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Monday, October 25, 2010

WE MUST NEVER RESIGN OURSELVES TO THE ABSENCE OF PEACE

VATICAN CITY, 24 OCT 2010 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today in St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI presided at the celebration of the Eucharist to mark the closure of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which has been held in the Vatican for the past fortnight on the theme: "The Catholic Church in the Middle East. Communion and Witness. Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul".

  The Pope concelebrated Mass with 177 Synod Fathers (nineteen cardinals, nine patriarchs, seventy-two archbishops, sixty-seven bishops and ten priests) and sixty-nine collaborators.

  Participating in the Eucharistic prayer were His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon, president delegate "ad honorem"; His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, president delegate "ad honorem"; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, president delegate; His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon, president delegate; His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, relator general; Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, and Archbishop Joseph Soueif of Cyprus of the Maronites, Cyprus, special secretary.

  In his homily, the Holy Father noted how today's first reading and responsorial psalm "stress the theme of prayer, emphasising that it is much more powerful in God's heart when those who pray suffer want and affliction. ... Our thoughts go to our many brothers and sisters who live in the region of the Middle East and who find themselves in trying situations, at times very burdensome, both because of material poverty and because of discouragement, tension and, sometimes, fear.

  "Today", Benedict XVI added, "the Word of God also offers us a light of consoling hope where it presents prayer, personified, that 'will not desist until the Most High responds and does justice for the righteous, and executes judgement'. This link between prayer and justice makes us think of many situations in the world, particularly in the Middle East. The cry of the poor and the oppressed finds an immediate echo in God, Who desires to intervene to create a way out, to restore a future of freedom, a horizon of hope".

  "The synodal assembly which concludes today always kept in mind the icon of the first Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles: 'The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul'. This is a reality we experienced over these days, in which we shared the joys and pains, the concerns and hopes of Christians in the Middle East. We experienced the unity of the Church in the variety of Churches present in that region. ... Thus have we enhanced the liturgical, spiritual and theological wealth of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as of the Latin Church. ... We hope that this positive experience may be repeated in the various communities of the Middle East, encouraging the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations of other Catholic rites, thus opening themselves to the dimensions of the universal Church.

  "Joint prayer also helped us to face the challenges of the Catholic Church in the Middle East. One of these challenges is communion within each 'sui iuris' Church, as well as the relationships between the various Catholic Churches of different traditions. As today's Gospel reminded us, we need humility in order to recognise our limitations, our errors and omissions, in order to be able to be truly 'united, heart and soul' Fuller communion within the Catholic Church also favours ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities. During this synodal assembly the Catholic Church has reiterated its profound desire to pursue such dialogue".

  "The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: 'There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom'. Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular strength in the places where, by Divine Providence, it was written. It is the only Word able to break the vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence. From a purified heart, at peace with God and neighbour, arise intentions and initiatives for peace at the local, national, and international level. In these actions, to whose accomplishment the whole international community is called, Christians as full-fledged citizens can and must do their part in the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation for the benefit of all society".

  The Pope continued: "Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of national and international institutions, in particular of the States most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life of dignity for individuals and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East".

  Another contribution Christians can make to society is to promote "authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each State should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom of religious practice is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom is essential in order to guarantee that all members of the various religious communities may enjoy the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the Synod Fathers".

  At the end of his homily, the Holy Father recalled how the synodal assembly "often underlined the need to present the Gospel anew to people who do not know it well or who have even moved away from the Church. Frequent mention was made of the need for a new evangelisation in the Middle East. ... For this reason, having consulted with the episcopacy of the whole world and listened to the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: 'Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam - The new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith'".

  And the Pope concluded: "Dear brothers and sisters of the Middle East! May the experience of these days assure you that you are never alone, that you are always accompanied by the Holy See and the whole Church, which, having been born in Jerusalem, spread through the Middle East and then the rest of the world".
HML/                                    VIS 20101025 (1190)

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