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Tuesday, October 12, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 11 OCT 2010 (VIS) - The Second General Congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops began at 4.30 p.m. today in the Synod Hall. During this session reports were presented from each of the five continents.

  The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and there were 163 Synod Fathers present.

  Extracts from the reports are given below:

AFRICA. CARDINAL POLYCARP PENGO, ARCHBISHOP OF DAR-ES-SALAAM, TANZANIA AND PRESIDENT OF THE SYMPOSIUM OF EPISCOPAL CONFERENCES OF AFRICA AND MADAGASCAR (SECAM). "The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar has an intrinsic link with the Church in the Middle East, specifically through the Church in Egypt which is part of both Africa and the Middle East. ... Christians are migrating from the Middle East due to what may be considered oppressive conditions against the Christian faith in some of the Middle East countries. ... Today, no Christian on the coasts of Eastern Africa feels obliged to hide his Christian identity despite the fact that Islam continues to be the religion of the majority. Separate Christian settlements are no longer needed.... Closer co operation between the sub Saharan Church and the Church in North Africa and the Middle East remains and will always remain of paramount importance for the survival of Christianity on both sides. SECAM is an excellent tool for such co operation".

NORTH AMERICA. CARDINAL ROGER MICHAEL MAHONY, ARCHBISHOP OF LOS ANGELES, U.S.A. "While acknowledging their union with Rome, inter-ecclesial relations should be encouraged, not only among the 'sui iuris' Churches in the Middle East but especially in the diaspora. Recognising the haemorrhaging of Christians from the Middle East to Europe, Australia, and the Americas, we have sought various ways to transform emigration into a new opportunity for support for these Christians as they become established throughout the diaspora. ... The biggest challenge we face with our immigrant peoples   whether they be Middle Eastern Catholics or Vietnamese Catholics who have fled their country for Southern California, or Cubans who have fled Cuba for the Miami shores   is not one of assisting them in living the mystery of 'communio' between and among various Christians and Christian Churches. The biggest challenge is to help them respond to the grace of giving witness to the Gospel by forgiving those enemies who quite often are the principal reason for their leaving their homeland to find peace and justice on our shores".

ASIA. ARCHBISHOP ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO O.M.I. OF COTABATO, PHILIPPINES AND SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES (FABC). "We are a 'little flock' in Asia, less than three percent of the more than three billion Asians. In the light of rising religious suspicions and extremism, sometimes erupting in violence and death, we can surely be afraid or timid. But we are fortified and encouraged by the words of the Lord, 'Fear not, little flock'. ... We will seriously address the great pastoral challenges before us in Asia, such as the phenomenon of migration which is sometimes called the new slavery, the negative impact of economic and cultural globalisation, the issue of climate change, religious extremism, injustice and violence; religious freedom, and biogenetic issues that threaten human life in the womb and from conception to natural death".

EUROPE. CARDINAL PETER ERDO, ARCHBISHOP OF ESZTERGOM-BUDAPEST, HUNGARY AND PRESIDENT OF THE "CONSILIUM CONFERENTIARUM EPISCOPORUM EUROPAE" (CCEE). "Europe is in debt to the Middle East. Not only do a multitude of the fundamental elements of our culture come from that region, but the first missionaries to our continent came from there too. ... When we consider the Middle East, we Europeans have to examine our consciences. Is the Gospel message still alive among us; that good news that we received from the Apostles? Or is that light and enthusiasm that stems from faith in Christ absent now from our lives? In our times, when Christian refugees and emigrants arrive in Europe from various Middle Eastern countries, what is our reaction? Do we pay enough attention to the reasons that force thousands if not millions of Christians to leave the land where their ancestors lived for almost two thousand years? Is it also true that our behaviour is responsible for what is happening? We are truly facing a great challenge. ... Do we know how to effectively express our support to the Christians of the Middle East? ... The Christians who come from the Middle East knock on the doors of our hearts and reawaken our Christian conscience".

OCEANIA. JOHN ATCHERLEY DEW, ARCHBISHOP OF WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND AND PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERATION OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCES OF OCEANIA (FCBCO). "The two largest Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia are the Maronite and Melkite. ... As well as these Eastern Catholic Churches, there are also Chaldean, Syrian, Syro-Malabar and Coptic Catholic Churches. The Maronite, Melkite and Chaldean Eparchies extend into New Zealand, offering pastoral and liturgical services to their communities there too. The wider Middle East is present in Oceania through migrants and refugees who have made their home in the region: European Jews from the earliest days of Australia and New Zealand settlement, as well as refugees from Germany in the 1930s, and survivors of the Shoah; Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians; Iraqi, both Christian and Muslim; and in more recent years, Kurdish refugees from Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Our historical links are strongly marked by war and peace. ... These links are cemented today through the presence of many pilgrims from Oceania who visit the Holy Land; through refugee resettlement; aid development programmes of Caritas International; the presence of international religious orders who are dedicated to educational work, or the support of the Holy Places".

LATIN AMERICA. RAYMUNDO DAMASCENO ASSIS, ARCHBISHOP OF APARECIDA, BRAZIL AND PRESIDENT OF LATIN AMERICAN EPISCOPAL COUNCIL (CELAM). "In our Latin American and Caribbean countries, we have many Eastern immigrants - first and second generation - the majority being Christians. Many have become part of the Latin Church and there are small groups with their own eparchies. We would like them to grow more in the conscience of our common Catholic faith and come closer in a shared missionary action. At this time, we are developing in all our Churches what is called the 'Continental Mission', the fruit of the General Conference of Aparecido. It would be a splendid witness to be able to join this evangelising effort. ... We would like to share with you the concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this too we are in communion with the Holy Father in his effort to find a solution to the conflict".

  Following the reports from the continents, and before a period of free discussion at which the Pope was also present, a number of Synod Fathers spoke. Extracts from two of their speeches are given below.

ARCHBISHOP ELIAS CHACOUR OF AKKA OF THE GREEK-MELKITES, ISRAEL. " During the past twenty centuries our Christians from the Holy Land were alike condemned and privileged to share oppression, persecution and suffering with Christ. ... Being the archbishop of the largest Catholic Church in the Holy Land, the Melkite Catholic Church, I insistently invite you and plead with the Holy Father to give even more attention to the living stones of the Holy Land. ... We are in Galilee since immemorial times. Now we are in Israel. We want to stay where we are, we need your friendship more than your money".

ARCHBISHOP BOUTROS MARAYATI OF ALEPPO OF THE ARMENIANS, SYRIA. "If we want this Special Assembly to be fruitful, we should consider a special conference for each country, with an ecumenical aspect, where we can discuss the issues according to the local situations. Without any doubt, the challenges are the same, but every country has its own situation. For the past hundred years, emigration or violent deportation have continued to occur from the East. ... Are we waiting for the day where the world as a spectator amidst the indifference of the Western Churches will sit back and watch the 'Death of the Christians of the East?' Despite the crises and difficulties that face our Christian life and our ecumenical relations, we still 'believe, hoping against every hope'".
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