“The Synod begins Now!”
On Tuesday, November 9th, parish priests of the Latin churches gathered for a monthly meeting. In November of every year, the gathering starts with Mass offered for deceased patriarchs, bishops, and priests.
This year’s Mass was presided by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, while Rev. Louis Hazboun, a professor at the Latin Patriarchal Seminary of Beit Jala delivered the homily. He spoke about “the death of the priest in the light of Christ’s death.” The priests visited and prayed at the tombs of the deceased clergy in the crypt of the Co-Cathedral
The pastoral care segment of the meeting was devoted almost entirely to presentations on the recently concluded Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. The priests actively participated during preparations for the Synod, first by responding to the Lineamenta and Instrumentum Laboris, and helping the faithful in prayer to follow the development and relevance of the Synod. A letter from His Beatitude Fouad Twal and the text of the prayer for the Synod were distributed to all parishes and communities.
27 priests attended the meeting. Presentations were made by those who participated in the Synod: Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel; Rev. Peter Madros, a biblical scholar and lecturer, invited as an expert; Sister Telesfora Pavlou,fcim, professor of theology and philosophy, expert; and Professor Epiphan Bernard Sabella, who teaches sociology at Bethlehem University, invited as an auditor.
There certainly will be other information meetings regarding the Synod. Other participants like, His Beatitude Fouad Twal who is away on pastoral visits at this time, will present their impressions and discuss important issues pertinent to our Christian community and the Church of the Holy Land.
Bishop Marcuzzo presented the general framework of the Synod, gave various information of interest to the priests, and briefly presented the official documents of the Assembly: the Message to the People of God and the 44 Final Propositions.
He stressed that the atmosphere during the Synod was a compelling experience in the spirit of communion and dialogue, examination of conscience and conversion, and commitment to renewal and witness. He outlined the specific roles and discourses of the Synod Fathers from the Patriarchate family, the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCTS), and the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA). He then spoke about his own intervention on the priority for training, through a “cultural and historical mediation of faith” by expanding the precious “Arab Christian heritage” especially in the historical uniqueness of the Church of the Holy Land.
Father Madros spoke on dialogue, particularly with Islam, and the role and mission of the Latin Church in the Middle East. Sister Telesfora explained the ecclesial and spiritual aspects of the Synod, and some aspects of consecrated life, especially of religious (few have been invited to the Synod) – vocations, the work of education, health care, and hospitality. Professor Sabella shared his impressions on the directions of the Synod regarding some difficult issues in the Middle East: Church’s presence in public life, presence and activities of Christians for justice and peace, equality, citizenship (“mwatanah”), and secularism.
All agreed that the Synod in general, was a true grace of God for the renewal of the Church in the Middle East, a highly positive experience. It had a strong impact on majority of the participants, and sowed very promising seeds of hope and fruitfulness for the future of the Church in the Middle East and the Holy Land.
A very interesting comparison between the experience and spirit of the “Diocesan Pastoral Synod ” and the Synod of Bishops was evident. Certainly, we cannot expect immediate results, but can think of many ways to implement and make real the spirit and message of the Synod, even if the official apostolic exhortation will be published within two years.
The priests asked for explanations and clarifications on certain issues as they shared their own experiences of the Synod at the parish level. There was a lively, positive ,and constructive discussions on what needs to be done now specifically for the Church in the Holy Land. Positive ideas and proposals were presented such as, the creation of ad hoc committees for the implementation of Synod-related initiatives. However, some thought that our small communities should not be packed with new working organizations and structures, but rather to integrate many identical pastoral objectives in the ‘Diocesan Pastoral Plan’ with and in the spirit of the Synod proposals.
The issue is important and will certainly be on the agenda of several clergy meetings with the Patriarch. In essence, the Holy Father at the end of the synodal sessions expressed that: “The Synod begins NOW, in the dioceses, parishes and institutions of the Church.”