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

Harissa, 14 September 2012


Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12: 21). With these words some God-fearing Greeks asked Philip to be introduced to the Master, who had already solemnly entered Jerusalem (cf. Jn 12:12ff.), the last stage of his sojourn on earth. To see Jesus means to know him, to believe in him in order to belong to the Kingdom of God, which the Lord announced, and was bringing to fulfilment. Indeed, Jesus responds in an indirect manner to the request of these Greeks, who were probably pious persons and Jewish sympathizers, using the words: “the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). According to God the Father’s will, Jesus is to be glorified through his death on the cross. His extreme humiliation will be, at one and the same time, his exaltation (cf. Jn 3:14; 8:28). “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). Our humiliation and glorification is connected with that of Jesus. His hands, nailed to the cross, are stretch to embrace the many — Jew and Greek — who will acknowledge him to be the power and the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor 1:24)). The Crucified and Risen Christ also transforms our death into the glory of his resurrection.

Most Holy Father, according to the Lord’s promise: “where two or three are gather in my name, I am in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20), we too, members of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, have been able to see Jesus during the unforgettable experience of prayer, reflection and exchange of opinions during the synodal assembly which took place from 19 to 24 October 2010. Heedful of the necessary bonds of fellowship in the episcopacy, Your Holiness called to Rome, for the first time in the 2000-year history of the Church, all the bishops of the Middle East, diocesan and titular, including some bishops-emeritus. They participated in the work of the synod and treated 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). In the exchange of gifts, we have once again known Jesus Christ under the sign of his cross in many experiences of marginalization, inequality, pain, suffering, violence and even war. In the grace of the Holy Spirit, we have, however, been always aware that the cross is the path to glorification, not only for the Lord, but also for all those who follow him, by taking up their cross each day (cf. Lk 9:23).

On this solemn occasion, as we gather in this historic Greek-Melkite Basilica of Saint Paul, I very willingly assume my duty to express gratitude to all the synod fathers for their capable and valuable contribution in reflecting on the state-of-affairs in the Middle East of the Church and society. Communion and the work of the synodal assembly showed evident signs, in the midst of not a few difficulties, of the first rays of a new dawn, charged with hope even for Christians. I especially wish to thank the members of the Special Council for the Middle East for their valuable collaboration in gathering and putting into order the abundant material resulting from the synod process, which are contained in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation which Your Holiness has wished to compile, accepting the voting results of the synod fathers.

Most Holy Father, in the name of all the members of the Special Assembly for the Middle East and as General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, I have the honour of calling upon Your Holiness to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and to present it to the Churches which are on pilgrimage in the region of the Middle East, so dear to every Christian heart.