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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 12 OCT 2010 (VIS) - The Fourth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops was held this afternoon in the Synod Hall. The president delegate on duty was His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon, and there were 161 Synod Fathers present. The Holy Father attended the free discussions at the end of the sitting.

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

HIS BEATITUDE GREGOIRE III LAHAM B.S., PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH OF THE GREEK-MELKITES, SYRIA. "The Christian presence in the Arab world is threatened by the cycles of war afflicting the region, the cradle of Christianity. The main reason is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the fundamentalist movements, Hamas and Hezbollah are consequences of this conflict as well of internal dissension, slowness in development, the rise of hatred, the loss of hope in the young who constitute sixty percent of the population in Arab countries. The emigration of Christians is among the most dangerous effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: emigration which will make Arab society a society of only one colour, Muslim, faced with a European society identified as Christian. Should this happen, should the East be emptied of its Christians, this would mean that any occasion would be propitious for a new clash of cultures, of civilisations and even of religions, a destructive clash between the Muslim Arab East and the Christian West".

CARDINAL JOHN PATRICK FOLEY, GRAND MASTER OF THE EQUESTRIAN ORDER OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE OF JERUSALEM. "While many, including the Holy See, have suggested a two State solution to the Israeli Palestinian crisis, the more time passes, the more difficult such a solution becomes, as the building of Israeli settlements and Israeli controlled infrastructure in East Jerusalem and in other parts of the West Bank make increasingly difficult the development of a viable and integral Palestinian State. During the Holy Father's historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year, I had the opportunity for brief conversations with political leaders at the highest level in Jordan, Israel and Palestine. All of them spoke of the great contribution to mutual understanding made by Catholic schools in those three areas. Since Catholic schools are open to all and not just to Catholics and to other Christians, many Muslim and even some Jewish children are enrolled. The effects are apparent and inspiring. Mutual respect is engendered, which we hope will lead to reconciliation and even mutual love".

HIS BEATITUDE FOUAD TWAL, PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM OF THE LATINS. "The Mother Church of Jerusalem ... watches over the Holy Places of the Patriarchs, the Prophets, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. ... The Mother Church of Jerusalem must therefore be the object of love, prayer and attention from all the Church, from all bishops, priests and faithful of the People of God. To be united with the Church of Jerusalem, to live in the communion and witness which this Synod speaks about, reveals our duties as shepherds and our episcopal collegiality. To love the Holy Land implies visiting the Holy Places and meeting with the local community. To love the Holy Land is also to serve it: do not leave your Mother Church alone and isolated. Help her with your prayers, your love and your solidarity, prevent her becoming a great open-air museum. To be silent because of fear before the dramatic situation you all know about would be a sin of omission. Also, we are very grateful to the Holy See, to bishops, priests and all friends of the Holy Land for what they so generously do to support us spiritually and materially. ... The Christian community of the Holy Land (barely two percent of the population) is suffering violence and instability. It is a Church of Calvary. She has the weighty responsibility of perpetuating the message of peace and reconciliation. Despite the difficulties that seem overwhelming, we believe in God, the Lord of history".

ARCHBISHOP BASILE GEORGES CASMOUSSA OF MOSUL OF THE SYRIANS, IRAQ. " In our Middle Eastern countries, we are small minorities, much ravaged by the following factors: (1) Unbridled emigration. Christians are losing more and more trust in their own historical countries. (2) Waves of terrorism inspired by religious ideologies, Islamic or totalitarian, which deny even the principle of equality to the advantage of a fundamentalist revisionism which crushes minorities, including Christians who are the most vulnerable. (3) The alarming decrease of births among Christians, faced with an ever growing natality among Muslims. (4) The unjust accusation against Christians of being troops loaned or led by and for the so-called Christian West, and thus considered as a parasite in the nation. ... What is happening in Iraq today makes us think back to what happened in Turkey during the World War I. It is alarming!"

BISHOP DIMITRIOS SALACHAS, APOSTOLIC EXARCH FOR GREEK CATHOLICS OF BYZANTINE RITE RESIDENT IN GREECE. "The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches enunciates a general principle, according to which the faithful of the Eastern Church, though entrusted ('commissi') to the pastoral care of a bishop or parish priest of another 'sui iuris' Church, including the Latin Church, always remain members of their own Church and must observe their own rite everywhere in the world; i.e., their own liturgical and spiritual heritage, and their own laws. ... The Supreme Legislator has provided the Catholic Church with two canonical norms, two Codes, one for the Latin Church and one for the Eastern Church, the latter of which has recently celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its promulgation. Emigration creates urgent new pastoral needs which require knowledge, even limited knowledge, of these norms. In other words, Eastern bishops should know Latin legislation, and Latin bishops Eastern legislation. Vatican Council II teaches that, maintaining the unity of the faith and the one divine constitution of the universal Church, the Eastern Churches and the Western Churches have the right and the duty to practice according to their own discipline for the good of the souls of their faithful".

FR. JOSE RODRIGUEZ CARBALLO O.F.M., MINISTER GENERAL OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR. "Faced with the tragic spectacle of so many conflicts in the Holy Land and against the widespread idea that religions are the basis for them, Christians are called to show the world that religions, authentically lived, foster understanding between different peoples, serve peace, and mould the hearts of the reconciled and the reconcilers. ... In the context of the new evangelisation I would like to make four proposals: (1) To create a single catechism for all Catholics in the Middle East. (2) To take concrete initiatives for the formation of all pastoral workers (priests, religious and laity), a formation appropriate to the needs of new evangelisation and the particular situation of the Middle East. (3) In keeping with the Pauline Year, to celebrate a year dedicated to St. John in all the Churches of the Middle East, if possible with our brethren of the non-Catholic Churches. (4) To enhance biblical studies, especially through the three Biblical Institutes already present in Jerusalem: the Franciscan Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, the Dominican School of the Bible and Archaeology, and the Jesuit Biblical Institute. Furthermore, I hope that, in the face of the steady decline of Christians in the Holy Land, a word of comfort may emerge from this Synod for the Christian and, in particular, Catholic, communities living in those lands. The Synod is a good opportunity to forcefully strengthen ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue".
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