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Friday, January 23, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, led by His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, recently elected as patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians by the Synod of Bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, meeting in Rome from 18 to 20 January.

  The Pope began his remarks by asking the Lord to concede "the grace of the apostolate" to the new patriarch, that he may "serve the Church and glorify her Holy Name before the world". He then greeted Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, who presided over the recent synod; Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect emeritus of same dicastery; His Beatitude Ignace Pierre Andel Ahad, patriarch emeritus of Antioch of the Syrians, and all the prelates who came to Rome "to carry out this most important act of synodal responsibility".

  "Since the origins of Christianity", he continued, "the Apostles Peter and Paul were intimately associated with Antioch where the disciples of Jesus first received the name of Christians". He also mentioned various illustrious Fathers of the faith from that region, including St. Ignatius and St. Ehprem, "whose spirituality continues to illuminate the universal Church".

  "The new patriarch is the main guardian of this heritage", he said, "yet each of you, as brothers and members of the synod, will have to help him in his task in a spirit of authentic episcopal collegiality. In the hands of the new patriarch and of the Syriac Catholic episcopate I place, first and above all, the duty to maintain unity, both among pastors and within ecclesial communities".

  The Holy Father then went on to refer to the ecclesial communion requested of him by the new patriarch, underlining how he had granted it "willingly, thus performing a part of the Petrine ministry which gives me particular pleasure. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor, established by the Lord as the visible foundation of unity in faith and charity, guarantees the bond with Christ the Pastor and introduces the particular Churches into the mystery of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church".

  Having reviewed the biography of the new patriarch, who was born in Syria but spent his episcopal ministry in America, Benedict XVI affirmed that "the diaspora has also contributed to giving the Syriac Church her new patriarch. In this way, even stronger ties will be forged with a motherland that so many Eastern Christians have had to leave in search of better living conditions".

  "My hope is that in the East, where the Gospel was first announced, Christian communities may continue to live and bear witness to their faith, as they have over the centuries. At the same time I hope that all those outside their homeland may receive adequate pastoral care so as to maintain the bond with their religious roots". The Pope then expressed the hope that the Eastern communities, "wherever they may be, are able to integrate themselves into their new social and ecclesial surroundings without losing their own identity and conserving the imprint of their Eastern spirituality, so that, using the words East and West, the Church may speak effectively of Christ to modern mankind".

  The Pope concluded by indicating that the members of the Syriac Catholic Church should "be peacemakers in the Holy Land, Iraq and Lebanon", where their historical presence has been "much appreciated".

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