BY CARDINAL IGNACE MOUSSA I DAOUD
Washington D.C. 15 November 2005
It is a great honour and a real joy for me to have the opportunity of greeting such a distinguished Assembly and to be able to address these brief and humble words to you.
I am fully aware that I have before me the eminent heads of the Catholic Churches of the United States of America, many of whom I have already had the happy opportunity to meet on various occasions, at the Vatican or here in the States, and others have honoured me by a personal visit to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. I offer everyone present my deep respect and best wishes.
Because of the vitality, dynamism, influence and caliber that distinguishes her, the Catholic Church in the United States has the features that our Holy Father Benedict XVI pointed out in the Homily he addressed to the world on the day he began his Petrine service: "...the Church is alive.... And the Church is young" (Homily at Holy Mass for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, St Peter's Square, 24 April 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 27 April, p. 8).
Yes, because the Church in the United States appears firmly anchored to her Lord, to the Risen Christ, to the One who is ever alive and ever young. He is the Pastor who guides her safely through the difficulties of the present time. She is a Church which shares with the Universal Church the effort of the confrontation with modernity, its temptations and its opportunities. She is a Church which is not afraid of dialogue with the contemporary world, for she is always in dialogue with the Lord in obedience to his Word.
Among the members of this distinguished Assembly, I am happy and moved to see many faces of Pastors of Oriental Churches, who are fully entitled to take part in the work of the Bishops' Conference.
I can say without hesitation that the Catholic Church of the United States has been one of the most generous in recognizing their rights to care for their own faithful and to set up suitable ecclesial structures for the condition of the Diaspora.
Indeed, with a great heart and full openness, the Catholic Church of the United States has properly understood that the Universal Church, as the great Pope John Paul II described so well, "must breathe with both her lungs". And she seems convinced that the Oriental Churches are not merely an embellishment, appendix or corollary added to the Universal Church as an ornament. They are an integral part, an essential element of the constitution of the Church: they are her second lung.
We also find an echo of this conviction in the memorable words of the late Pontiff contained in his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen: "The words of the West need the words of the East, so that God's Word may ever more clearly reveal its unfathomable riches" (n. 28).
The Catholic Eastern Churches have not forgotten the mandate they received from the Second Vatican Council, whose brightness after 40 years, thanks be to God, has lost none of its luster, when it pointed them out as a bridge to ecumenical dialogue. And they know that on every continent they must carry out their proper role so that the Church's words on the mystery of God and of the human being may be credible. Indeed, "Christ cries out, but man finds it hard to hear his voice, because we fail to speak with one accord" (ibid.).
The Church in the United States has not forgotten the countries of origin of the Oriental Churches in which Christians face alarming situations of terrorism, instability and financial crises. For some time now she has been coming to their aid, setting up organizations that witness concretely to her charity, such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, one of the most important relief agencies, as well as the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, born out of respect for Pope Pius XII's inspiration.
May these praiseworthy institutions find here an official expression of our gratitude and the assurance of fervent prayers for all their generous benefactors.
Most Reverend President,
I am fully aware that the Catholic Church in the United States is well integrated in the great and noble American Nation. She shares its hopes, its aspirations and all its trials and hardships.
The involvement of the American People in all the problems of the contemporary world, in the fight against terrorism, in the establishment of democracy and in the restoration of peace is a cause of national pride. It is impossible not to recognize its special place in the symphony of nations.
I would like to assure you of my prayers and support of the service that the Church offers to American society with a view to its role at the international level, so that it may always be for the good of all humanity.
May I conclude with a reference to the immediate reason for my visit to the United States? I would like to mention the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada and the appointment of its first Bishop, Ephrem Joseph Younan, which occurs on 18 November .
I want to testify to this Assembly that in 10 years the Eparchy laid down firm roots, has been integrated into the Country and has every hope of a promising growth and future.
God bless you! And God Bless America!