Pope Benedict XVI says the reason for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which opened Sunday, is pastoral and not political. Speaking during mass Sunday morning to the 270 participants at the assembly, which runs October 10th to 24th, the Pope underlined that “while not being able to ignore the delicate and at times dramatic social and political situation of some countries, the Pastors of the Middle Eastern Churches” during the two week meeting at the Vatican, “wish to concentrate on the aspects of their own mission”, in short “re-enliven communion of the Catholic Church in the Middle East”.Sunday morning, to interchanging Arabic and Greek chants, those pastors processed down the nave of St Peter’s basilica, resplendent in their traditional liturgical vestments a visible sign of what Pope Benedict XVI described as the “variety of liturgical, spiritual, cultural and disciplinary traditions” of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome. Traditions he said that enrich the universal Church.Joined by chief concelebrants Lebanese Card. Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites and Iraqi Card. Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, the Pope told the assembly that this “singular event demonstrates the interest of the whole Church for that precious and beloved part of God’s people who live in the Holy Land and the whole of the Middle East”.Reflecting on the theme of the Synod, “Communion and Witness”, Pope Benedict said “without communion there can be no witness”, reminding those present that communion is “a gift, not something which we ourselves must build through our own efforts”, a gift that requires conversion.In a reference to one of the principle concerns of many church leaders in the Middle East, the exodus of Christians from the cradle of the faith, Pope Benedict reminded all those present that “in Jerusalem the first Christians were few. Nobody could have imagined what was going to take place. And the Church continues to live on that same strength which enabled it to begin and to grow”, the strength of Pentecost.“Therefore, the reason for this synodal assembly is mainly a pastoral one”, that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the communion of the Catholic Church in the Middle East can be re-enlivened.This he continued “requires the reinforcing of their Christian identity through the Word of God and the Sacraments” so that “the faithful feel the joy in living in the Holy Land”.However, he added “living in a dignified manner in one’s own country is above all a fundamental human right: therefore, the conditions of peace and justice, which are necessary for the harmonious development of all those living in the region, should be promoted. Therefore all are called to give their personal contribution: the international community, by supporting a stable path, loyal and constructive, towards peace; those most prevalent religions in the region, in promoting the spiritual and cultural values that unite men and exclude any expression of violence”.Concluding his homily the Holy Father extended his blessing on all the populations of the Middle East: ““Peace to you, peace to your family, peace to all that is yours!”.
IMAGE SOURCE: ASIA NEWS