Bishop Shomali in Germany: “Syrian refugees are expected to return home”
GERMANY – As a guest, on the occasion of the thirteenth annual commemoration of the death of Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop William Shomali addressed the current challenges of the Middle East, especially Syria.
This year the annual meeting, organized in Germany, took place on Saturday, February 13, the anniversary of the death, in 2005, of Sister Lucia dos Santos, a witness to the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, and Father Werenfried, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need. A double commemoration, significantly, since Father Werenfried had, on several occasions, devoted his work to Our Lady of Fatima. Aid to the Church in Need is a Catholic international foundation of pontifical right which is involved in 145 countries, including the Holy Land, and helps Christians in trouble, threatened, persecuted, refugees or in need.
The day, organized by Karin Maria Fenbert, national director of the foundation in Germany since August 2014, began with a Mass in the Cathedral of Cologne presided by Bishop Philip Naameh Ghana.
In the afternoon, two round table discussions were held in a meeting room near the Archdiocese of Cologne. The first topic discussed was “Islam in Africa and the Middle East.” The discussion panel consisted of Bishop Philip Naameh Ghana, Bishop Montfort Stima Malawi and Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine and was moderated by Bishop Naameh.
In his speech, Bishop Shomali addressed the Syrian tragedy and Islamic fundamentalism. To the question about the possibility of a change in Islam, the bishop stressed that such a change “could come from within Islam.” He recalled the initiatives of President al-Sisi in Egypt and his speech at the University of Al-Azhar in Cairo for a revival of Islamic religious discourse, to eliminate any drift towards fanaticism. Bishop Shomali also cited an open letter to the Muslim world by the French Muslim philosopher, Abdennour Bidar. The letter invites Islam, in the grip of a deep crisis, with the challenge of facing contemporary problems, to a genuine dialogue with Western societies. According to Abdenour Bidar, Islam must question the place in society of a religion that would want totalitarian jihadism.
Bishop Shomali also spoke out on the issue of resolving the Syrian conflict, stating, “it is essential to cooperate with Assad, a democratically elected president, to eradicate the so-called Islamic State. After that, a cease-fire must be applied immediately. Then should follow the reconstruction of Syria and the return of millions of Syrian refugees.” Everything will be crowned by “free elections“, opines the Bishop from Jerusalem.
During the second panel discussion, the retired archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, invited participants to discuss the apparitions of Fatima and their relationship to the fall of the Berlin Wall.