Fourth work day for the Synod assembly
Highlights of the sixth and seventh congregations on Thursday, October 14th were several interventions including some participants from the Holy Land, announcement of the composition of the Commission of Information, and the intervention of two representatives from the Muslim community.
His Eminence Cardinal John Patrick Foley, Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre is the President of the Commission for Information.
Among those who made presentations to the Synod assembly were Fathers from the Holy Land: H.E William Shomali (text of his intervention is published separately in its entirety); S. E. R. Msgr. Grégoire Pierre Melki, Bishop of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Exarch of Jerusalem; Archbishop Paul Sayah, Archbishop of Haifa and the Maronites of the Holy Land, Patriarchal Exarch of the Patriarchate of Antioch were also among the many who presented their interventions for the day.
For his part, Bishop Melki raised the problem of emigration of Christians as linked to the political context. He also stressed that the decrease in their numbers in the Holy Land is the result of: the decrease in the birthrate among couples, marriage in later ages, reunification of families, the pursuit of superior studies abroad, etc… and the existing political and religious divisions are themselves valid reasons.
As for Bishop El-Sayah, he founded his speech on the theme of ecumenism, denouncing the “scandal of division” between the various churches, sometimes broadcasted by the media and that harms not only unity but also witness given to Christians. He thus urged the Assembly to “take steps to save the Council of Churches of the Middle East (…) on the verge of collapse, (…) the only structure that brings together all of our churches.”
Click here to read all the summaries (Bulletin of the Vatican press room)
By late afternoon, two prominent leaders from the Muslim world spoke about relations with Muslims as an important aspect of the Synod, in a region where Islam is majority. Two common threads emerged from the debate: freedom of conscience and conversion claimed in respect of all human rights and the desire to dissociate Islam and Islamism. Bishop Bechara Rai of Jbeil bishop of the Maronites (Lebanon), delivered a reminder that the war between Sunnis and Shiites has led to severe tensions in the region.
Below is an excerpt from their response
Response of the Special Guest Mr. Muhammad Al-Sammak, political advisor for the Mufti of the Republic (LEBANON)
The Christian presence in the East, who works andacts with Muslims, is a necessity to as many Christian and Islamic people. It is a necessity not only for the East, but also for the world. The danger of erosion of this presence in terms of quantity and quality is a concern for both Christian and Islamicgroups, not only for Muslims of the East, but also for all Muslims worldwide. Furthermore, I can live my Islam with other Muslim any and all ethnicities, but as an Arab, I cannot live without Arab Christians in the Middle East. The emigration of Christians is an impoverishment of Arab identity, culture and authenticity.
Response of Special Guest, Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Ahmadabad, Professor at the Faculty of Law, “Shahid Beheshti” University, Member of the Iranian Academy of Sciences (IRAN)
Stability can be achieved when everyone can live without fear and without being threatened by others. This is the most important element to achieve stability, and social justice and peace. It is our duty to ensure such conditions exist.
The relationship between Islam and Christianity, based on inspirations and proposals of the Holy Quran, since the establishment of Islam in Saudi Arabia are based on friendship, respect and mutual understanding.
It is unfortunate that over the last 1400 years, because of political considerations, these relations have experienced dark moments. But we should not attribute these unlawful acts done by certain individuals or groups to Islam or Christianity.