentum laboris having as its subject “apostolicity and missionary vocation”. Here it is affirmed: “In being apostolic, our Churches have a special mission to bring the Gospel to the whole world. Such has been the case throughout history”. Sadly I have to concur with what is stated in critical terms immediately after this, referring to a typical closed mentality of those who feel besieged or who have lived within absolutist ethnic or ideological boundaries, such as happened to us for 70 years with the Soviet Communist regime. It is true that the “evangelical ardor” has decreased. I ask myself: are the signs that can be seen in our Churches sui iuris - the Church in Ukraine as well has rumblings of new problems - and the singular phenomenon of mass emigration of our faithful that strikes us so profoundly not perhaps a sign sent by the Holy Spirit so that we, like Abraham, should leave the certainties of Ur of the Chaldees and set off on a journey through the whole world? And I am not scared to say “the whole world”, that is, also where the Church until today or yesterday knew situations that I could define as being of peaceful possession, presently in profound crisis because of defection or superficiality or the opposition of anti-Christian people and cultures. I ask myself: if the whole Universal Church is missionary, is this situation not perhaps a provocation for us of the Eastern tradition to decide to go ad gentes, wherever this gentes needs or awaits the Word that will save them? The wealth of our spirituality and our Liturgies is a patrimony to be shared and not jealously guarded or even hidden in our communities. It is true that we are poor compared to many other brothers, but we must never forget that God always chooses the humble and the poor to perform his marvelous works, as in the case, the sublime example, of Mary, the Thetokos.
3. The two issues I brought to our shared attention are just a small part of the great challenges that we have to face daily and in front of which we often feel unprepared or inadequate or weak, in any case, in difficulty. We need the help of Peter.
And here is the proposal-appeal that I make in all simplicity and with profound faith: to set up a body formed by the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, similar to the Permanent Synod of the Eastern Tradition, through which the Successor of Saint Peter can comfort, support and advise us on how to give evangelical fullness to our ministry and mission.
4. Based on this first proposal, I put forward a second. I ask the Participants at this Synod to ask the Holy Father to dedicate a Synod in the near future to the general theme of the nature and role of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
[00192-02.05] [IS001] [Original text: Italian]
Intervention of H. G. Munib YOUNAN, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and The Holy Land, President of the World Lutheran Federation (ISRAEL), Fraternal Delegate
[Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.]
Your Holiness, your eminences, your excellencies, I bring greetings to you from Jerusalem, the city of our Lord' s suffering and death, the city of his resurrection and ascension, the city of Pentecost and the birth of the Church. The Apostle Paul calls us in Ephesians 4:3 to "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And so I stand here "with all humility and gentleness" speaking to you about our common concerns for the body of Christ.
On October 21, 1999, in Augsburg, Germany we came together to sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification-a historical event that lifted former condemnations and set a course for our common future. It is good that the relationship between Lutherans and Catholics has developed in such a way and is still progressing. This past summer when the Lutheran World Federation met in Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, our theme was "Give us today our daily bread." We share the same loaf, we share the same responsibility for a hungry world, hungry for spirituality and hungry for justice. We share this responsibility in securing food, eradicating poverty, and combating deadly diseases.
In particular I want to stress the good relationship between the ELCJHL and the Catholic Church in Palestine, Israel and Jordan. I am blessed to have collegial and fraternal relationships with all the Catholic Bishops and prelates in Jerusalem. This must continue for the welfare of our people and for a common witness.
I also offer a word of gratitude for your initiative in caring for Christians in the Middle East through this synod. The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity. It would be tragic if after two thousand years this witness were to vanish. I ask you: What would the Middle East be without Christians?
We share this common concern. However, I do not want to dwell on the problems. I will only mention three only briefly: the unstable political situation, the lack of jobs because of the economic situation, and the growth of extremism - both political and religious extremism - that unsettles the region and leads to emigration. For me the future of Christianity is dependent upon peace and justice in the Middle East. How can we together offer a living and dynamic witness? It is essential that we not concentrate only on a confessional witness, but that we speak with one voice in a common witness.
Our grassroots are expecting to see us acting together, witnessing together, living together, and loving together. For this reason, it is essential that we strengthen our ecumenical relations both in Israel-Palestine and in the whole Middle East.
How can we do this? First, the Middle East Council of Churches is the only body in the world which gathers the four families of churches: Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental, and Evangelical. We are currently not as walking vigorously as we should, but rather limping along. I appeal to you to help us revive this ecumenical framework where we all can work together.
Secondly, we have to act together in creating jobs, in providing safe and affordable housing, in improving schools, and in strengthening all Christian institutions because they serve everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, politics or religion. Our Lutheran Schools, for example, educate an equal number of Christians and Muslims, boys and girls, side by side, creating a climate of mutual respect. This is our strength. We must continue our efforts so that Christians may remain steadfast in their own countries, as an integral part of the fabric of their own societies, working for the good of all.
Thirdly, the common witness of the Church - despite decreasing numbers - is essential for building a modern civil society, which is democratic, respectful of human rights, and promotes freedom of religion, a conscience for the entire Middle East, for the Arab and Muslim world, for Israel and Palestine. Over the course of these two thousand years, Christianity has not played a dominant role in governing this region, but we have always presented a living witness as the leaven in the dough of our societies. Our church is not timid and hiding, afraid of its own survival, but confident in the strength provided by the Spirit to be prophetic, to speak truth to power, and to promote justice for all with peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
Fourthly, our ecumenical witness shows itself in active interfaith dialogue. This must occur on several tracks. One is the promotion of better Muslim-Christian relations. We hold up with appreciation the 2007 open letter by Muslim leaders, A Common Word, which speaks about the core of religion as 'Loving God and loving neighbor'. As in the 2005 Amman message of King Abdullah II of Jordan, we must support those embodying the real Islam and combating extremism. I endorse his proposal last month to the United Nations for an annual World Interfaith Harmony Week. Where better than in Jerusalem should we Christians present a paradigm how to live and dialogue with Islam?
The second track of interfaith dialogue promotes Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations. The Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land brings together in Jerusalem leaders of all three faiths to jointly promote coexistence, combat extremism and seek solutions to societal problems. Currently academic consultants are studying hundreds of textbooks from Israeli and Palestinian schools in an effort to uncover and eliminate discriminatory and derogatory statements. This project is the preferred way to justice, peace and reconciliation.
The council is also composing a document as a foundation for future interfaith discussions, a simple statement about the common spiritual home of all three religions. The question is this: Why is Jerusalem is holy for Muslims and Jews, as well as Christians?
Our challenge is nothing less than loving our neighbors as ourselves. Many confess to loving God, but how can they love God whom they have not seen, when they do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen? (1 John 4:20)
We Lutherans are committed to work together with you Catholics, as with the Orthodox churches and other mainline Evangelical Churches, for the sake of our common witness in the Middle East.
And so we commit ourselves to "making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
[00206-02.02] [DF012] [Original text: English]
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]
Intervention of H. Exc. Barnaba EL SORYANY, Bishop of the Coptic-Orthodox Diocese of Saint George Roma (ITALY), Fraternal Delegate
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, entrusted me with the mission to attend the Synod as his representative, and to express his warm gratitude to His Holiness for extending an invitation to partake in the Synodal works. He entrusted me with delivering a tribute of fraternal love to Your Holiness and to all the members of the Synod, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying and hoping that God will let the Synod bear its desired fruits for the good and consideration of the Christians of the Middle East.
Allow me to say that this Synod comes at a very late stage, as the conflicts and persecutions that our region suffers from have multiplied and turned into lamentation and suffering, resulting in the migration of a large number of the finest young Christians, leaving their homelands behind. I also mean leaving their hearts behind, with their history, authentic culture and tradition, in order to live and take refuge in another country, whose traditions and way of life are strange to them, not in line with their nature, but, compared to what they went through, still more secure and safer, providing them and their children with the hope of a better future.
The title of this Synod on communion and witness takes on a new meaning and significance with regard to the suffering and challenges faced by the Christians of the Middle East, due to precarious and complex political conflicts, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the wars this region has witnessed and still is enduring; wars that have caused an upsurge in Middle Eastern problems, where, as a reaction, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian Salafist movements alike were launched, while the spirit of hatred, rejection of the other and isolationism were felt on the other side in response to the psychological pressure and persecution. That, to the point of martyrdom, marginalization and the feeling of being “non-native” citizens enduring discrimination at work and in political institutions and parliamentary and local councils.
In this sense, it fell to the Church as a reality that it had to live and live with, particularly in how to minister to those communities that departed and scattered all over the world – in addition to ministering the remaining communities inside the country, encouraging them not to leave their homelands, and seeking to resolve their issues, as much as possible, through the intercession of officials.
From my personal experience, I can confirm that we were forced to undergo the reality of emigration. Nevertheless, the Coptic church realized the perils of emigration and migration, of leaving the country whatever the reason for the exile. Accordingly, with his keen intellect and spiritual sensitivity, Pope Shenouda III recognized the need of our Coptic migrant communities (around two million Christian Copts) residing overseas to live in the same ecclesiastic oriental spiritual environment they grew up and were raised in according to its traditions. That is why Pope Shenouda III sent the Church after its faithful communities, to look for them in fear of losing them and their Copt identity, as well as their disappearing in foreign communities. Thus, he founded churches and monasteries and established Copt schools in immigration countries, such as:
In the United States: around 160 Egyptian Coptic churches, two monasteries and five bishops;
In Canada: 20 Coptic churches;
In Bolivia: several churches and a bishop;
In Brazil: several churches and a bishop as well;
In Australia: 20 Coptic churches, a monastery and three bishops;
In Europe: churches in almost every European country, three monasteries and three bishops;
In Sudan: two parishes, two monasteries and two bishops;
In Southern Africa: churches in Kenya, Zimbabwe and remaining countries – a monastery and two bishops. He also founded Coptic schools in the United States, Canada and Australia.I would like to affirm that we look forward to this Synod, thanks to the efforts of His Holiness and the Synod members. May it be the glimpse of hope that carries within it better solutions for the Christians’ problems in the Middle East.
My thanks go to the Synodal members who succeeded, throughout their addresses, in covering all the aspects they have experienced and witnessed, dimensions that have had direct or indirect influences on emigration movements in the Middle East.
[00200-02.02] [DF010] [Original text: Arabic]
Intervention of Archimandrite Chrysostomos KYKKOTIS (CYPRUS), Fraternal Delegate
Text read by Rev. Dr. Demosthenis Demosthenous (Cyprus)
We warmly thank His Holiness the Pope of Rome, Benedict XVI, our most beloved Brother in Christ, who has kindly invited us to participate in the Synod of the Catholic Churches of the Middle East.
We are completely convinced that this Synod is taking place in a moment that is decisively critical for the whole world, but especially for the sensitive region of the Middle East. Certainly, the Word Incarnate, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, brought to all men a message of peace, freedom and justice, teaching us by is example and with his preaching to live in peace with our neighbor and with all peoples. When, though, peace is endangered, as unfortunately it has been in Cyprus for 36 years now, because of the uninterrupted Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of our island, it is the duty of all of us to defend it from those who intend to endanger it.
I am particularly happy because this message of peace guide and unites our Churches. Appealing to your goodwill, we cannot but point out that Cyprus is the only nation of the European Union that finds a large part of its territory under occupation, where almost half of its population has been violently chased from their homes and have become refugees, while 520 churches and other venerated sacred places and sites of fervent devotion destroyed, pillaged and turned into entertainment venues or even into stalls for livestock.
For all these reasons, the Christians of Cyprus ask for and await your help and support in the just struggle for the withdrawal from our island of the invading Turkish army and the colonists who have settled there, and for freedom, peace, justice and, in general, all the human rights of the legitimate indigenous inhabitants of the island.
We wish every success to the works of the Synod, for the good of the peoples and people of the Middle East. We hope, furthermore, that the Lord Jesus Christ will grant His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI health and serenity for many years to come, for the good of the flock that has been entrusted to him. May the grace and blessing of the Lord be with all of you. Thank you once again.
With my most heartfelt best wishes and great affection,
the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II
[00199-02.04] [DF009] [Original text: Italian]
SPEECH OF THE ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, FRANCO FRATTINI, ON THE OCCASION OF THE CONFERENCE AT THE CAMPIDOGLIO
The speech of the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, on the occasion of the Conference at the Campidoglio “Middle East Christian Witness at the Service of Peace” on 19 October 2010 is published below.
Thank you first of all for this further opportunity for reflection. I have already had the honor of speaking with the patriarchs and H.E. the Secretary General of the Synod. We are now continuing these reflections in public on a theme that the organizers, when we think about it, have done well this morning to place before such a well-qualified assembly. I believe it is a theme we should all be aware of, one that is crucial for the future of our world.
Father Lombardi has just said that it was in the Middle East that Judaism, Christianity and Islam not only were born, but developed over many centuries following a path of spiritual maturing that undoubtedly favored a profound development of ideas, experience, and individual and collective life. Unfortunately, especially since the tragedy that marked our recent past (September 11th), a tendency has appeared in the world of defining identities of belonging in an exclusive, or worse, exclusivist way. There are those who spoke, and are still speaking, of conflict between religions and civilizations, those who speak of conflict between Christianity and Islam, between Islam and the West. I am convinced that if there is a conflict in our world it is between tolerance and dialogue on one side, and intolerance and extremism, on the other. Personally I reject the thesis according to which an unresolvable clash is under way today between cultures, religions and civilizations, but it is undeniable that the conflict with tolerance and extremism has had a particular impact on Christians. Often what occurs is a situation that can be symbolically described quoting the title of a recent book on the subject: Christians and the Middle East. The Great Escape (by Fulvio Scaglione, 2008, pp. 235, Edizioni San Paolo, editor’s note). The title of the book gives a dramatic idea of something that could and might happen. H.E. Mons. Eterovic recalled how the number of Christians had already dropped during the last century. Today it is falling dramatically. More generally, the Christian communities are at risk of seeing their presence and territorial diffusion reduced.
Episodes of violence against Christian minorities are on the increase and this is a phenomenon which we have to view with great concern. I read a recent report on religious restrictions, published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a dependable American institution. This investigation reveals how in general for every 100 deaths caused by religious hatred and intolerance in the world, 75 are Christian. This is a percentage that terrifies us. Tens of thousands of Christians every year are the subject of persecution, violence against their person, confiscation of possessions and intimidation. Their desire to live in peace and alongside other religions is denied, and indeed they are often punished for the simple fact of being Christian.
What also emerges from the interventions in this assembly is a general picture of a situation of great suffering among the Christian communities severely struck in Iraq, divided in Lebanon, subject to the repercussions of Islamization in many Arab countries, forced elsewhere to resist the abuses of authoritarian regimes, of full-blown dictatorships that persecute and strike out against Christians. I do not believe it would be too strong an expression if I said that “Christianophobia” is a growing and very real risk today, that in some way we have been concerned about in recent years, but that today we have to fear day after day. Christian communities today face a great challenge, that which comes from living in countries where there are internal political divisions and international crises and a challenge rising from the sometimes fanatical presence of fundamentalist movements that often tend to confuse Christians, the bearers of the Christian faith, with a cultural characteristic of the West to be struck at and opposed. This is a particularly dangerous phenomenon.
In many contexts Christian communities live in a condition of isolation and alienation that is totally absurd, despite the fact that throughout history it was the Eastern Churches which were the centers of propelling and spreading Christianity. This happens despite the fact that the Christian communities have been present in the territory long before the arrival of Islam. These are phenomena we have to view with concern. In some cases the greater involvement of the population in political life has led to an exasperation of both the contrasts between the various communities as well as religiously inspired identity, confusing religion with the state and therefore compromising that respect for freedom and equality in the personal, social, civil and religious rights of all minorities and not just of the Christian minority. I believe this respect should be an indicator of the maturity, of the health of a democracy.
I am convinced that a political analysis of the Christian presence in the Middle East has to be articulated in the political-international dimension (ongoing and latent conflicts); the symbolic-identity dimension (the prevalently religious characteristics of a number of movements that are born in and unfortunately feed off extremism) and the democratic dimension (that of rights and therefore the crucial theme of religious freedom). The great objective of peace, which is the objective of the patriarchs, of the Church, but I believe should also be that of all the democracies, has to be pursued by promoting a synergy between all these dimensions. We have to have an overall vision both of the challenges that we have before us as well as the contribution we can make. We need to reform a tissue of relationships between states, within communities and between communities, in such a way as to avoid the lacerations of both ancient and modern origin. All these points are dealt with with great far-sightedness in the Instrumentum laboris. The document of participation and preparation of the Synod for the Middle East touches on questions of primary importance such as reciprocal awareness among the three monotheistic religions, the need for a shared undertaking for peace, agreement and the promotion of spiritual values, as well as that concept that is particularly dear to me of positive laicity as the contribution of Christians to the promotion of a healthy democracy, lay in a positive sense, but that also recognizes, because of this, the role of religion in public life.
I was very struck by the appeal to Christians not to bend, not to retreat under the blows of adversity, but to continue to behave actively to spread a spirit of reconciliation. I was particularly struck by that most beautiful phrase in your document about the ‘pedagogy of peace”. This means denouncing violence, wherever it comes from, in the name of that value you teach us about and that is fundamental for our Christian faith: forgiveness. This is obviously an extremely difficult task that requires courage, but it is indispensable to recuperate that sense of dialogue between the faiths that is essential to achieve peace.
Christians will certainly have to become increasingly aware of the essential value of their presence in the Middle East, a widely recognized value. Christians also have to be aware of the need to seek with Muslims an understanding about how to oppose those aspects that threaten society just as much as extremism. I refer to atheism, materialism and relativism. Christians, Muslims and Jews can work together to achieve this common goal.
I believe that a new humanism is required to oppose these perverse phenomena, because only the centrality of the human person is an antidote that will defeat fanaticism and intolerance. This is why Italian foreign policy sees the promotion of religious freedom as a fundamental point, since this deals with a fundamental right of each human person. This is not a collective issue, but a question relating to the person.
The Italian government has done a lot. We have been busy in the European Union. I promoted a course of action that might lead to European support for religious freedom, promoting the rights of people who belong to religious minorities, thinking obviously of the Christian minority that suffers in many countries of the world. I believe that every state should be vigilant about this question in order to avoid intolerance.
I also acted at the United Nations in September. Speaking on behalf of Italy I promoted a resolution on religious freedom and the rights of all minorities to express their religion at the General Assembly. I hope that wide support will be given to this possible resolution (so far almost 30 countries have indicated their willingness to support it), and for this reason I launch an appeal. So far not all the countries of the European Union have taken this step. I say this with a certain sadness, but I hope that to these 30 countries many others will be added and that this resolution might be approved in the session of the General Assembly that has just opened.
We also had to act as the Italian Government against a sentence, which you will all be aware of, of the Court of Strasbourg that forbad the exposition of the Crucifix in public places. I am convinced - and this conviction is shared by the Italian Government - that the Crucifix represents the right to express one’s faith and that there is no contradiction between this symbol, which is a symbol of peace and reconciliation, and the lay state that protects all religions; a state that also protects my religion, though, which I therefore have the right to profess publicly as well.
Italy’s action (the first of its kind at the Court of Strasbourg) was supported by ten countries, small ones like Cyprus and large ones like Russia. It is with great sadness that I note that only Italy, among the founding countries of the European Union, subscribed to this appeal, because the very nations that felt Europe was worth founding did not participate in this action in favor of freedom with us, which is after all one of the pillars of the Charter of Rights that the European Union wanted to establish.
As regards the conditions of Christians in the Middle East, we watch carefully and follow, through Italian foreign policy, the Christian presence in the Middle East which, despite an overall drop in numbers, still represent s a fundamental element in those countries today. You are well aware of the statistical data about the reduction in the Christian presence, but we are concerned that this reduction is often generated by political instability in those countries, by the lack of economic prospects and by the radicalization that is spreading in some countries. The Christian presence is a great resource for that region and for this reason it must always be safeguarded. This is why Italy strongly agrees with appeasing action of the Synod for the Middle East in favor of safeguarding the Christian presence in the lands where Christianity was born.
We hold very dear this witness that, above all, in the Holy Land, Christians and the Catholic institutions in loco carry out. We believe, for example, that the hoped-for and unfortunately delayed peace settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will certainly be an element, when peace comes, that will greatly improve the condition of Christians in the Holy Land, contributing to preserve that multiconfessional and multicultural character of the Holy City of Jerusalem. This is a fundamental theme that we Christians hold very dear, as do the faithful of other religions.
Of course I think of Italy’s commitment in Lebanon, a commitment that will continue, and that cannot disregard the special nature of that country. I remember the definition of the Holy Father who called Lebanon a “message country” precisely because of its example of peaceful coexistence between religions and I believe that Italy has to continue to commit to help Lebanon, not only in areas that are prevalently Christian, but also there where all those who live in that country are present (Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Christian, obviously), so that the multiconfessional nature of Lebanon might be safeguarded.
I think of Christians in Iraq. I have visited that country a number of times and on each occasion I asked for an end to violence and persecution (I remember, in particular, the massacres in Mosul). Again as regards the commitment of the Italian Government I would like to remember my recent meetings with the President of Iraqi Kurdistan and the mission to Baghdad as soon as the new Iraqi government is established. I will emphasize on that occasion that the Christian minority in Iraq is an essential component of the history and society of that country.
I think of Egypt, a country we love and that has a long shared history with Italy going back centuries and millennia. We are always encouraging the government there to make the most of the Coptic community that lives in Egypt, in the framework of an equality among religions that, on the basis of the Constitution, our Egyptian friends have always reaffirmed. I remember the day after a tragic incident that led to the violent deaths of a number of Christians in Egypt, I went to where it happened and was met by President Mubarak, who once more expressed a powerful political message when he told me, before repeating it in public: “We all live, Muslims and Copts, beneath the same flag of the same country based on the principle of citizenship”. This is the sentiment that in Egypt I believe has to always be repeated and confirmed.
We look to Turkey, a country whose approach to the European Union Italy has always strongly supported. We support it because we are encouraging a process of modernization and reform in that country. We obviously look at the Christian community in Turkey, a community that has been greatly reduced in number, that has suffered from the violent deaths of some of its exponents of extraordinary spiritual value. I think obviously of Mons. Padovese. We encourage Ankara to take further steps to safeguard religious minorities and, in particular, the Christian minority. We hope that the constitutional referendum that certainly helped Turkey take a step towards Europe will bring benefits.
But we also look to Iran, a country with which the world is trying forcefully to reopen a dialogue on delicate issues, but where the Christian community represents an important social component. In respect of the autonomy and independence of all countries and therefore also, obviously, of Iran, we look very carefully at the requests of the Iranian Christian and the will of all the minorities who wish to have a role in society.
I conclude these reflections of mine with the hope that the efforts of the Synod for the Middle East, the commitment of Christian communities throughout the world and of governments that, like Italy’s, are sensitive to these themes, can work to promote living together. We have countries that are a positive example in the Middle East. Among these Syria and the Kingdom of Jordan. Countries that we look on with affection also for this element that characterizes them, but let us not forget that at the level of local realities, the level of communities, of the young and very young, Christians and Muslims have long learned to live together in peace. Let us avoid that government and political conflicts be allowed to divide what in the community at the level of day-to-day living is often united. Thank you.
[00203-02.13] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]
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]
GIFT FROM THE POPE TO THE SYNOD FATHERS
At the closing of the General Congregation, the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, H. Exc. Mons. Nikola ETEROVIČ, announced that the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has given to the Synod Fathers a gold plated bronze reproducing a detail of Giambattista Tiepolo's fresco of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, conserved in the Oratory of the Purità in Udine (Italy). The piece, executed by the Savi brothers, commemorates the 60th anniversary of the proclamation of the marian dogma by Pope Pius XII, and is intended to be a special sign of entrustment of the Eastern Churches to the maternal protection of the Mother of God.
GIFT FROM THE POPE TO THE PARTICIPANTS AT THE SYNOD
The Holy Father wished to gift the Synod Fathers and the other Participants of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops the commemorative medal from the Apostolic Visit to Cyprus (4 6 June 2010), when he gave out the Instrumentum laboris of the Assembly.
The work is inspired by the “Vials of the pilgrims in the Holy Land”, small metal flasks for pilgrims kept in the Treasury of the Cathedral of Monza, and one of these in particular, depicting “Christ ascending to heaven”, following a typical Eastern iconography, seated on a throne.
The reverse of the Medal depicts the Ascension. At the bottom center is Our Lady praying and hallowed, wrapped in a maphorion (cloak), surrounded by the twelve Apostles, divided into two groups and with a demeanor of deep emotion in being witnesses of the Ascension. Above, four Angels hold an almond, in which appears the Christ blessing, seated on a throne with a cross shaped halo while bearing the Gospel in his left hand. On the neck of the vial appears a cross placed under an arch with a garland of golden leaves.
The work which depicts the Ascension, by the artist Louis Teruggi, was produced by the “Johnson 1836” factory of Italian medals, the oldest and most important factory of medals in Italy, with offices in Baranzate (MI) and in Rome, also supplying other Papal medals.
ANGELUS of Sunday, 10 October 2010
BENEDICT XVI, ANGELUS:
St Peter's Square
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I have just come from St Peter's Basilica where I presided at the opening Mass for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. This extraordinary Synod Meeting that will last for two weeks, sees gathered at the Vatican the Pastors of the Church who live in the region of the Middle East, a particularly variegated situation: in those lands, in fact, the one Church of Christ is expressed in the full richness of her ancient Traditions. The theme on which we shall reflect is: "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness". In fact, in those countries, unfortunately marked by deep divisions and torn by age-old conflicts, the Church is called to be a sign and instrument of unity and reconciliation, modelled on the first community of Jerusalem, in which "the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul", as St Luke says (Acts 4: 32). This task is not easy, since the Christians of the Middle East often find themselves having to bear difficult living conditions, at both family and community levels. But this must not be a discouragement: it is precisely in this context that Christ's perennial message rings out, more necessary and urgent than ever: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1: 15). On my recent Visit to Cyprus I presented the Instrumentum Laboris of this Synodal Assembly. Now that it has begun, I ask everyone to pray, invoking from God an abundant outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The month of October is called the month of the Rosary, a "spiritual cadence", so to speak, that derives from the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is celebrated on 7 October. We are therefore asked to let ourselves be guided by Mary in this prayer, ancient and ever new, which is especially dear to her because it leads us directly to Jesus, contemplated in his Mysteries of salvation: joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious. In the footsteps of Venerable John Paul ii (cf. Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae), I would like to recall that the Rosary is a biblical prayer, interwoven with Sacred Scripture throughout. It is a prayer of the heart, in which the repetition of the Hail Mary directs the thoughts and affections to Christ and therefore becomes a trusting supplication to his Mother and ours. It is a prayer that helps us to meditate on the word of God and to assimilate Eucharistic Communion, modelling ourselves on Mary who cherished in her heart all that Jesus did and said, and his Presence itself.
Dear friends, we know how deeply our brothers and sisters in the Middle East love and venerate the Virgin Mary. They all look to her as a caring Mother, close to all who suffer, and as a Star of hope. Let us entrust to her intercession the Synodal Assembly that begins today, so that the Christians of this region may be strengthened in communion and may bear witness to the Gospel of love and peace to all.
After the Angelus:
I offer warm greetings to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. I invite all of you to join me in praying for the "Special Assembly for the Middle East" of the Synod of Bishops, which opened this morning in St Peter's Basilica. May this momentous ecclesial event strengthen the communion of the faithful in the Middle East, especially as they give witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the gift of peace he offers. As we entrust these prayers to the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph, her Spouse, who themselves came from that region, I invoke upon you and your families God's abundant Blessings.