Synod proposals: highlights

Among the 44 proposals, or "propositions", handed to Pope Benedict at the conclusion of the two-week Mid-East Synod are the following, which I've selected because they are interesting, important, surprising, or concrete.

Call for attention. "The attention of the whole world should be focused on the tragic situation of certain Christian communities of the Middle East which suffer all manner of trials sometimes even to the point of martyrdom."

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Holding onto the land. "We exhort our faithful and our Church communities not to give in to the temptation to sell off their real estate". Call for projects that would "allow the owners to stay where they are with dignity."

Encouraging pilgrims. "Going back to the place of origins is an opportunity for a profound catechesis, enabling the pilgrim to discover the riches of the Eastern Churches and to meet and encourage the local Christian communities, the living stones of the Church."

Peace. "Our Churches commit themselves to pray and to work for justice and peace in the Middle East and call for a 'purification of memory', choosing the language of peace and hope and avoiding that of fear and violence." Call for political leaders "to implement the resolutions of the United Nations concerning the region, particularly the return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem and the Holy Places."

Commission to study emigration. Call for "an office or a commission entrusted with the study of the phenomenon of migration and of the factors behind it so as to find ways of stopping it."

Communion among the Catholic Churches. Call for a "commission of cooperation between the Catholic hierarchs of the Middle East, which will be responsible for the promotion of a common pastoral strategy, better understanding of one another's traditions, inter-ritual institutions and joint charitable organizations", along with "regular meetings between Catholic hierarchies of the Middle East", and sharing of resources -- including priests -- between Churches and dioceses.

Jurisdiction of Patriarchs. Calls for a study into "extending the jurisdiction of the Eastern Patriarchs to cover members of their Churches wherever they live throughout the world".

Catholics in the Gulf states. Calls for commission to "study the situation of the Catholic faithful in the countries of the Gulf, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and suggest solutions to the Holy See which it deems helpful for the promotion of pastoral action."

Arabic. Call for "greater use of the Arabic language in the major institutions of the Holy See and their official meetings, so that Christians of Arab culture have access to information from the Holy See in their mother tongue."

Married Priests. Call to "study the possibility of having married priests outside the patriarchal territory."

Joint seminaries. "In certain places and for pastoral and administrative reasons ... it may be helpful to have a single seminary for different Churches."

Ecumenism. Call for "a standard Arabic translation of the Our Father and the Nicene Creed" and "a common date for the celebrations of Christmas and Easter."

Judaism. "We reject anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, while distinguishing between religion and politics."

Islam. Together, Christians and Muslims "are to offer the world an image of a positive encounter and a fruitful collaboration between believers of the two religions, combating together every sort of fundamentalism and violence in the name of religion."

Virgin Mary. "Aware of the special bonds which, by God's design, unite us to the Mother of Jesus, we propose that our Churches come together and jointly entrust the entire Middle East to the protection of the Virgin Mary."

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