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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


18 - 18.10.2010






During the Eleventh General Congregation, the following Auditors intervened:

- Rev. Sister Clauda Achaya NADDAF, R.B.P., Superior of the Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (SYRIA)
- Rev. Sister Daniella HARROUK, Superior General of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (LEBANON)
- Rev. Georges NORADOUNGUIAN, Rector, Armenian College, Rome (ITALY)
- Mrs. Huda MUSHER, Director, "Caritas" (JORDAN)
- Mr. Paul SAGHBINI, Hospitalier of the Lebanese Association of the Knights of Malta (LEBANON)
- Rev. Raymond Leslie O'TOOLE, S.F.M., Assistant Secretary General, "Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences" (F.A.B.C.) (HONG KONG)
- Rev. Sister Marie-Antoinette SAADÉ, Member of the Congregation of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family; Responsible for training and apprenticeship (LEBANON)
- Mr. Harald SUERMANN, Director, Middle East Division, "MISSIO" (GERMANY)

The summaries of the interventions of the Auditors are published below:

- Rev. Sister Clauda Achaya NADDAF, R.B.P., Superior of the Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (SYRIA)

Half of the population of the earth are women. Almost half of these women are the victims of violence and exploitation, and live in extreme poverty, their rights are scorned. Our Mother Church is mother following in the example of Mary. Could she take these concerns away from women? In the working instrument, there is no mention of problems concerning women, in a Synod for the Middle East where women are second class.I would like the Synod to provide propositions that could help in the implementation of the international conventions in favor of women in Arab countries.
The religious women in Syria take on important tasks in the social, educational and pastoral domains, in other places they are marginalized at the level of dioceses and parishes.
We suggest:
- Actively engaging religious women in diocesan and parish councils.
- Supporting them in their pastoral activities.
- Taking advantage of their competence in the catechetical domain, and contributing to their permanent formation on the pastoral, spiritual and technical level: formation sessions, recycling...
- Creating a place for the pastoral care of vocations, where the clergy and religious persons invest in the youth movements.

[00161-02.04] [UD021] [Original text: French]

- Rev. Sister Daniella HARROUK, Superior General of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (LEBANON)

- An act of thanks.
- A cry of alarm.
- A proposition.
Act of thanks to the Lord for the personal choice with which you have gratified me, Holy Father.
Well, in this immense ocean of men where I have been navigating for the past 5 days, I am rejoicing at finally being able to make my voice heard, in the name of the four Religious Congregations coming from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, with 43 zealous companions from Jordan and the Holy Land, 7 women. What we would call chance, said Bernanos, is perhaps the logic of God - Alfred de Musset also said. “Beat your heart, that is where genius is”. After this literary flight I launch my cry of alarm: schools in the Middle East are threatened, they are in danger especially in our countries. We have listened at great length to you and we have followed your interventions with interest. Now, listen to our anguished cry: the fate of 192,000 students in Lebanon’s Catholic schools is endangered.
Should the Church lose her role of Mother and Teacher, in the educational institutions, when could she recuperate or practice her mission?
What kind of end profile could we have in the Middle East for a youth deprived of kerygma in a society where values are boiling and religious freedom is contested, and one preys on fanaticism? Where in Lebanon would the plural and convivial and multi-confessional message be?
Save education and more precisely the schools subsidized by the State, the States that do not honor their commitments despite our courageous and repeated claims.
In line with Communion, sharing and witness, let us found a common treasury or more exactly a mutual for all the Middle Eastern schools, where Your Holiness, Your Beatitudes and you beloved Bishops, superiors general would give your contribution, which I hope would be substantial, generous and regular to ensure a minimum income to families and to the students in the surrounding areas, a teaching of quality to all in equality and dignity.
Thus, the universal Church and those of the Middle East would contribute to the promotion of man and all men through an educational cooperation with good management and amazing transparency.

[00162-02.02] [UD022] [Original text: French]

- Rev. Georges NORADOUNGUIAN, Rector, Armenian College, Rome (ITALY)

If the Church is the assembly of the faithful and we are only clerics here, then we are not a Church but we are the leaders of our Churches.
With our priestly ordination or our episcopal consecration we received a state of grace; but unfortunately we have lost the grace of being in direct contact with our faithful.
In fact if we take a look at the themes dealt with it is immediately apparent that these are the concerns of us hierarchs. There are difficulties in establishing relationships among us. Difficulties in establishing relationships with the conditions of the countries we live in.
I have serious doubts about the fact that the problems we are dealing with are problems that involve our youth. I fear that what we are dealing with is a simple interpretation of what our faithful are facing or living and instead we are not dealing with the real causes.
For a solution we do not need interpretations or justifications but rather a serious diagnosis of the situation and research in its cause.
I believe it is very important to let our lay people speak and particularly our young people because they are the first to be interested in the theme and in our debates.
Their word has many advantages.
1. They are often denied the advantages reserved to us men of religion and to those who rule our countries, so young people have more courage in speaking of their difficulties and are more outspoken.
2. Not having the material benefits/social security that we have as clergy, young people have a more objective and realistic vision of the situation of their faith and the difficulties of their Churches.
3. Having no state privileges they are less afraid of “secret agents” of a country and they speak more courageously than us about the real daily challenges.

[00163-02.02] [UD023] [Original text: Italian]

- Mrs. Huda MUSHER, Director, "Caritas" (JORDAN)

I can participate only as a simple grandmother, speaking out frankly.
What we expect from the Synod is that we go beyond talking about the past and the reality of the situation of Christians in the East to reach a clear vision and program on how to confront the challenges of this reality and overcome them.
Let us start by recognizing the peculiarity of the Eastern Christian identity and the importance of defining it. In fact, the Eastern Christian belongs to the nationality of his country and has contributed and still contributes to the construction of Arab and Islamic civilization, and he is also the successor to the first Christians in these lands.
The peculiarity of the Eastern Christian demands the start of new inter-religious dialogue between the children of the same people, before or at the same time as the dialogue between those who guide its thought, until the Christian’s ignorance about his Muslim brother’s religion vanishes along with the Muslim’s about his Christian brother’s.
The Eastern Christian is a lay person who by “lay” does not mean moving away from religion, but a rejection of a state based on religion, whether it is Christian, Muslim or Jewish.
The peculiarity of the Eastern Christian also demands that Christians should celebrate their feasts together as happens in Jordan where Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Western calender and Easter according to the Eastern calender, and this means that Christians share their celebrations and their sufferings. In this way they become a single heart and a solid unity. I have the strong impression that the happiness of Christ Our Lord will be great if all Christians were to celebrate their feasts together.
Finally the Eastern Christian perceives himself as the best suited to deal with the West, because he takes a position starting from his convictions of defending the causes of his nation and he assumes the responsibility of bringing the concept of moderate Islam to the whole world. And he sees no contradiction in this with his own religion and faith. In Jordan the Christian abides by the “Amman Letter” of 2003 as the basis of the concept of moderate Islam.

[00164-02.03] [UD024] [Original text: Arabic]

- Mr. Paul SAGHBINI, Hospitalier of the Lebanese Association of the Knights of Malta (LEBANON)

The future of Christians in our part of the world is conditioned by political and social factors, in which religion can have a direct influence. During the past few years, these factors led to a massive emigration resulting in demoralized Christian communities who were weary of all the nice words that were said about them.
On the political level and taking a general look at the region, it is clear that Christians are neglected for a reason. For them tom become, they need to be the “only” actors of their history, forgetting external assistance and counting only on their faith, their Church, the Vatican and the Universal Church.
In the medium term, one condition that could help reassure in their deep anguish and stop the hemorrhaging would be to reinforce in the chapter on “human rights” the “right to be different”. This should allow international authorities to indicate and sanction appropriately the discrimination they are guilty of, those countries that break the rules (the sanctions being of the same caliber as those applied to nuclear technology, for example). One should similarly provide clear support to those countries where minorities are left free whatever the political tendency of the country.
In waiting, Christians must take on to the best of their abilities their existential problems. In the Middle Eastern environments, it would be advisable to reinforce and develop dialogue (no matter the form) with moderate Muslims of the social fabric as well as with the leaders.
This dialogue could be in the form which Mgr. Bader (Moussa Abdallah-Algeria) has judiciously described as and which he called “daily dialogue” without provocation and in accentuating all of the common or unifying elements of action.
The successful experience which the Order of Malta in Lebanon with the Islamic authorities resulted in a dialogue of this kind. In particular I mention our common operations with “Dar el Fatwa” for the Sunnite community and (for over twenty years) the “Fondation de l’ Imam el Sadr” for the Shiite community. This is not counting the fifty percent of Muslims treated in our medical-social centers managed in community bythe sisters belonging to Catholic religious congregations and which provide more than 160,000 medical interventions per year.

[00165-02.05] [UD025] [Original text: French]

- Rev. Raymond Leslie O'TOOLE, S.F.M., Assistant Secretary General, "Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences" (F.A.B.C.) (HONG KONG)

The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences comprises regions that include East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. The Middle East is sometimes referred to as West Asia as it is in the Introduction of Pope John Paul II’s Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia. “Because Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again in the Holy Land that small portion of Western Asia became a land of promise and hope for all mankind”
I would like to address number 55-56 of the Intrumentum Laboris which refers to some responses from the Lineamenta. These responses suggest periodically calling (perhaps every five years) an assembly of the entire episcopate of the Middle East. In the Relatio ante Disceptationem this is worded “Hopefully a regional assembly can be established which gathers the episcopate of the Middle East at intervals determined by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East,”
I would like to underline the vital importance of such assemblies of the entire episcopate for purposes of unity and diversity and communio in general
Permit me to give a living example of communio in practice. In India we have three Rites. The Syro-Malankara, Syro-Malabar and Latin Rite. Every two years the three Rites meet in what is called the General Body assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. In the 1990s John Paul II of happy memory created the Episcopal Synods of Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar and the Latin Episcopal Conference. Before that there was only one Episcopal Conference, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. But the late Holy Father, in all wisdom, while creating the 2 new Oriental Synods and the Latin Rite Conference insisted on maintaining the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India as a structure whereby all three rites would meet regularly. An Episcopal Conference which is non-canonical in nature but provides a structure for the Unity of the Episcopate especially because of its diversity. And a forum for discussion of all the pastoral challenges that present themselves.
In Central Asia we have another example of Unity in Diversity and Communio - an assembly of the Episcopate and Ordinaries that includes a Holy See Delegate for the Oriental Catholics of Central Asia. He is a priest Fr. Vasyl Hovera who resides in Karaganda, Kazakhstan but is responsible for the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics in Central Asia. He is part of Conference of Bishops of Kazakhstan and attends all the assemblies of the Bishops and Ordinaries of Central Asia which meets every year. I have attended two of these meetings one in Bishkek I Kyrgyzstan and the other in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
I highlight these two examples of how important it is for the Bishops of all the Rites to meet regularly. I suggest for the Middle East that it become a permanent structure where by the entire episcopate meets every two years and that be a strong recommendation from this Special Synod to the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East.
Finally I would like to say that as a simple secretary for the Asian Bishops, I strongly recommend that our secretariats for the whole of Asia and the Middle East keep in close contact for the purpose of forging closer ties because many of our pastoral challenges as Churches in the Middle East and the whole of Asia are quite similar based on our being small flocks in the midst of countries where other religions are the vast majority. And quite often it is the secretariats that make things happen.

[00185-02.02] [UD026] [Original text: English]

- Rev. Sister Marie-Antoinette SAADÉ, Member of the Congregation of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family; Responsible for training and apprenticeship (LEBANON)

Given the scale and diversity of our multiple problems, I would like to reiterate a practical proposal on the pastoral family, which already exists, as, in my opinion, it is possible and it is in our means whereas many others are not: Working together as Churches of the Middle East on what consists of a social fabric that is disintegrating: Family, primary and fundamental cell of the domestic Church and social fabric . We observe today an increase in dislocated couples, families torn apart and the ecclesiastic courts testify to this.
It is true that the question of the family occupies and worries the Church and yet we often feel helpless in the face of such suffering. If we work together as churches, to take care of the family in all its dimensions, it seems to me that we could prevent much misery in our societies. Thinking together about a pastoral family, a simple pastoral, and intelligent and effective contribution towards all the other pastorals: that of vocations, the young, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the sacraments, of Christian life itself.
In order to recover the disintegrating families, why not create together a shelter for couples with staff and pastoral workers skilled in knowing how to listen to couples in difficulty; staff who offer presence, listening, advice and support before they have to come to court. Because prevention is better than cure.To offer some advice to parents, sometimes basic, but so needed, about the education of their children as the challenges they face are so huge that they feel powerless so they become resigned and therefore damage can only be multiplied.
Encouraging young people to enter wider Christian movements, whether sporting, cultural or spiritual, as long as we have prepared capable and prudent educators. This is the best prevention against the temptations of drugs and other harmful addictions.
Caring for the awakening of faith in the family as the privileged place where the child learns to recognize their identity and grow by developing their talents and abilities, human and divine. Because faith is acquired the mother's lap. This is where the first catechesis is the most effective and most lasting.
Give the woman her true and rightful place. Should the Church not be at the leading edge in this area, given the practices in some Muslim communities where women are beaten, imprisoned, violated, abused, without rights, treated as domestic slaves? This indeed would be true witness. Repairing social fabric together, by promoting the human person at the heart of the family and starting from there, seems to me to be urgent and effective pastoral care.

[00186-02.05] [UD027] [Original text: French]

- Mr. Harald SUERMANN, Director, Middle East Division, "MISSIO" (GERMANY)

Lay movements have a very important role because they bear witness to Christ and God’s Goodness in society with their actions and prayers. They do this in a direct way that priests cannot, because they are in contact with those who are distanced from the Church. Their work is missionary. They are the ones that can influence the different groups of society as well as the government of a country. By their self-same commitment they transform institutions in the long run. Through their commitment they can give reasons for remaining to other persons who are thinking of emigrating.
Sometimes Muslims rally around these movements, because they wish to share the same diaconal values and sometimes even spiritual values. The movements are missionary towards Muslims for the building of a just common society.Often these movements - new or old, movements for renewal or not - are way ahead in relationship to the hierarchy in the field of ecumenism. They are trans-confessional, they are not non-confessional. Together they live the common Christian values. They await spiritual direction from the priests and bishops, but no confessional recuperation.
Sometimes the bishops complain that the movements do not respect culture and traditions. But this is very important. The alternative is not traditional, inculturated and confessional or modern, transconfessional and without attachments to local traditions. The goal should be to go out of the treasure of traditions together, which allows building creatively and together a just and Christian future. This presupposes a new ecumenical spirit.
It could prove useful to train a group of priests and bishops from the different Churches and members of the movements to search this treasure together for useful traditions.

[00195-02.03] [UD128] [Original text: French]


On 19 October on the occasion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, Roma Capitale is promoting two major international events in collaboration with the Synod of Bishops, Vatican Radio, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Center of Communion and Liberation. On the morning of 19 October starting at 10 a.m. in the Protomoteca Hall at the Campidoglio, a conference will be held on “Christian Witness at the Service of Peace”; the following will participate: Gianni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome, Franco Frattini, Italian Foreign Minister, H. Ex. Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops,Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Radio and CTV, Don Juliàn Carròn, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., Custodian of the Holy Land. The coordinator will be Roberto Fontolan, Director of the International Center of Communion and Liberation.
Members of the Presidency, the Synodal Fathers and the other participants at the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops have been invited to the conference.

In the evening, at 9:00 p.m. at the Auditorium della Conciliazione of Rome, the international concert "Effata, Artists in Dialogue for the Middle East" will take place, promoted by Roma Capitale in collaboration with Hope and Radio Vaticana. As can be read in the official presentation of the event, "It is significant that it should be from Rome, the Eternal City by universal vocation, that the artists ‘in dialogue for the Middle East’, who come from the five continents, should want to renew in the hearts of all men and women of good will the invitation that gives the evening its title: do not close yourself up in yourself, but ‘Effata, open up!’"

[00197-02.03] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]

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