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Address of His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola ETEROVIĆ
General Secretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops

Nicosia, 6 June 2010


Most Holy Father,

The celebration of these sacred mysteries of the Eucharist on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, makes present, in an admirable way, the miracle of unity and ecclesial communion realized by the Lord. Indeed, "all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces" (Lk 9:17). This important liturgical celebration sheds light on the event which Your Holiness is about to begin. At the conclusion of this inspirational celebration of the Eucharist, in this Eleftheria Sports Arena of Nicosia, you will present the Instrumentum laboris to representatives from the Catholic episcopate of the Middle East. With this magnanimous gesture, Your Holiness will begin, in ideal fashion, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to take place in Rome from 10 to 24 October 2010 on the topic: 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).

On behalf of the Patriarchs of the 6 revered Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, who is also President of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Region (C.E.L.R.A.), the President of the Episcopal Conference of Iran, while for Turkey, we gratefully recall His Excellency, Most Rev. Luigi Padovese, united to us in spirit from heaven, and the Heads of 4 Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, all of whom are members of the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I thank Your Holiness for convoking this synodal assembly and for the attentiveness with which you have followed every phase of its planning. At this assembly, all the bishops of the Middle East, including those in the Diaspora, will reflect on the present situation of the Church and society in their respective Churches sui iuris and will ask the Lord to strengthen the faith of Catholics – indeed that of all Christians – who for almost 2000 years have lived in these lands made holy through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Middle East, difficult situations exist, which can be compared to the scattering of people, who, to survive, went in search of food "in a lonely place " (Lk 9:12). Only Jesus Christ can perform the miracle which gathers them together and offers them, in the Eucharist, the food for eternal life. This same food is capable of transforming their existence and making them courageous witnesses in their personal lives as well as in family relations and society as a whole. During the synodal assembly, under the masterful guidance of Your Holiness, the Church in the Middle East, which in Catholic unity is rich in a diversity of traditions, will entreat the One and Triune God to grant the grace of a renewed pastoral dynamism to the particular Churches of the Middle East, already displaying a certain fruitfulness, so they can, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, continue their providential mission. They are called to praise God in tongues learned and used by his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ to proclaim the Good News to new generations who are becoming more and more involved in evangelization and human promotion. In this area, the Church is ready and willing to collaborate with all people of good will, especially those belonging to the two other monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam, which also have their origin in the Middle East.

As we thank Your Holiness for all you are doing on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, we entrust the outcome of the synodal session to the prayers of all the faithful of the Church and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints of this Holy Land, trustful that in our days GodÂÂ’s glory will be manifested through the powerful words of the Lord Jesus to his disciples: "You give them something to eat" (Lk 9:13). The food which the Church can offer to people of good will is the Person of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life and the Creator of the "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pt 3:13).