The Holy See Search



10-24 OCTOBER 2010

The Catholic Church in the Middle East:
Communion and Witness.
"Now the company of those who believed
were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32)

This Bulletin is only a working instrument for the press.
Translations are not official.

English Edition


07 - 12.10.2010





At 4:30 p.m. today, Tuesday 12 October 2010, with the recital of the prayer Pro felici Synodi exitu, the Fourth General Congregation began, continuing the interventions by the Synod Fathers in the Hall on the Synodal theme The Catholic Church in the Middle East:Communion and Witness. "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32).

The Acting President Delegate H.B. Ignace Youssef III YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch of Syrians (LEBANON).

Following the interventions on the theme of the Synod, there was a period for free discussion by the Synod Fathers, in the presence of the Holy Father.

At this General Congregation,which ended at 19.00 p.m.with the prayer Angelus Domini, 161 Fathers were present.


The following Fathers intervened:

- H. B. Gregorios III LAHAM, B.S., Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, Archbishop of Damascus of the Greek-Melkites (SYRIA)
- H. Exc. Mons. Pierre BÜRCHER, Bishop of Reykjavïk (ICELAND)
- H. Exc. Mons. Joseph ARNAOUTI, Patriarchal Exarch of Damascus of the Armenians, Bishop Emeritus of Kamichlié of the Armenians (SYRIA)
- H. Em. Card. John Patrick FOLEY, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (VATICAN CITY)
- H. B. Fouad TWAL, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM)
- H. Exc. Mons. François EID, O.M.M., Bishop of Cairo of the Maronites (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT)
- H. Exc. Mons. Joseph Jules ZEREY, Titular Archbishop of Damiata of the Greek-Melkites, Auxiliary and Protosyncellus of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites (JERUSALEM)
- H. Exc. Mons. Basile Georges CASMOUSSA, Archbishop of Mossul of the Syrians (IRAQ)
- H. Exc. Mons. Antoine Nabil ANDARI, Titular Bishop of Tarsus of the Maronites, Auxiliary Bishop and Syncellus for Jounieh (LEBANON)
- H. Exc. Mons. Ramzi GARMOU, Archbishop of Tehran of the Chaldeans, Patriarchal Administrator of Ahwaz of the Chaldeans, President of the Iranian Episcopal Conference (IRAN)
- H. Exc. Mons. Bosco PUTHUR, Titular Bishop of Foratiana, Curia Bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro -Malabars (INDIA)
- Rev. F. Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, O.F.M., Custos of the Holy Land (JERUSALEM)
- H. B. Baselios Cleemis THOTTUNKAL, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (INDIA)
- H. Exc. Mons. Dimitrios SALACHAS, Titular Bishop of Carcabia, Apostolic Exarch for the Catholics of Byzantine Rite living in Greece (GREECE)
- H. Exc. Mons. Charbel Georges MERHI, Bishop of San Charbel en Buenos Aires of the Maronites (ARGENTINA)
- Rev. F. José RODRÍGUEZ CARBALLO, O.F.M., General Minister of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (ITALY)

The summaries of the interventions are published below:

- H. B. Gregorios III LAHAM, B.S., Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, Archbishop of Damascus of the Greek-Melkites (SYRIA)

Peace, conviviality and the Christian presence in the Arab world are tied in an existential and solid way. The Christian presence in the Arab world is threatened by the cycles of war that fall on this region, the cradle of Christianity.
The main reason is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the fundamentalist movements, the Hamas movement, the 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 60% of the population in Arab countries.
The emigration of Christians: Among the most dangerous effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: emigration which will make Arab society a society with only one color, only Muslim, faced with a European society also known 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 civilizations and even of religions, a destructive clash between the Muslim Arab East and the Christian West.
Trust between East and West: To convince Christians to stay, we think it is necessary to address our Muslim brothers to tell them with honesty what our fears are: the separation of religion and State, the Arabicity, democracy, Arab nation or Muslim nation, human rights and laws that propose Islam as the only or main source of legislation which are even an obstacle to the equality of their own citizens before the law. There are also fundamentalist parties, Islamic integralism, which have been blamed for acts of terrorism, for killings, for burning churches, for extortion, in the name of religion and strong here being the majority humiliating their neighbors.To make peace, this is the great challenge: This is the great “jihad” and the great good. This is the true victory and the true guarantee for the future of freedom, prosperity and security for our young, Christians and Muslims, who are the future of our Nations.

[00052-02.03] [IN030] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Pierre BÜRCHER, Bishop of Reykjavïk (ICELAND)

The Bishops of the Northern Episcopal Conference (NEC), together with their Middle Eastern brothers and sisters, are aware that in addition to the difficult political situation and the confrontation with extremist Muslims, a difficult problem is also the emigration of Christians. This problem can only be resolved with the definitive solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The urgent moment of reconciliation and peace has arrived! The Christians of the Middle East, rather than flee the region, are especially necessary in this vital process of justice and peace. In fact, they have inherited the Christian mandate of forgiveness. Therefore it is not a question of their welcome in foreign lands but more their presence in the Middle East to safeguard a historical culture that is vital for the entire world. Peace is the urgent vocation of the Holy Land! Justice for the three monotheistic religions is that Jerusalem is open to all!
The emigration of Christians coming from Eastern countries has also touched the North of the land. One of the reasons is without a doubt the galloping economic development of the five nordic countries of our episcopal conference. Since its crisis two years ago, we must take Iceland out of this now. These five countries are characterized by a Catholic percentage of only 2 to 3 % of the entire population, the great majority being Lutherans. This corresponds, in several Eastern countries, to the percentage of Christians in relation to Muslims. The pastoral situation in our Northern countries is therefore that of a Diaspora. More so, it is very diversified and achieves positive experiences with priests and religious persons coming from Eastern Nations. In many places, Catholic Churches have been used by Catholic Christians as well as non-Catholics for their Divine Liturgy. This too is a sign of practiced ecumenism!

[00053-02.06] [IN031] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Joseph ARNAOUTI, Patriarchal Exarch of Damascus of the Armenians, Bishop Emeritus of Kamichlié of the Armenians (SYRIA)

“When the completion of the time came” (Gal 4:4), God “sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ the Saviour, who took flesh as an Asian” (Ecclesia in Asia, no. 1) and who would return to the Orient (Mt 24:27). Christ is the incarnated, dead and risen merciful Love. He is the Son of the East. The Incarnation, whose jubilee we celebrated in the year 2000, John Paul II (Novo Millennio Ineunte) conceives it “not only as a remembrance of the past, but also as a prophecy of the future” (no. 3). The same Pope summarizes the 20th century as a century of barbarians and the manifestation of Divine Mercy. In reference to the Instrumentum laboris, 2nd goal and part of the Synod: “to foster ecclesial communion”, I will read the signs of the times, which summarizes a word by Pope Benedict XVI: “the mystery of Merciful Love was at the center of the Pontificate of my venerable predecessor” (John Paul II). I suggest the following propositions:
1. The institution of a liturgical feast of the Father. The “Our Father” is the ecumenical prayer par excellence.
2. To build together the Body of Christ: to be servants of communion, prophets of hope and witnesses of mercy (A New Hope for Lebanon). In the Middle East “different Catholic eparchies cross”. “This difficulty could be a grace... but should not impoverish it (no. 64). We note, “the absence of meaning of the Church as mystery of communion” (no. 80).
3. The primacy of Grace is that of Peter during the 3rd millennium. After Paul VI, John Paul II recognizes that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome “constitutes an obstacle” for the majority of other Christians and invites to search with him for forms of ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome. In fact, Vatican II states that the Bishop of Rome is the “permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion” (Lumen Gentium, no. 18). On the other hand, according to Pope John Paul II, from the human weakness of Peter, it is clear that his specific service is an act of grace. After his triple denial, Peter needs Divine Mercy for his service to be a service of mercy, born of multi-form Mercy of God (Ut Unum Sint). According to the same Pope, the Church must not “forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it” (Dives in Misericordia, No. 15).

[00054-02.03] [IN032] [Original text: French]

- H. Em. Card. John Patrick FOLEY, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (VATICAN CITY)

As messengers of Christ's peace, I am convinced that all of us must pray and work for peace in the Middle East - especially for a just and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel and among their neighbors.
I am convinced that the continued tension between the Israelis and the Palestinians has contributed greatly to the turmoil in all of the Middle East and also to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.
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 Moslem 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.
As the one honored by our Holy Father with the task of serving as Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, I am inspired by the interest and generosity of the almost 27,000 Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre in 56 jurisdictions all over the world.
Many have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land where they have visited not only the places made sacred by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ but also the parishes, schools and hospitals which serve those we call the "living stones" - the Christian descendants of the original followers of Jesus Christ in that land we call ''holy''.
Since the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre has sent more than $50 million to assist especia1ly the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem but also other Christian communities and institutions to survive and indeed excel in service to the entire community in the Holy Land.
Such generosity, while important, is secondary to the development of an ever deeper spiritual life on the part of our members and of those whom we serve.
Years ago, I noted that the so-called five pillars of Islam really had their origins in Judaeo-Christian sources.
Jews, Christians and Moslems all believe in one God; we all practice frequent and, I hope, fervent prayer; we all, in different ways, practice fasting; we believe in and practice almsgiving; and we all seek to take part in pilgrimage - also to Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Moslems.
May these common beliefs and practices be acknowledged and followed in the hope of greater mutual understanding and of reconciliation, peace and indeed love in that land which all of us, Jew, Christian and Moslem, are moved to call "holy".

[00055-02.03] [IN033] [Original text: English]

- H. B. Fouad TWAL, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM)

The Mother Church of the Holy Land is a very concrete and living reality, even if a minority. Fundamentally, the Christians in our countries are not converted persons during a certain moment of history, but the descendants of the very first Community, formed by Jesus Christ Himself.
Some ecclesial and pastoral consequences for the Universal Church come from this:
- The Mother Church of Jerusalem, therefore is your Church where spiritually and ecclesially you were all born (Ps 87). She watches over the Holy Places of the Patriarchs, the Prophets, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Apostles for the whole Church. She is, as we were reminded by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, “the fifth Gospel”.
- The Mother Church of Jerusalem must therefore be the object of love, of prayer and of attention from all the Church, from all bishops, priests and faithful of the People of God. To be solidary with the Church of Jerusalem, to live communion and witness which this Synod speaks about, reveals our duties as shepherds and the 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, avoiding that she become 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 the bishops, to the priests and to all the friends of the Holy Land for what they so generously do to support us spiritually and in a material way. We are also very thankful to the Congregation of Eastern Churches and to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
- The Christian Community of the Holy Land (barely 2% of the population) is suffering violence and instability. It is a Church of the 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 Master of history. For God “is the peace between us, and has made the two into one entity and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart... by restoring peace, to create a single New Man out of the two of them” (Eph 2:14-15).

[00056-02.04] [IN034] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. François EID, O.M.M., Bishop of Cairo of the Maronites (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT)

Confessionalism in the Islamic societies where many Christians live and bear witness in the Middle East deeply affects their spirit and their behavior. From this stems confinement, withdrawal from others and hostility.
These Christians are not “indigenous citizens”. To the contrary, they belong fundamentally and organically to the social fabric and national identity of their respective countries. This is why they are called upon to live their faith and to bear witness to it with authenticity, joy and without restraint.
Inspired by the Word of God who invites all Christians to make theirs the concern of the Lord for the poor and the needy, the members of the Catholic Church in Egypt are deeply engaged in educational services (169 colleges) as well as in health and social services. Their action is a concrete manifestation of God’s solicitude and Christ’s love towards all the little brothers of the Lord.
We have a very revealing example of the contribution of a small group of Lebanese Christians, emigrated to Egypt during the second half of the 19th century. This small dynamic and motivated group managed, in less than 100 years, to found 249 newspapers and periodicals in Arabic, French or English. They are the ones that founded almost all the most prestigious publishing companies still existing in Egypt.
And what can be said about the many enlightened, pioneering writers, that gave Egypt playwrights, directors, actors, musicians, and singers! I would also like to mention all the builders of churches, schools and hospitals, the founders of charitable organizations and socio-cultural, sports and religious organizations, without forgetting the brilliant businessmen who started the Egyptian Stock Exchange and founded the Opera House!
Unfortunately, the climate of openness and tolerance which was favorable to the blossoming of their talents and to the launching of great projects was abolished by the 1952 revolution, this is what brought a fatal strike to their socio-cultural contribution.
Today’s Synod should not delude itself that it can find a magical solution to the problems of the Middle Eastern Churches. However, it offers us the occasion to proceed with a personal and community examination of our consciences that would allow us to foresee a path of action.

[00057-02.03] [IN035] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Joseph Jules ZEREY, Titular Archbishop of Damiata of the Greek-Melkites, Auxiliary and Protosyncellus of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites (JERUSALEM)

Why do many of our families emigrate? Why do they live half-heartedly, crushed by greed coming notably from media, the pressures coming from all sides, political, social and material as well as those coming from other professions of faith or other religions? Why have so many lost their call to live like the first Christians, who, with the Apostles, lived an evangelical life, centered on Christ in prayer and in sharing?
I strongly state that many of our “so-called Christian” families have a vital need for re-evangelization and to personally embrace the forgiveness and mercy of God earned by the passion, the death and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.During the past forty years, we have all witnessed the Holy Spirit evoking a renewal in the Church from which new movements and communities were born that live the missionary dynamic such as the great Apostles and great Saints (which we know), who during the centuries knew how to evangelize the heart of the Church and of the world.
These past years in our Arab countries and in other countries, I have met several families who truly live their Christian faith despite the enormous difficulties in their daily lives. These families burning with the Charity of Christ bear their Crosses with faith and Hope against all Hope.
These families cannot hold and cannot be missionaries unless through a personal tie, a deep love for Christ strengthened by daily prayer as well as the support of small fraternities or parish communities meeting each week around the Word of God. These “small Cenacles” will allow them to live in a more intense way the Sunday Eucharist.
These families live the presence of the Risen Christ among them, which vivifies them through His Holy Spirit and leads them to the Father.
An international center for family spirituality will be built in Nazareth very soon. This center will be at the service of the local Church and the Universal Church. I ask that it may shine over all the cities of the Holy Land, to help families not only face their daily problems and difficulties, but especially to encourage these families to become true missionary families, true hearths of Charity and Light.

[00058-02.03] [IN036] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Basile Georges CASMOUSSA, Archbishop of Mossul of the Syrians (IRAQ)

In our Middle Eastern countries, we are small minorities, ravaged considerably by the following factors:
1. Galloping emigration, where Christians lose more and more their faith in their own historical countries.
2. The waves of terrorism inspired by religious ideologies, Islamic or totalitarian, denying even the principle of equality, to benefit a fundamental negation which crushes minorities, among which are Christians, 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. Present and active here well before Islam, the feel undesired in their own home, which becomes more and more a “Dar el-Islam”. Even the West is no longer gentle, the term “Christian” only evokes the religious dimension there. Almost always the social aspect of the human group, its fundamental rights being damaged, in its cultural identity, in its belongings, even in its existence, because of its religion. Here is the Eastern Christian in Islam countries condemned be it to disappear or to go into exile. What is happening in Iraq today makes us think back to what happened in Turkey during the First World War. It is alarming!
5. The fractioned state of Middle Eastern Christian Communities: institutional ecclesial and identity divisions of the local churches fierce about their autonomy, other times on doctrinal and territorial or linguistic bases, artificially erected into ethno-political nationalism (today’s Iraq is an example), referring however to the same patristic and linguistic energy, having undergone the same historic fate of “dhimitude”, the future being shaded for all by the same symptoms of dis-aggregation, due to external as well as internal factors.These are the true challenges, with terrible consequences, that the Middle Eastern Christians face!

[00059-02.03] [IN037] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Antoine Nabil ANDARI, Titular Bishop of Tarsus of the Maronites, Auxiliary Bishop and Syncellus for Jounieh (LEBANON)

“Do not fear little flock” is a call for hope.
What are the possible paths towards the future for Christians, from the Lebanese experience?
This means to look at today’s main threats that are a burden on Christians, to consider and then propose practical suggestions in view of a future of peace.
-Among the main threats: the truncated accord of Taef, the decree of naturalization, the insidious land purchases by foreigners, rampant impoverishment...
-Among the suggestions to be considered: the re-establishment of confessional equilibrium, a “white paper” on the demographic situation and the illegal aspects of the naturalization decree, awarding citizenship to emigrants as well as their right to vote, to support the efforts of the Maronite foundation throughout the world, to repeal today’s laws on the sale of land to foreigners, to institute a “permanent Cenacle” of Arab Christian thinkers...

[00060-02.03] [IN038] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Ramzi GARMOU, Archbishop of Tehran of the Chaldeans, Patriarchal Administrator of Ahwaz of the Chaldeans, President of the Iranian Episcopal Conference (IRAN)

In its conclusion the Instrumnentum laboris poses this very important and at the same time disconcerting question: What future for the Christians of the Middle East?
In my opinion this question sends us an urgent plea for a real and deep conversion of the heart to a life in conformity with the Gospel message. It is true, the future of the Church in our countries and in the entire world is in God’s hands, who watches over all His children like a Father full of tenderness and mercy. But it is also entrusted to our responsibility as pastors, successors of the Apostles, who have received the task of grazing God’s flock, not through cupidity, but through devotion, in becoming the models of the flock (1 Pet 5:2-3).
For this Synod to be the source of grace and renewal for our churches, we must listen to the what the Holy Spirit says to us. He can purify our hearts and free them from all that prevents us from being authentic and faithful witnesses of the Risen One. In this Holy Synod, we are asked to be meek and attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit who reminds us that the mission of the local church is to be of service to the people to whom it was sent; its main mission is to proclaim the good news of the Gospel according to the culture of that people. Fortunately, the working document warns us of the danger of confessionalism and an exaggerated attachment to the ethnicity that transforms our churches into ghettos and closes them in on themselves, whereas the mission of evangelization calls upon us to live the diversity that characterizes the venerable traditions of our churches in a deep communion that manifests their wealth and their beauty.
An ethnic and nationalistic church opposes the work of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s will who told us: “but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end” (Acts 1:8). Saint Paul, because of the passion he had to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, gave himself the title of “Apostle of the Nations”, he who could glorify himself in being Jewish and an Israelite. Let us listen to what he says: “I myself could rely on these too. If anyone does claim to rely on them, my claim is better... Circumcised on the eighth day of my life, I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. In the matter of the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for religious fervour, I was a persecutor of the Church; as for the uprightness embodied in the Law, I was faultless. But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses” (Phil 3:4-8). So that he could bear witness to the died and risen Christ in pagan nations, Paul sacrificed his nation and his ethnicity. Are we ready to imitate him on this so that our churches may find a new missionary breath, making the ethnic and nationalistic barriers fall, which threaten to asphyxiate and make them sterile?
The Instrumentum laboris almost ignored the vital importance of monastic and contemplative life for the renewal and the re-awakening of our churches. This form of life that was born in the East, was at the origin of an extraordinary missionary expansion and an admirable witness of our churches during the first centuries. History teaches us that the bishops were chosen among the monks, that is to say men of prayer and with a deep spiritual life, having vast experience in the “things of God”. Today, unfortunately, the choice of bishops does not obey the same criteria and we can see the results which are unfortunately not always happy ones.
The bi-millenary experience of the church confirms to us that prayer is the soul of the mission, it is thanks to this that all the activities of the church are fruitful and bear many fruits. Also, all those who participated in the reform of the church and gave back its innocent beauty and eternal youth were essentially men and women of prayer. For this reason our Lord invites us to pray without ceasing. With regret and bitterness we see that monasteries of contemplative life, source of abundant grace for the people of God, have almost disappeared in our Eastern Churches. What a great loss! How sad!

[00061-02.03] [IN039] [Original text: French]

- H. Exc. Mons. Bosco PUTHUR, Titular Bishop of Foratiana, Curia Bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro -Malabars (INDIA)

First of all, the Major Archbishop, the Synod of Bishops, the Priests, the Religious and the Faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church are grateful to the Holy Father for having invited us to participate in this Synod. Since our Major Archbishop, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil CSsR is not at present able to travel, I am asked to represent the Syro-Malabar Church. Our Church wholeheartedly welcomes and supports the initiatives taken by the Holy Father to empower the Catholic Church in the Middle East so that it can in communion bear witness to the Gospel in this region.
However, through this intervention I would like to bring to the attention of this august assembly certain pastoral problems indicated in the Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 49 and 50, which read: "A new and important phenomenon taking place in Middle Eastern countries is the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers from Africa and Asia ... These people are subject to social injustice ... This immigration calls for the attention of our Churches which have the pastoral responsibility to assist them in both religious and social matters."
The Syro-Malabar faithful have been present in the Gulf Region since the1960s. They fully depend upon the Latin Vicariates of Kuwait and Arabia for their pastoral needs. These ecclesiastical structures created in the twentieth century for a few thousand emigrants are not at all adequate to take care of millions of faithful now present in the region.
We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of the two Vicars apostolic of the region. However, the situation of the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar faithful in the Arabian Gulf countries is very inadequate and unsatisfactory. There are almost 430,000 Syro-Malabar migrants in the region (Saudi Arabia 190,000; UAE 110,000; Oman 45,000; Kuwait 40, 000; Bahrain 35,000 and Qatar 10,000), but not even a single parish is erected for them. There is no proper pastoral care and faith formation-catechesis for the Syro-Malabar faithful according to the proper ecclesial tradition, except in Doha. The Syro-Malabar hierarchy is not at all involved nor invited for this purpose. The only church that was built for our faithful in Doha is not even erected as a parish, but remains an outstation of the Latin parish. Besides, serious restrictions are placed on the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy through a “Rescript” from the Holy See, which prevents any involvement of our Church in providing proper pastoral care to our faithful in the area.
The community is in a precarious situation and many of them have become indifferent to the practice of Catholic faith. The local Ordinaries are neither able to do nor adequately prepared to give proper pastoral care as per the heritage of the individual Church. The Syro-Malabar Church is not granted any freedom to look after her faithful in the region, a right envisaged in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Canon Law and other magisterial documents. The Religious priests at present working in the region do not have the necessary pastoral and liturgical formation to take care of our people. As there is the inadequacy in the pastoral care, there is the ever growing danger of our people being led astray by Pentecostal groups thriving in the Gulf region. Hence it is essential to entrust the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar faithful to our own Church, erecting proper ecclesial structures and granting jurisdiction to our hierarchy. Contrary to the opinion generally circulated by some ecclesiastics, the governments in the Gulf Region are in general open to the Christian communities, since at present they need emigrant workers.
We hope and pray that the Apostolic See may take appropriate action to redress the grave situation in the region and enable all concerned to provide adequate pastoral care to our faithful in accordance with the liturgical and spiritual tradition of the St Thomas Christians.

[00062-02.03] [IN040] [Original text: English]

- Rev. F. Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, O.F.M., Custos of the Holy Land (JERUSALEM)

Too often the pastoral perspective in the Holy Land starts from the situation rather than the vocation of the Church. Our vocation has as its starting point Acts 2:9-12. Then as now, the Church of Jerusalem was born and developed as a universal Church.
The holy places of the Holy Land are not only the stable point of the local Christian identity, but they are a living memory of the Incarnation. This did not happen only in time but also in space. To live in that space is our vocation.
Pilgrimages from all over the world and the presence of Jews and Muslims appear to the eyes of faith as the fulfillment, even if only a partial one, of the prophecy of the gathering of all peoples on Mount Zion (Is 2: 2-4).
Pilgrimages and the multi-religious character of the Church of the Holy Land ask us to be always more outgoing, hospitable, open to others. Being a minority urges us to be more proactive. The institutions of the Church are a living witness of this proactive approach.
In the end it is up to we Christians in the Holy Land to remember our duty to preserve the Christian character of the Land of the Lord.
[00063-02.03] [IN041] [Original text: Italian]

- H. B. Baselios Cleemis THOTTUNKAL, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (INDIA)

Communion is basically derived from the most Holy Trinity. This Divine reality is reflected in all the salvific works of Lord Jesus Christ, hence, His body, the Church, has to transmit the same reality-communion. The Church universal is a communion of Churches, celebrating the one and the same saving acts of the Lord in diverse traditions, presided over by the bishops of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, the head of the Apostolic College. Hence Ecclesial Communion demands a deep sense of spiritual communion. Any attempt to deepen the sense and need of Ecclesial Communion, be it ad intra or ad extra, we all must inherit personally the spirituality of communion and transmit it as Christ’s body.
As we are engaged in deepening our Christian witnessing in the Middle East, I feel that our efforts for attaining full communion with our sister orthodox churches must be strengthened. As Pope John Paul II of happy memory suggested, a new form of petrine ministry is to be sought without abandoning what is essential to the ministry of the bishop of Rome as the supreme Pontiff (ut unum sint qs). Full communion with our sister churches in the Middle East will graciously increase our communion and witnessing in the world.
Our common commitment, with Muslims, Jews and all the religions and people of good will is to promote Justice everywhere by siding with those God loves and cares for, and asks us to do the same, so that human beings remain the crown of creation in our present world.

[00064-02.03] [IN043] [Original text: English]

- H. Exc. Mons. Dimitrios SALACHAS, Titular Bishop of Carcabia, Apostolic Exarch for the Catholics of Byzantine Rite living in Greece (GREECE)

The massive emigration of Eastern Catholic faithful from the Middle East to the West in territories of Latin ecclesiastical districts is an urgent problem of their pastoral care and of their legal status. Vatican II and later the supreme legislator in the Catholic Church, the Roman Pontiff, in his concern for the universal Church, with the promulgation of two Codes, one for the Latin Church and another for the Eastern Catholic Churches, thereby sufficiently provided them with adapted standards, prescribing faithful observance.
Foremost the Eastern Code enunciates a general principle, according to which the faithful of the Eastern Church, even if entrusted (commissi) to the pastoral care of a Bishop or a parish priest of another Church sui iuris, also included here is the Latin Church, remain however always members of their own Church, held to observe their own rite everywhere in the world, understood as their own liturgical, spiritual heritage and their discipline.
Another principle is as follows: In the places where a hierarchy for the Eastern faithful has not yet been established by the Apostolic See, one must retain as their own Hierarch (Ordinary) of the same faith, the Hierarch of another Church sui iuris, even of the Latin Church, that is, they are legally subject to the jurisdiction of the local Bishop, even of the Latin Church (can. 916,5).
In these cases, a right and duty of the Latin Bishop - who has Eastern Catholic faithful in his diocese - is to safeguard and guarantee to these faithful observance of their own rite, that is their own Liturgy and canonical discipline, and to provide and create that canonical ecclesial structure provided also by the Latin Code, as in for example the establishment of parish staff. Further, it is known that especially in the area of the Sacraments of Christian initiation and of marriage, the two Codes establish different norms, respectively codifying the legitimate diversity of the Latin and Eastern traditions. What this implies is that the Latin Bishop or parish priest should be sufficiently knowledgeable about these legitimate differences and encourage in practice the observance of the Eastern tradition for the Eastern faithful subject to their own jurisdiction, without imposing on the Eastern faithful - their subjects - the Latin discipline and practices, as often happens in Western countries simply out of ignorance.
It is urgent, therefore, that in the Latin seminaries in places where there are Eastern faithful, the students are also instructed in the area of the discipline that applies to the Eastern faithful. The same Bishops, the same parish priests in these Latin districts are required to know that discipline to guarantee the right and obligation of the Eastern faithful, their subjects, to observe their rite, that is to promote their Catholic and Eastern identity within the universal Church.
The supreme legislator has provided the Catholic Church with two canonical standards, that is two Codes, one for the Latin Church and one for the Eastern Church, which has recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its promulgation. Emigration therefore creates new, urgent pastoral needs which require even a summary, knowledge of this standard, that is that the Eastern Bishops know the Latin legislation, and that the Latin Bishops know the Eastern legislation. Vatican II (OE) 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, more suitable for the good of the souls of their faithful.

[00065-02.03] [IN043] [Original text: Italian]

- H. Exc. Mons. Charbel Georges MERHI, Bishop of San Charbel en Buenos Aires of the Maronites (ARGENTINA)

The Church united in a Synod receives the assistance of the Holy Spirit to achieve its ecclesial activities.
We are invited to be trustworthy witnesses, according to what is indicated in the Gospel. Our faithful in the East have given witness to exemplary heroism, for 20 centuries, despite the horrible moments in history that made the innocent blood of martyrs flow and allowed a brilliant and authentic Christianity to grow. All this is thanks not only to the effort of the faithful, but rather to the intervention of Divine Providence. A witness to mention here is that of the Maronite community which persevered for 1600 years despite the enormous persecutions it had to endure. Without this Divine Providence it could not achieve forming an important church respected everywhere.
We can also assert this, without any error, for all the other communities present here.
The witness we must bear, on the community and personal level, is the service of charity in its horizontal dimension. This is the evangelical precept of the Lord.
Inasmuch as witnesses of the Gospel, Christians must also live conviviality with intelligence, ability and prudence. I could suggest to the friends who make up the Assembly to follow a general rule to have a conviviality of harmony, between the different communities that live in this region, very much in conflict today. Let us try, Jews, Christians and Muslims, to live without hostility, for we are all sons of Abraham.

[00067-02.03] [IN044] [Original text: French]

- Rev. F. José RODRÍGUEZ CARBALLO, O.F.M., General Minister of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (ITALY)

In the year 1218 St Francis of Assisi departed for the East. In Damietta he met with Sultan Malek al Kamil. In the manner of the crucified, the poor man did not commence with weapons, nor with the desire of conquest, but with the firm will to encounter others, the different and, in that situation, the enemy. Do not go against anybody, but in the midst of, among (cf. 1 Rule 16.5). It is the teaching of “non-violence” and of dialogue. Since then we, the Franciscans, have been continuously present (cf. Paul VI) in the Holy Land, as Custodians of the Holy Places, on behalf of the Catholic Church, and the “living stones”, in schools, parishes and in the numerous social services available to all, without distinction of creed. It is the small/great miracle of this prophetic act of Francis at Damietta, and of the teaching of non-violence and of the “dialogue of life”.
Dialogue-become-encounter has no possible alternative in relations with other Christian communities–ecumenical dialogue; it has no alternative in connection with Judaism and Islam–interreligious dialogue–which requires the recognition of the spiritual and moral qualities that exist in these religions ( cf. NA 2) but, following the methodology proposed by St. Francis in his Rule, also calls for the profession of their faith with life in every moment, without syncretism or relativism, with humility and without initiating disputes, and, when it pleases the Lord, even with the word (cf. 1 Rule 16, 6-7). Dialogue and the “way of non-violence” has no alternative even in relation to the whole peace process in the region.
Faced with the tragic spectacle of so many conflicts in the Holy Land and against thewidespread idea that religions are the basis for them, Christians are called to show the world that religions, lived in authenticity, are to foster understanding between different peoples, in the service of peace, and that shape the hearts of the reconciled and the reconcilors. Reconciliation in the Middle East requires the encounter of religions, and for we as Christians through the meeting/dialogue between the distinct Christian denominations. “Without communion there is no witness” (Benedict XVI).
In the context of the new evangelization I make four proposals:
- To create one unique catechism for all the Catholics in the Middle East.
- To take concrete initiatives for a formation appropriate to the needs of the new evangelisation, of the particular situation of the Middle East, of all the pastoral agents, priests, religous and the laity.
- In continuity with the Pauline Year, to celebrate a year dedicated to St John in all the Churches of the Middle East, if possible with the brothers of the non-Catholic Churches.
- To enhance biblical studies, especially through the three Biblical Institutes already present in Jerusalem: the the Franciscans’ Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, the Dominicans’ School of the Bible and Archeology, and the Jesuits’ Biblical Institute.
Further, I hope that, in the face of the steady decline of Christians in the Holy Land, a word of comfort arises out of 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 interreligious dialogue. It raises, further, an intense and faithful prayer for peace in the Middle East and Jerusalem, and an urgent call to those who hold in their hands the destiny of the peoples of the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, that they may hear the cry of many men and women of good will that cry out for peace and respect for justice.
[00068-02.16] [IN045] [Original text: Italian]


Furthermore, the following Auditor intervened.

- Mr. Harés CHÉHAB, Secretary General of the National Committee for Islamic-Christian Dialogue (LEBANON)

The summary of the intervention is published below:

- Mr. Harés CHÉHAB, Secretary General of the National Committee for Islamic-Christian Dialogue (LEBANON)

It is paradoxical to see that these Christians, which are a constituting part of this East, long before Islam, are presently facing a deadly dilemma, to choose between disappearance and isolation which would bring an end to their historical role and their mission.
The acuity of this problem continues to intensify to take up its whole vastness during the last decades which saw our region gradually empty itself of all its Christians, who had, however, contributed so much to the elaboration of its civilization, and were always the pioneers in the battle for its freedom, its ascent to modernity. This exodus cannot in any way be attributed to purely economic reasons, otherwise the whole region would have been depopulated, and it is obvious that discrimination, persecution in certain areas, fear in others, the lack of freedom, inequality of rights are the basis of this movement.
Any questions relative to the future of Christians in our region lead us to lean towards a certain number of questions that are closely linked, to begin with inter-religious Dialogue, where is it now and what are its horizons, what the relationship between Religion and State is, or in other words, between the spiritual and the temporal, laity, freedom, extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, so many aspects that are equally covered by the media.
Unfortunately, the talks and multiple conferences dealing with Islamic-Christian dialogue whose success depends in large part upon the stability of the presence of active Christians in our region, do not give a primary place that its subjects merit; they are satisfied with putting the accent on the points of convergence, certainly useful, but hiding the problems, or in the best of cases approachin them timidly, have not allowed our cause to progress, it is, rather, to the contrary. The gains earned remain fragile and fade at the first sign of serious difficulties. And this is how the pit was dug deeper and deeper between the tables for the Conference on Dialogue, and the daily life, and where the literature utilized and convergence on certain points do not find a way towards practical application.
This is why the style should give way from now on to another form where the language of complaisance would be banned, to focus especially on truth, no matter how hard it is, but with Love and sincerity, having the concern to sensitize the Muslim in being aware of the reality of our problems, and this, in the mutual interest of all the sides and in our region.
We should intensify the holding of congresses, of meetings, to lead the participants to face these thorny questions. Up until now, and even in the papers prepared by the Muslim experts in view of the Synod, the remarks do not go beyond the classic and traditional viewpoint, in a rapidly changing society, and whose problems relative to its multi-cultural and multi-religious characteristic are so complex. Also, to recall a chronic problem dating back several hundreds of years, therefore well before the birth of the Israeli-Arab conflict, to the support that the West brings to Israel, and in confusing the Christians with the West, reveals the will to hide the real causes of the problem.
But parallel to this, there is a growing action by many Muslims who, true to their faith and religion, do not stop proclaiming that they refuse and prohibit such acts. At the same time, on the level of States, we can see a tolerance that, certainly, has not reached the level we would hope for yet, but that still leaves us with a note of hope for the future.
No matter what, we are determined in Lebanon, Christians and Muslims, to go forward, to consolidate our common life and to face together the threats represented by the extremist currents, fanaticism, integralism that refuses the right to any differences, conscious of the difficulties but decisive in the task of achieving the transmission of our message of life in common.

[00079-02.05] [UD001] [Original text: French]


The list of the members of the Commission for the Message, with the names of the President and Vice President nominated by the Pope, the names of the 8 members elected during the Third Congregation of this morning, with the names of the 2 members nominated by the Pope, is pulished below.

- H. Exc. Mons. Cyrille Salim BUSTROS, S.M.S.P., Archbishop of Newton of the Greek-Melkites (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA)

Vice President
- H. Exc. Mons. William Hanna SHOMALI, Titular Bishop of Lydda, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM)

- H. B. Michel SABBAH, Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem of the Latins (JERUSALEM)
- H. Exc. Mons. Boutros MARAYATI, Archbishop of Alep of the Armenians (SYRIA)
- H. Exc. Mons. Basile Georges CASMOUSSA, Archbishop of Mossul of the Syrians (IRAQ)
- H. Exc. Mons. Louis SAKO, Archbishop of Kerkuk of the Chaldeans, Patriarchal Administrator of Sulaimaniya of the Chaldeans (IRAQ)
- H. Exc. Mons. Ruggero FRANCESCHINI, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Izmir, Apostolic Administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia, President of the Episcopal Conference of Turkey (TURKEY)
- H. Exc. Mons. Elias CHACOUR, Archbishop of Akka, Acre, Ptolemaid of the Greek- Melkites (ISRAEL)
- H. Exc. Mons. Béchara RAÏ, O.M.M., Bishop of Jbeil of the Maronites (LEBANON)
- H. Exc. Mons. Antonios Aziz MINA, Bishop of Guizeh of the Copts (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT)
- H. Exc. Mons. Georges SAAD ABI YOUNES, O.L.M., Bishop of Nuestra Señora de los Mártires del Líbano en México of the Maronites (MEXICO)
- Rev. F. Khalil ALWAN, M.L.M., Secretary General of the "Conseil des Patriarches Catholiques d'Orient" (C.P.C.O.) (LEBANON)




“A look at Christians in the Middle East”, the cultural event promoted by the Custos of the Holy Land, Holy Land Editions, Italian Catholic Action and FIAC, International Forum of Catholic Action, will be open until 24 October . On the occasion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, in the Pius X Room (in Rome, in Via della Conciliazione) a series of meetings, debates, exhibitions and screenings will be held to help study and “explore the themes and the problems of Christians and Catholics in the Middle East”.
At the afternoon meetings the Synod Fathers, writers, journalists and experts will be present. Last Sunday 10 October the event was inaugurated, with the multimedia presentation “Abana - Our Father. A look at Christians in the Middle East”, an exhibition made up of texts, video and photographic reporting. It includes a general section, which deals with the situation of Christians in the Middle East in a complex manner, and three sections of in-depth studies, dedicated to the three areas emblematic of the region: the heart of the Holy Land (Israel and Palestinian Territories), the Arab Peninsula and Iran. A small section of the exhibition has also been prepared in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall, where the Synod works are taking place. More information at

[00081-02.03] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]


The second Press Conference on the Synod works (with simultaneous translations in Italian, English, French, and Arabic) will be held in the John Paul II Hall of the Holy See Press Office on Monday 18 October 2010 (following the Relatio post disceptationem) at about 12:45 pm. Speakers:

- H. Em. Card. Leonardo SANDRI, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (VATICAN CITY), Delegate President
- H. B. Ignace Youssif III YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians (LEBANON), Delegate President
- H. Em. Card. John Patrick FOLEY, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (VATICAN CITY), President of the Commission for Information
- Rev. F. Federico LOMBARDI, S.I., Director of the Holy See Press Office (VATICAN CITY), Ex-officio Secretary of the Commission for Information

The third Press Conference on the Synod works (with simultaneous translations in Italian, English, French, and Arabic) will be held in the John Paul II Hall of the Holy See Press office on Saturday 23 October 2010 (following the Nuntius and the Elenchus finalis propositionum) at about 12:45 pm. Speakers:

- H. B. Antonios NAGUIB, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT), Relator General
- H. Exc. Mons. Joseph SOUEIF, Archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites (CYPRUS), Special Secretary
- H. Exc. Mons. Cyrille Salim BUSTROS, S.M.S.P., Archbishop of Newton of the Greek-Melkites (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA), President of the Commission for the Message
- Rev. F. Federico LOMBARDI, S.I., Director of the Holy See Press Office (VATICAN CITY), Ex-Officio Secretary of the Commission for Information

For the access permit, audio-visual operators (cameramen and technicians) and photoreporters are requested to apply to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

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