Nazareth: multiply Synod initiatives
The participants at the Synod, bishops, priests, nuns and lay people are literally besieged with requests for presentations about the Synod. Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo stated that: “A great hunger for the Synod is sweeping throughout our community, Deo gratias, a sign that the Synod corresponded to a need and must be able to satisfy this hunger.”
Besides the clergy, the Union of Women Religious, Contemplative Nuns of the Holy Land, and various Catholic associations, such as the Latin Family Club of Nazareth have organized information meetings about the recent Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
1) The USRTS.
The Union of the Religious Women of the Holy Land, Israel, section, had two sessions of their monthly meeting on Sunday, November 14th, designated to listening and reflection on the Synod of Bishops. Rev. Marco Riva, parochial vicar and Sr. Stefania Letizia Cantore, president of the Sisters of Nazareth, invited Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel; and Sr. Telesfora Pavlou, professor of theology and philosophy at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem and the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Korazim, to communicate to the Sisters of the Galilee area their experience of the Synod.
About 90 sisters from different communities and languages, and a dozen of other religious attended this Synod information meeting held at the Don Guanella Center of Nazareth. The meeting started with a moment of prayer dedicated to the dead and wounded of the massacre in Baghdad, expressing solidarity with the Iraqi sisters present, especially with Sr. Khalida F. Matti who courageously shared her suffering. Some of her family members were injured during the massacre in the church in Baghdad. Sr. Khalida spoke with emotion of the “martyrdom” of Rev.Thaer Abdal, a university colleague during her theological studies.
The Patriarchal Vicar, who spoke in Arabic and Italian, made a general presentation on the Synod. He emphasized aspects of interest to the religious, and some theological bases of the Synod. “The Synod is an event of divine grace, an act of the Church, a mystery of the internal structure and mechanism before being external, a vocation and mission of the Holy Spirit before they are texts and documents, a pastoral initiative rather than political, a moment of collegiality among bishops and the Pope, not a social event.” He showed that this is the substance of the General Synod, the Synod that was lived in the Middle East. “If you do not keep these elements in mind you may not understand, or misunderstand the importance of this historic event for the Church.” He later highlighted the wonderful spirit of communion in diversity, listening and proposition, exchange and cooperation demonstrated by all the bishops and especially by the Holy Father himself. He recommended the reading of the Synod’s Message to the People of God, and the 44 Final Propositions. He asked that the sisters reflect and meditate on the spiritual and internal messages, of the need for conversion, the need of the cross, the priority for training, the apostolic and contemplative aspects of consecrated life.
Sr. Telesfora Pavlou, who spoke in Italian and English (with simultaneous translation for small groups) focused on different aspects of consecrated life, prefacing an interesting synthesis of theological and spiritual impressions experienced by an expert in the heart of the Synod. She spoke about some issues most relevant to religious and their activities as: the centrality of the Word of God, demands of consecrated life in the Middle East, and their pastoral ministry.
There were many questions at the end of each presentation, a sign of the interest, but above all, as Bishop Marcuzzo said, “a sign of the will of our communities to continue the journey of faith, with renewed enthusiasm, with hope and confidence in a spirit of genuine unity, despite the cross, the news of massacres (Baghdad) and the situation of minority.”
2) “The Annunciation Family Club of the Latin parish of Nazareth.
Even lay people, showed interest in the Synod. “The Annunciation Family Club of Nazareth” organized an evening dedicated especially to the laity and invited the Latin Patriarchal Vicar, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, to give a conference on “Challenges of Christians in the Holy Land and the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. ” Nearly 200 people from Nazareth and the surrounding areas were present for the meeting held in the St. Anthony Pastoral Centre.
The gathering began with a prayer of unity with our brothers and sisters wounded in Baghdad. A reading followed which highlighted the theme of the Synod: “The community of believers were of one heart and one soul.” (Acts 4, 32-35)
Bishop Marcuzzo presented the major challenges of Christians in the Holy Land and how the Synod undertakes to address the issues and problems of: internal communion, ecumenism, dialogue with Muslims, Jewish-Druze, emigration and immigration, role of Christians in public life and social doctrine of the Church, unity of parties, issues of human rights and peoples, justice, peace, and the land.
The bishop placed particular emphasis on the mission of the laity, on women, family, youth, media, Arab culture, and pilgrimages, seeking to put them in the light of two main themes of Communion and of Witness.
Encouraged by the questions, the Patriarchal Vicar also spoke of his personal intervention at the Synod, on the priority for basic and continuing education and training of the laity, the priest and the community, to renew the Church and enable her to meet the challenges of our time. He also hopes that the teaching and development of the “Christian Arabic literature”, especially in schools and cultural centers will be encouraged.
The bishop said that the Synod was “a true moment of grace for the renewal of the Church in the Middle East. It sowed very promising seeds of hope and fruitfulness for the future of the Church in the Middle East and the Holy Land. It is up to us now to cultivate the soil of our dioceses and parishes and develop in our hearts and in our institutions the fruits of renewal and growth that we want and need.”
3) The superiors of the contemplative communities in the Holy Land
There are 12 women’s contemplative communities in the Holy Land, whose Superiors meet regularly, as coordinated by Rev. Alain Marchadour. Bishop Marcuzzo accepted the invitation of Mother Fraçoise de la Vierge, the Mother Abbess of the Poor Clares in Nazareth, to talk about the Synod on November 17th.
The Bishop spoke on the spiritual dimension of the Synod, and about Verbum Domini” which was published very recently.
On behalf of the Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Bishop Marcuzzo thanked all the contemplative communities for their prayers for the Synod. If the Synod is a grace, as we was a success, credit must be given first to the spiritual means and then to the human mechanism and external organizations. Discussions were around the Synod themes of: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the consecrated life, the warmth of the new community, the liturgy, the local monastic vocations (unfortunately almost non-existent in the Holy Land), the internal conversion, the work of sanctification, training, and finally, the three pearls of the Synod – the opening and closing homilies of the Pope and the meditation at the beginning of the first session.