The Catholic Church in the Middle East:
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26 - 24.10.2010
- PAPAL CHAPEL PRESIDED OVER BY THE HOLY FATHER FOR THE CONCLUSION OF THE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR THE MIDDLE EAST OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
- ANGELUS DOMINI
During the course of the convivium in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall, in the Vatican, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, H.E.R. Mons. Nikola Eterović, presented the Pope with the principal data regarding the works in which 173 Synodal Fathers took part . There were 14 General Congregations and 6 meetings of the Working Groups. There were 10 meditations and homilies. There were 125 interventions plus 5 that were handed in in writing. There were a further 12 interventions by Fraternal delegates and 12 reports were presented. In addition, there were 111 free interventions in the presence of the Pope. The president delegate H.B. Ignace Youssif III Younan, thanked the Pontiff for the opportunity offered to the Churches of the Middle East to have their voice heard, ensuring that the pastors of the Eastern Churches will return to their lands to proclaim, without fear, the Gospel in charity and truth, and to live it every day. The Greek-Melchite Patriarch H.B. Gregorius III Laham gave a present of a splendid Eastern liturgical vestment to the Holy Father. The Pope said that the best gift of the Synodal Assembly is the communion in the diversity of the Eastern Churches, a communion that becomes witness:
according to a beautiful tradition established by Pope John Paul II, the Synods end with a lunch, a convivial act that also sits well in the climate of this Synod that speaks of communion: non only did it speak of it, but it led us to create communion.
This for me is the time to say thank you. Thank you to the Secretary General of the Synod and his staff, who prepared and are still preparing the follow-up to the work. Thank you to the Presidents Delegate, thank you, above all, to the Relater and the Deputy Secretary, whose work was incredible. Thank you! I too was once relater at the Synod on the family and I have some idea of the work you have undertaken. Thank you also to all the Fathers who presented the voice of the Church in the East, to the Auditors, to the Fraternal Delegates, to everyone!
Communion and witness. In this moment we thank the Lord for the communion he gave us and continues to give us. We have seen the wealth and the diversity of this communion. You are Churches with different rites, who form, all the same, with all the other rites, the single Catholic Church. It is beautiful to see this true Catholicity, that is so rich in diversity, so rich in possibilities, of different cultures; and, yet, this is truly the way in which grows the polyphony of a single faith, of a real communion of hearts, that only the Lord can grant. For this experience of communion we thank the Lord, I thank all of you. It seems to me that this is the most important gift of the Synod that we have lived and realized: the communion that links us all and that is in itself witness.
Communion. Catholic, Christian communion is an open communion, one of dialogue. Thus we were in permanent dialogue as well, internally and externally, with the Orthodox brothers, with the other Ecclesial communities. And we felt that it is truly in this that we are united – even if there are exterior divisions: we felt the deep communion in the Lord, in the gift of his Word, of his life, and we hope that the Lord will guide us to move on in this profound communion.
We are united with the Lord and so – we can say – we have been “found” by the truth. And this truth does not close, if does not impose borders, but it opens. For this reason we are also in frank and open dialogue with our Muslim brothers and our Jewish brothers, all of whom together are responsible for the gift of peace, in a real way for the gift of peace in that part of the earth that is blessed by the Lord, the cradle of Christianity and also of the other two religions. We want to continue on this journey with strength, tenderness and humility, and with the courage of the truth which is love and which opens up in love.
I said that we are ending this Synod with a meal. But the real conclusion tomorrow is the living together with the Lord, the celebration of the Eucharistic. The Eucharistic, in reality, is not a conclusion but an opening. The Lord walks with us, he is with us, the Lord sets us on our way. And thus, in this sense, we are in Synod, that is, a walk that continues even once we have dispersed: we are Synod, in a shared journey. Let us pray to the Lord to help us. And thank you to all of you!
PAPAL CHAPEL PRESIDED OVER BY THE HOLY FATHER FOR THE CONCLUSION OF THE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR THE MIDDLE EAST OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
- HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER
At 9.30 this morning, 24 October 2010, XXX Sunday in ordinary time, in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the Holy Father Benedict XVI presided at the Solemn Concelebration of the Eucharist with the Synodal Fathers, for the conclusion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was celebrated in the Synod Hall of the Vatican from 10 October 2010, on the 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 entrance into the Basilica began at 9.15 with the singing Iubilate Deo. The Concelebrants, led by the Masters of Ceremony took their places around the Altar of Confession. Then Their Eminences and the Components of the Presidency of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops joined the Holy Father in the entrance procession.
Concelebrating with the Pope were 177 Synod Fathers (19 Cardinals, 9 Patriarchs, 72 Archbishops, 67 Bishops and 10 Priests) and 69 Collaborators.
The Presidents Delegate H. B. Card. Nasrallah Pierre SFEIR, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bishop of Joubbé, Sarba and Jounieh of the Maronites (LEBANON), ad honorem, H. B. Card. Emmanuel III DELLY, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (IRAQ) , ad honorem,
H. Em. Card. Leonardo SANDRI, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (VATICAN CITY), H. B. Ignace Youssif III YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians (LEBANON); General Relator H. B. Antonios NAGUIB, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts (ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT);General Secretary H. Exc. Mons. Nikola ETEROVIĆ, Titular Archbishop of Cibalae (VATICAN CITY); Special Secretary H. Exc. Mons. Joseph SOUEIF, Archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites (CYPRUS) all joined at the Altar for the Eucharistic Prayer.
The first reading was in French, the responsorial Psalm in Latin and the second reading in English. The Gospel was proclaimed in Latin and in Greek. The Prayer of the Faithful was in Arabic, English, Farsi, Turkish, Hebrew. The songs “Maior est caritas”, in Latin, and the“Cherubic Hymn”, in Greek, accompanied the Offertory; “Bonus Pastor”, in Latin, and “Let Us Give Praise”, in Arabic, accompanied Communion. At the end of the celebration, the Marian antiphon “Ave Regina Caelorum” was sung.
During the Sacred Rite, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced the following homily:
HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER
Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear brothers and sisters,
Two weeks on from the opening Celebration, we are gathered once again on the Lord’s day, at the Altar of the Confession in St. Peter’s Basilica, to conclude the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. In our hearts is a deep gratitude towards God who has afforded us this truly extraordinary experience, not just for us, but for the good of the Church, for the People of God who live in the lands between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. As Bishop of Rome, I would like to pass on this gratitude to you, Venerable Synod Fathers: Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops. I wish to especially thank the Secretary General, the four Presidents Delegate, the Relator General, the Special Secretary and all the collaborators, who have worked tirelessly in these days. This morning we left the Synod Hall and came to “the temple to pray”: in this, we are touched directly by the parable of the pharisee and the publican, told by Jesus and recounted by the evangelist St Luke (cf. 18:9-14). We too may be tempted, like the pharisee, to tell God of our merits, perhaps thinking of our work during these days. However, to rise up to Heaven, prayer must emanate from a poor, humble heart. And therefore we too, at the conclusion of this ecclesial event, wish to first and foremost give thanks to God, not for our merits, but for the gift that He has given us. We recognize ourselves as small and in need of salvation, of mercy; we recognize all that comes from Him and that only with his Grace we may realize what the Holy Spirit told us. Only in this manner may we “return home” truly enriched, made more just and more able to walk in the path of the Lord.
The First Reading and the responsorial Psalm stress the theme of prayer, emphasizing that it is much more powerful to God’s heart when those who pray are in a condition of need and are afflicted. “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds” affirms Ecclesiasticus (35:21); and the Psalmist adds: “Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted, he helps those whose spirit is crushed” (34:18). Our thoughts go to our numerous brothers and sisters who live in the region of the Middle East and who find themselves in trying situations, at times very burdensome, both for the material poverty and for the discouragement, the state of tension and at times of fear. Today the Word of God also offers us a light of consoling hope, there where He presents prayer, personified, that “until he has eliminated the hordes of the arrogant and broken the sceptres of the wicked, until he has repaid all people as their deeds deserve and human actions as their intentions merit” (Ecc 35:21-22). This link too, between prayer and justice makes us think of many situations in the world, particularly in the Middle East. The cry of the poor and of the oppressed finds an immediate echo in God, who desires to intervene to open up a way out, to restore a future of freedom, a horizon of hope.
This faith in God who is near, who frees his friends, is what the Apostle Paul witnesses to in today’s epistle, in the Second Letter to Timothy. Realizing that the end of his earthly life was near, Paul makes an assessment: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). For each one of us, dear brothers in the episcopacy, this is a model to imitate: May Divine Goodness allow us to make a similar judgment of ourselves! St Paul continues, “the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear” (2 Tm 4:17). It is a word which resounds with particular strength on this Sunday in which we celebrate World Mission Day! Communion with Jesus crucified and risen, witness of his love. The Apostle’s experience is a model for every Christian, especially for us Shepherds. We have shared a powerful moment of ecclesial communion. We now leave each other so that each may return to his own mission, but we know that we remain united, we remain in his love.
The Synodal Assembly which concludes today has always kept in mind the icon of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). It is a reality that we experienced in these past days, in which we have shared the joys and the pains, the concerns and the hopes of Christians in the Middle East. We experienced the unity of the Church in the variety of Churches present in that region. Led by the Holy Spirit, we became “united, heart and soul” in faith, in hope, and in charity, most of all during Eucharistic celebrations, source and summit of ecclesial communion, and in the Liturgy of the Hours as well, celebrated every morning according to one of the seven Catholic rites of the Middle East. We have thus enhanced the liturgical, spiritual and theological wealth of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as of the Latin Church. It involved an exchange of precious gifts, from which all the Synodal Fathers benefitted. It is hoped that this positive experience repeats itself in the respective communities of the Middle East, encouraging the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations of other Catholic rites, thus opening themselves to the dimensions of the Universal Church.
Common prayer helped us to face the challenges of the Catholic Church in the Middle East as well. One of these is communion within each sui iuris Church, as well as in the relationships between the various Catholic Churches of different traditions. As today’s Gospel reminded us (cf Lk 18:9-14), we need humility, in order to recognize our limitations, our errors and omissions, in order to be able to truly be “united, heart and soul”. A fuller communion within the Catholic Church favors ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities as well. The Catholic Church reiterated in this Synodal meeting its deep conviction to pursuing such dialogue as well, so that the prayer of the Lord Jesus might be completely fulfilled: “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21).
The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular potency in the places in which, by Divine Providence, it was written, and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence. From a purified heart, in peace with God and neighbor, may intentions and initiatives for peace at local, national, and international levels be born. In these actions, to whose accomplishment the whole international community is called, Christians as full-fledged citizens can and must do their part with the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation to the benefit of all society.
Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life of dignity for human beings and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” we are told in the Psalm (122:6). We pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for peace in the Middle East, undertaking to try to ensure that this gift of God to men of goodwill should spread through the whole world.
Another contribution that Christians can bring to society is the promotion of an authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom becomes essential to guarantee to all the members of the various religious communities the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the Synodal Fathers. During the work of the Synod what was often underlined was the need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church. What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots. The recent creation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization also responds to this profound need. For this reason, after having consulted the episcopacy of the whole world and after having listened to the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: “Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam - The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”.
Dear brothers and sisters of the Middle East! May the experience of these days assure you that you are never alone, that you are always accompanied by the Holy See and the whole Church, which, having been born in Jerusalem, spread through the Middle East and then the rest of the world. We entrust the results of the Special Assembly for the Middle East, as well as the preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace. Amen.
[00210-02.02] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]
At the conclusion of the solemn Eucharistic Concelebration in St. Peter’s Basilica, before the Recital of the Angelus Domini in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father said:
Dear brothers and sisters!
With the solemn Celebration this morning in the Vatican Basilica, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme, "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness" came to an end. Furthermore this Sunday is World Missionary Day which has as its motto: "The construction of the ecclesial communion is the key to the mission". The similarity between the themes of these two ecclesial events is striking. Both invite us to look at the Church as a mystery of communion that, by its nature, is destined to the whole man and to all men. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI affirmed: "The Church exists to evangelize, that is to say, to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, to perpetuate the sacrifice of Christ in the Holy Mass which is the memorial of his death and of his glorious Resurrection" (Apostolic Exhortation. Evangelii nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, 14: AAS 68, , p. 13). For this reason, the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in 2012, will be dedicated to the theme of "The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith". In every time and in every place - today in the Middle East as well – the Church is present and works to welcome every man and offer him the fullness of life in Christ. As the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini wrote: "The reality "Church" implies the whole fullness of the Christian being that develops throughout history, insofar as this embraces the fullness of the human that is in a relationship with God” (Formazione liturgica, Brescia 2008, 106-107).
Dear friends, in today’s Liturgy we read the testimony of Saint Paul regarding the final crown the Lord will give “to all those who have longed for his Appearing” (2 Tm 4:8). This is not an idle or solitary wait, on the contrary! The Apostle lived in communion with the risen Christ “so that the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear” (2 Tm 4:17). The missionary task is not to revolutionize the world, but to transfigure it, drawing the strength from Jesus Christ who "calls us to the table of his Word and the Eucharist, to enjoy the gift of his Presence, be educated at his school and always live more knowingly united to him, Master and Lord” (Message for the 84th World Missionary Day). The Christians of today as well – as it says in the Letter to Diognetus - "show how marvelous is … their extraordinary associated life. Their existence is on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but they surpass the laws in their own lives … They are put to death and yet they are endued with life. Doing good, they are … punished and increase more and more daily ". (V, 18.104.22.168; VI, 9 [SC 33], Paris 1951, 62-66).
To the Virgin Mary, who received from the Crucified Jesus the new mission of being Mother to all those who want to believe in Him and follow Him, we entrust the Christian communities of the Middle East and all the missionaries of the Gospel.
After the Recital of the Angelus Domini, the Pope said:
[In French] Today we close the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. I ask you to pray for all the peoples of that region, asking the Lord to create throughout the world men and women of peace and reconciliation.
[In English] We give thanks to God for the blessings received during the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which concluded this morning in St. Peter's Basilica.
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