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Friday, October 15, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 15 OCT 2010 (VIS) - The Eighth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops was held this morning in the Synod Hall in the presence of the Holy Father and of 168 Synod Fathers. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

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

BISHOP SHAHAN SARKISSIAN OF ALEPPO, SYRIA, ARMENIAN PRIMATE OF SYRIA. "We must give clearer and more concrete witness of the unity of the Churches, which today is more imperative than ever for the Middle East. ... Mutual respect and reciprocal understanding are the foundation for Islamic-Christian dialogue and coexistence. We must dedicate more profound attention to coexistence with Islam, while remaining faithful to Christian mission and identity. ... Priorities include relaunching and promoting Christian education, spiritual renovation and diaconate, internal evangelisation and the transmission of Christian values to young people, active participation of lay people in the life and vocation of the Church. We must underline the importance of ecumenical co-operation and bilateral dialogue. The reform and reorganisation of the Council of Middle Eastern Churches constitutes a major priority to which member Churches are dedicating their efforts".

CARDINAL JEAN-LOUIS TAURAN, PRESIDENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE. "The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops represents an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity, because it could lead to better understanding: (1) that the unresolved conflicts in the region are not caused by religious reasons, as evinced by the presence among us of representatives of Judaism and of Islam; (2) of the urgency for a three-way reflection (Jews, Christians and Muslims) on the place of religions in Middle Eastern societies. It is also a challenge, to give Middle Eastern Christians concrete guidelines. Let us not be shy in reclaiming not only freedom of worship, but also religious freedom. Society and State should neither force a person to act against his conscience, nor hinder him from acting according to his conscience. Let us invest more in schools and universities, which are attended by both Christians and Muslims. They are indispensable places of co-existence. Let us ask ourselves if we are doing enough, at the level of the local Churches, to encourage our Christians to stay: housing, tuition, healthcare. We cannot expect everything from others".

BISHOP GIACINTO-BOULOS MARCUZZO, AUXILIARY OF JERUSALEM OF THE LATINS. "Formation is absolutely the greatest need of the Church in the Middle East; it is the pastoral priority that the Special Synod for the Middle East should adopt. ... I am convinced that the best way to implement this pastoral operation of faith is the traditional and ever new: See, judge, act. To see reality, changes and 'signs of the times'; to judge this reality in the light of the Word of God and faith and discern properly; finally, to bring it to life by planning methods of action and commitment. ... Currently, all Catholic Churches in the Holy Land have performed another great act of cultural mediation with a pastoral diocesan Synod which truly revived and renewed our faith, providing us with a shared "general pastoral plan" for the current time. The best approach to times of novelty and change is the cultural mediation of faith, and this is also the best approach to our situation in Israel where there are two great historical novelties for the Church: (a) an Arab-Palestinian minority living in a Jewish majority; (b) the birth of a Hebrew speaking Catholic community".

AGOSTINO BORROMEO, GOVERNOR GENERAL OF THE EQUESTRIAN ORDER OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE OF JERUSALEM. "Apart from the traditional help to Churches, new strategies could also be sought with the aim of creating better living conditions in favour of Christians. Let me mention a number of examples: (1) Building social housing. (2) Creating medical clinics in places far distant from hospitals. (3) Granting microcredit, especially to finance activities that create new sources of income, or augment those that already exist. (4) Creating a system of microinsurance, with particular reference to the field of healthcare. (5) Contacting western companies with the aim of finding out if they are interested in transferring some of their productive processes to the Middle East. Naturally, these initiatives will have to be put into effect in close collaboration with the local ecclesiastical authorities, and under the control of each of the individual Churches. Although the results may be modest, they would represent a concrete witness of the closeness of Christians all over the world to the problems and sufferings of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East".

JOCELYNE KHOUEIRY, PRESIDENT OF THE LAY MOVEMENT "LA LIBANAISE FEMME DU 31 MAY". "In our Church we must offer women, young people, couples, families, and especially disabled people, the chance to make choices in their lives that are coherent with the Gospel, and to discover their mission in the Church and in Arab and Middle Eastern society. ... Integrating early preparation for marriage and family values into our educational and pastoral programmes must be a priority, in order to help counteract, with conscience and responsibility, the misguided choices of consumer society. ... If Christian women can express themselves and bear witness to the beauty of the faith and of the true meaning of dignity and freedom, they become important witnesses who addresses Muslim women and open new paths of dialogue. May our families always be supported and accompanied by their Church, mother and educator, in order to become real and effective shrines open to the gift of life, especially when this is affected by disability or socio-economic difficulties".
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