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Monday, October 18, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 15 OCT 2010 (VIS) - The Ninth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops took place this afternoon in the Synod Hall of the Vatican. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The Holy Father was present for the period of free discussion at the end of the session.

  Extracts from some of the Synod Father's speeches are given below:
CARDINAL WILLIAM JOSEPH LEVADA, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH. "My intervention will focus on the notion of the living Tradition of the Church as taught in the Vatican Council II Constitution on Divine Revelation 'Dei Verbum', and on the understanding of the role of the Pope in Apostolic Tradition. ... Cardinal Newman, through his study of the Fathers of the Patristic age and of the first Ecumenical Councils, found precisely the living Tradition that led him to embrace the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church. ... I would envision a useful study and exchange of views about how the ministry of the Successor of Peter, with its essential doctrinal characteristics, could be exercised in different ways, according to the diverse needs of times and places. This remains a chapter of ecclesiology to be further explored and completed. Such theological reflection, however, does not supplant the vital testimony of the Catholics of the Middle East to their Orthodox and Muslim brethren about how Church doctrine develops in the living Apostolic Tradition, guided by Christ's gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church's Magisterium in every age. This Magisterium necessarily includes the role of the Pope as head of the Apostolic College of Bishops, together with Christ's commission to confirm His brethren in the unity of faith so that 'all may be one'".

MSGR. MIKAEL ANTOINE MOURADIAN, PATRIARCHAL VICAR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR THE PATRIARCHAL CLERGY OF BZOMMAR, LEBANON. "It is true that the Middle East is the Holy Land and the land of saints. This has been demonstrated by the canonisations and beatifications that have taken place in recent years: Mar Charbel, Naamat Allah al-Hardini, Rafka, Abouna Yaacoub, Ignace Maolyan, Al Akh Stephan. However, this should not cloud our vision to the truth about the Middle East, where there is also a crisis of vocations. ... What are the causes for the decrease in religious vocations, what are the short-, mid- and long-term consequences, and the possible solutions? ... (1) Primary causes: The decline in the birth rate in Christian families. Material and moral problems which families must face. A crisis of values. Difficulty in committing to the long term. The emancipation of women. Crisis of faith. Counter-witness by consecrated persons. (2) Possible solutions: Support the family. Educate them in true values. Consecrated persons witness sincerely to their faithfulness to Christ and to their consecration. Ensure a proper discernment of vocations. Oversee proper spiritual guidance in vocations. Obtain appropriate initial and permanent formation. ... It is also in the believing and practicing family that vocations are born".

ARCHBISHOP CYRIL VASIL S.J., SECRETARY OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES. "Synodality has a special bond with the mechanism for choosing candidates to the episcopacy. Checks on the suitability of the candidates should be carried out by the bishops and the Synod in a more appropriate manner than sometimes happens at present, in order to facilitate and speed up the process of pontifical assent. ... First and foremost, formative and academic institutions must be constantly evaluated as regards the level of cultural and spiritual formation they offer. The difficulties students encounter in their higher studies outside the Eastern context, for example in Rome, cannot be ignored and there is no point in hiding them. We have to ask ourselves if the time has finally come to open a first cycle of Eastern theological studies here in Rome, in an Eastern Theological Faculty. ... As regards the faithful who move from the Middle East, claims are sometimes made for a 'planetary' extension of Patriarchs' jurisdiction, as if this were a right and a universal solution to the problem of the pastoral care of migrants. It should be remembered that there is a great difference between the claimed universal right and the detailed, justified request".

ARCHBISHOP MICHEL ABRASS B.A., AUXILIARY OF ANTIOCH OF THE GREEK-MELKITES, SYRIA. "The question of choice of 'regime', as applicable to Lebanon, is a serious problem affecting the laity today. Many lay persons ask themselves what will become of them if they declare themselves as Christians, ... something which depends on the degree of emancipation of their non-Christian interlocutor, who in the Middle East is often a Muslim. These Christians need some kind of 'positive secularism'. Where do they go to find it? Presently, our 'lay faithful' are in self-denial. They must be given legitimacy, and the only people with the power to provide it are ecclesiastics, provided that it has been authorised by their statutes. We think that Christians who so desire should be authorised to adopt a lay statute, so long as it does not undermine the dogmas or the teachings of the Churches, bearing in mind that we are in a land that is not solely Christian".

ARCHBISHOP ATHANASE MATTI SHABA MATOKA OF BAGHDAD OF THE SYRIANS, IRAQ. "Iraq is still in a situation of instability, suffering and war, the most recent being the American occupation. Christians have always shared in the sacrifices and tribulations, having lost martyrs in the wars and suffered many different hardships. Since 2003, Christians have been victims of a deadly situation which has caused mass emigration from Iraq. Although there are no definite statistics, indications are that half the Christians have abandoned Iraq and that there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 who once lived there. The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels. ... Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world's conscience? All the world stands and watches what is happening in Iraq, especially with regard to Christians. We want to sound the alarm. We ask this question of the great powers: is it true that there is a plan to empty the Middle East of Christians and that Iraq is one of the victims? I think this Synod should study this subject carefully and should see what can be put down in writing in order to reach a solution for the situation existing in the Middle East".

ARCHBISHOP DENYS ANTOINE CHAHDA OF ALEP, BEROEA, HALAB OF THE SYRIANS, SYRIA. "Christ asks all the baptised to be united, just as He and His Father are One. ... He wanted their unity to be a sign for the nations and 'Signum inter Gentes', a light attracting mankind to His Father and inviting them to believe in Him. Indeed, the division in the Church is an act of unfaithfulness to her founder and a scandal for those who do not believe in Jesus. I feel that what separates us from our Orthodox brothers is the understanding of the Primacy of Peter. It is up to the theologians to find a new interpretation. Why not achieve unity in faith, but in diversity? The Synod of Jerusalem in the year 49 could be the key to finding a solution to the division of the Churches".
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