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Greetings of His Excellency Most Rev. Nikola Eterović
General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops

Beirut, 16 September 2012


You are the Christ” (Mk 8:29). Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, St. Peter the Apostle professes the Messiahship of Christ at Cesarea Philippi, a place not very far from Lebanon, “a biblical country” referred to in Sacred Scripture and praised, in a particular way, for its cedars, planted by the Lord (cf. Ps 104:16). Here everything speaks to us of Almighty God: the earth, the heavens, the vegetation, the rivers and the deserts. Here also the topography and the geographical names make us remember that we are in the Holy Land, where God manifested his glory, revealing in Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, the mystery hidden for all ages (cf. Col 1:26). Here are, however, primarily believers in the One God and Author of all things, who can praise God in freedom and gratitude, fully aware that they have been created by him. In these days, united to this choir of praise, is the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, 264th Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, who continues the mission entrusted by the Lord Jesus to St. Peter the Apostle and in the name of the Twelve and of everyone in the Church proclaims: “You are the Christ”. He made this profession of faith during the solemn Eucharistic celebration in Beirut Waterfront City Center, during his Fourth Apostolic Visit to the Holy Land, preceded by his trips to Turkey (2006), Jordan, Jerusalem, Israel and the Palestinian Territories (2009) and Cyprus (2010).

Most Holy Father, a heartfelt thank you for having chosen this generous and welcoming Country, to make public the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, the fruit of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. The work of the Synod itself and the document which Your Holiness signed last Friday at Harissa are well characterized by the biblical icon of the synodal assembly: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). Ecclesia in Medio Oriente emphasizes that the Christian life lived in unity and communion is the most eloquent witness which Christians can offer the Middle East on the level of persons, families and society.

Ecclesial communion gives rise to the desire of a greater involvement in ecumenical dialogue with the Churches and Christian ecclesial communities which are present in the Middle East. It then leads, in a particular manner, to the Jews with whom Christians share a great part of the sacred books, which, in the complex biblical economy, Christians call the “Old Testament”. The desire for dialogue also includes those belonging to non-Christian religions, above all Muslims, who are a majority in a good part of the Countries of the Middle East. Christians are not asking for privileges but wish to be citizens with equal rights and duties in relation to the other inhabitants of their respective states and are prepared to make their contribution in building a better world, which is more peaceful and just. Undoubtedly, the entire Catholic Church in this region will become engaged in implementing Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to give evangelization a more dynamic character – also devoting herself to the new evangelization – and to sustain human promotion, primarily in the areas of education and healthcare.

Most Holy Father, as General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, I have the honour of inviting Your Holiness to present the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to the Patriarchs, the Heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, to the Latin Patriarch who is also the President of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Region (C.E.L.R.A.), to the representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Iran and Turkey and also to some members of the People of God which is on pilgrimage in this blessed land of Lebanon. We implore God’s Blessing on our efforts so that the implementation of such an important document might bear abundant fruit for all inhabitants of the Middle East.