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Thursday, October 14, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 14 OCT 2010 (VIS) - The Sixth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops took place today in the Synod Hall in the presence of the Holy Father and 167 Synod Fathers. The president delegate on duty was His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon.

  Extracts from some of the Synod Father's speeches are given below:

HIS BEATITUDE IGNACE YOUSSIF III YOUNAN, PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH OF THE SYRIANS, LEBANON. "For the past 2000 years, and especially during the last fourteen centuries, Christians have become a minority in their own lands and have been harshly tested in their witness of faith, even to the point of martyrdom. Our beloved Saviour, before His last sacrifice, defended the Truth, synonym of the unalienable right of a person to freedom, while proclaiming His salvation to all, even to those who opposed His message of ineffable and universal love. Our salvation lies in courageous adherence to His message, and in fearless proclamation of Truth in authentic charity. Our faithful, who have the right to hope as they live their lives in this tormented region of the Middle East, expect a great deal from this Synod. It is up to us to give them reasons for their faith, a faith inseparable from hope in our beloved Lord Who assures us: 'Do not fear, little flock'. In living faith like this, with one heart and soul, we will learn how to bear courageous witness together to the One who said 'I am the Truth and Life'. Only Truth can set us free".

ARCHBISHOP CLAUDIO MARIA CELLI, PRESIDENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS. "Digital culture is present in the various nations of the Middle East and in local Churches through television, radio, cinema, websites and social networks. All this media space has an impact on daily life. ... As indicated in the 'Relatio', it is necessary to train pastoral workers as well as lay people and journalists, but not only them. The formation of seminarians is also a vital issue, not so much as regards technology which they handle better than we do, but as regards communication, which is communion in this rapidly developing culture. Without priests - and without bishops - who understand modern culture, the communication gap will persist, something which will not favour the transmission of the faith to the young in the Church. It is not sufficient to build websites: what is needed is a presence that is able to create authentic means of communication, that opens 'places' where people can gather to bear witness to their faith and to their respect for others. Obviously this does not mean ignoring personal encounter and physical community life. These are not alternative actions: they are both indispensable for extending God's kingdom".

BISHOP JEAN TEYROUZ, AUXILIARY OF CILICIA OF THE ARMENIANS, LEBANON. "Pope John Paul II called for relations between the Catholic communities of the diaspora and the various patriarchates to be maintained and intensified. ... The Orthodox Churches enjoy various powers in all affairs concerning their patriarchates. From an ecumenical perspective, failing to give the Eastern Catholic Churches more legal powers constitutes an obstacle and creates the risk of seeing them disappear one day. Not to plan the future is to condemn oneself to failure. Life has its own way of punishing those who lag behind. On the other hand, should these same Churches have greater jurisdiction, would this not be a stimulant to promoting the unity of Churches? Finally, should the Catholic Church not give more jurisdictional powers to the patriarchs of the 'sui iuris' Churches for the good of all the Catholic and Orthodox Churches?"

ARCHBISHOP GEORGES BOU-JAOUDE C.M. OF TRIPOLI OF THE MARONITES, LEBANON. "The 'Instrumentum laboris' barely mentioned the role of the laity in the Church and their relationship with clergy and bishops. In the Maronite Church, lay persons have always participated in Church life, by means of the Marian brotherhoods. At the same time, lay people have always been responsible for administering the material goods and property of the Church, while sub-deacons assist in dealings with the civil authorities. New movements have come into being, inspired by similar movements in the West; some have become inculturated in the Eastern Churches, others have yet to do so. World Youth Days have given rise to various youth groups and commissions in dioceses. A congress of lay persons was held in Lebanon in 1997, called by the prefect of the Apostolate for the Laity in Rome. Another is currently being prepared by decision of the Eastern Catholic patriarchs".

BISHOP CAMILLO BALLIN M.C.C.J., APOSTOLIC VICAR OF KUWAIT. "In Muslim tradition, the Gulf is the land sacred to the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed, and no other religion should exist there. How can we reconcile this affirmation with the reality of our Churches in the Gulf where there are approximately three million Catholics? They come from Asia and other regions. The reality of their presence, which cannot be overlooked, questions the Muslim assertion. We cannot limit our assistance to these faithful only to celebration of Sunday or even daily Mass, and to our homilies. We must recover the missionary aspect of the Church. Indeed, a Church which does not have a missionary spirit and which turns in on itself, on its own devotions and traditions, is destined to live a life that is not the life 'in abundance' the Lord wished. In this, the Latin missionary congregations have a very important role to play. It is vitally important to welcome the charisms, the new ecclesial realities recognised by the Holy See, although often judged as suitable only for the Latin Church and little or not at all for the Eastern Churches. It is important to form the Christians of our Churches in a truly Catholic and universal spirit, breaking the shackles of provincialism (even religious provincialism), of (ethnocentric) nationalism and (latent) racism. I would like to assure Your Beatitudes the Patriarchs, and all our brother bishops, that in the Gulf region we are doing everything in our power and that, if you themselves were there, you could do no more. We ask our Muslim brothers to give us the space to be able to pray properly".

ARCHBISHOP PAUL NABIL EL-SAYAH, PATRIARCHAL EXARCH OF ANTIOCH OF THE MARONITES, ARCHBISHOP OF HAIFA, PATRIARCHAL EXARCH IN JERUSALEM, PALESTINE AND JORDAN. "The ecumenical question, in the Middle East in general and in the Holy Land in particular, has become one of the most important challenges facing the Church at all levels. We have thirteen major Churches in Jerusalem, with well-defined traditions and heritage, ... and clearly marked physical and psychological frontiers. The scandal of our division is sometimes transmitted live, especially when it occurs in the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday or in the Church of the Nativity on Christmas morning, while the communications media looks on. ... Our identity as Christians will always be lacking unless we truly strive to advance in the ecumenical project. ... There can be no true witness unless our Churches are united and work together. Meeting the ecumenical challenge is not an option, but an urgent necessity. ... I wish to exhort our Churches to take all necessary steps to save the Council of Churches of the Middle East, which appears to be on the point of collapse. It is the only haven in which our Churches can come together and would be a great loss to the ecumenical cause".
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