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Posted in Dialogue, Synod

‘Identity’ at the heart of Synod discussions

sinodo3giorno570At 9:00 a.m. on October 12, 2010, in the presence of the Holy Father, the Third General Congregation began, to vote on the Commission for the Message and to continue the interventions by the Synodal Fathers in the Hall on the Synodal theme The Catholic Church in the Middle East:Communion and Witness.

The Acting President Delegate for this session was H.B. Ignace Youssef III YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch of Syrians (Lebanon). Election of members of the Commission for the Message took place presided by the President, H. Exc. Mons. Cyrille Salim BUSTROS, S.M.S.P., Archbishop of Newton of the Greek-Melkites (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) and Vice President H. Exc. Mons. William Hanna SHOMALI, Titular Bishop of Lydda, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM).

Following are text of the interventions made by some of the Synodal Fathers on Identity of the Christians:

Rev. F. David M. NEUHAUS, S.J., Vicar of the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins for the pastoral care of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics (JERUSALEM)

Hebrew is also a language of the Catholic Church in the Middle East. Hundreds of Israeli Catholics conduct all aspects of their life in Hebrew, inculturating their faith within a society that is defined by the Jewish tradition.

However, today, in addition there are thousands of children, Catholic by faith, of the families of foreign workers, refugees and also Arabs, who go to Hebrew language schools, and need catechism in Hebrew, a great challenge for the Hebrew-speaking vicariate today. Finally, the Hebrew-speaking Catholic vicariate seeks ways to serve as a bridge between the Church, predominantly Arabic-speaking, and Jewish-Israeli society to promote both a teaching of respect for the people of the first covenant and a sensibility to the cry for justice and peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Together, Arabic-speaking and Hebrew- speaking Catholics must give witness and work in communion for the Church in the land of her birth.

H. Exc. Mons. Louis SAKO, Archbishop of Kerkuk of the Chaldeans, Patriarchal Administrator of Sulaimaniya of the Chaldeans (IRAQ)

Liturgical reformation based upon sacred scripture, but also the patristics and pastoral demands of today. Otherwise our faithful will go looking for other churches as has already happened in some cases. The development of leaders must be a priority. At times, churches are in need of staff, and it is the duty of the universal church to assist in the preparation of a clergy which is up to the tasks of its mission.

The relationship between the different churches in every country in the Middle East and the relationship with the Holy See as well. How to live, at the same time, in communion in the particularity? We will remain divided if we continue to look at the past and we do not seek to find, rather, that which today might unite us. The Eastern Churches make up part of the universal church and any study undertaken by the universal Church must also take into consideration the situations of the particular churches. At times we are disappointed.

A serious commitment to dialogue with Muslims. Without dialogue with them there will be no peace nor stability. Together we can do away with wars and all forms of violence. We must join our voices in denouncing together this great business of the arms trade. A genuine threat of war in our region, where Pope John Paul II’s words were tragically fulfilled: “War is an adventure with no return”. Without dialogue and a true and concrete commitment there will not be peace.

The fatal exodus afflicting our churches cannot be avoided, emigration is the biggest challenge which threatens our presence. The data is worrying. The Eastern Churches, and even the universal Church, must take on their responsibilities and with the international community and local authorities find common choices which respect the dignity of the human person. Choices which are based on equality and full citizenship, with efforts towards partnership and protection. The strength of a state must be based upon its credibility in the application of its laws at the service of its citizens, without discrimination between the majority and the minority. We want to live in peace and freedom instead of merely surviving.

H. Exc. Mons. Youssef BÉCHARA, Archbishop of Antelias of the Maronites (LEBANON)

My intervention refers to no.25 and 39 of the Instrumentum Laboris where the issue is positive laicism. Further on in no. 109, it has been stated that there is no laicism in the Muslim countries.

Given that the overwhelming majority of Middle Eastern Countries are Muslim and therefore refuse laicism, it would be preferable, for our Synod, to use instead the term of citizenship or civic State. This is a term that is more acceptable and includes the same realities. Moreover it was used by religious dignitaries and Moslem writers in Lebanon and other countries.

Also, the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, in their pastoral letters, notably those that deal with relations between Christians and Muslims, use the term citizenship widely (no. 32).

H. Exc. Mons. Salim SAYEGH, Titular Bishop of Aquae in Proconsulari, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem of the Latins, Patriarcal Vicar of Jerusalem of the Latins for Jordan (JERUSALEM)

Among the problems facing the Church in the Middle East, we have to mention that of the sects, which causes great doctrinal confusion. Our era is full of their theological fancies/nonsense. In Jordan, by way of an example, there are about fifty sects, five of which have more active pastors than all the Catholic and Orthodox churches put together. What can be done to safeguard the treasury of the faith and to limit their growing influence?

Visit families. Priests and pastors of souls are pleaded with, insistently, to visit families and to assume their responsibility in explaining, defending, disseminating, living and helping to live the Catholic faith.

Demonstrate serious concern for the Christian formation of adults. Many of our practicing faithful are only vaguely moralized and sacramentalized. They are not evangelized. They provide a resource for sects.

Sensitize Catholic schools to their Catholic mission. Often, those in charge of the schools do not give the same importance to catechetical instruction as they do to other material. Only rarely do they prepare catechists. Too often they choose them without any discernment, to simply fill the gaps.

Have the courage to revise catechism texts so that they might clearly express the faith and doctrine of the Catholic church, testifying to and shedding light on Sacred Scripture, Apostolic tradition, and the ecclesial Magisterium.

In conclusion: beyond ritual differences and political quarrels, protect the treasury of the faith, such is the fundamental mission of the pastors of the Catholic church.

H. Exc. Mons. Vincent LANDEL, S.C.I. di Béth., Archbishop of Rabat (MOROCCO)

To begin from the experience of Morocco (25,000 Catholics of 90 nationalities in a population of 33 million Moslems); the Christians are all from abroad, and cannot become citizen of the country, even if there is ” freedom of religion”. That involves those who take part in the cultural, social and economic life of the country, but they absolutely cannot get involved in the workings of national or international political decisions.

Our responsibility as a Church is to help these Christians to accept, along with their Muslim friends, going back into a path of acceptance of the difference of the other, of meeting, in a spirit of total freedom, going back to a humble attitude of trust towards the other. That is not always easy to accept in a world of efficiency, but it is this attitude that allow us to continue to live in these countries in peace and serenity, even if there are tensions sometimes. And the Christians notice with joy, that in contact with Islam their Christian faith is purified and deepened.

Our responsibility as a Church is to help these passing Christians to better understand that they can live their Christian faith with joy and passion, in a totally Muslim society.

This will help them to return to their countries with another view of the Muslims they will meet, and to destroy some “a priori ” ideas that threaten to corrupt the world.

H. Exc. Mons. Paul Youssef MATAR, Archbishop of Beirut of the Maronites (LEBANON)

In reference, in the Instrumentum Laboris, to the challenges that face Eastern Christians and their relationships with Muslims, and to open up the present situation to future perspectives, four responsibilities should be underlined, which must all concur to succeed in this historical task, for the Middle East and for the World.

The responsibility of the Eastern Christians themselves: Children of this land since time began, these Christians must feel that they are not forging a destiny just for themselves, rather a common destiny with their partners. Their insertion in the Arabic world, recommended by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation for Lebanon, should not make them lose their rights or their liberties, but confirm them in common with the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.

Source: Holy See Press Office, Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin, October 12, 2010

To read the Bulletin Press Office, click here.