Synod's 'message to the People of God'

Yesterday the Mid-East Synod concluded with a message from the Synod to the world, or Nuntius. Read the whole thing here. The following are highlights:

Guided by the Holy Scriptures and the living Tradition, we have reflected together on the present and the future of Christians and all peoples of the Middle East. We have meditated on the issues of this region of the world which God willed, in the mystery of his love, to be the birthplace of his universal plan of salvation. From there, Abraham’s vocation was initiated. There, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. There, Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of life and the kingdom. There, he died to redeem humanity and free us from sin. There, he rose from the dead to give new life to all. There, the Church was formed and went forth to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world.

'A turning point in history'


In the Middle East, the first Christian community was born. From there, the apostles after Pentecost went evangelising the whole world. There, the early Christian community lived amid tensions and persecutions, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42), and no one of them was in need. There, the first martyrs, with their blood, fortified the foundations of the nascent Church. After them, the hermits filled the deserts with the perfume of their holiness and their faith. There, the Fathers of the Eastern Church lived and continued to nourish the Church in both the East and West through their teachings. In the early centuries and later, missionaries from our Churches departed for the Far East and the West, bringing with them the light of Christ. We are the heirs of that heritage. We need to continue to transmit their message to future generations.

In the past, Our Churches provided saints, priests and consecrated persons; they still do in the present. Our Churches have also sponsored many institutions which contributed - and still do - to the well being of our societies and countries, sacrificing self for the sake of the human person, who is created to the image of God and is the bearer of his likeness. Some of our Churches continue to send out missionaries who carry the Word of God to many places in the world. The pastoral, apostolic and missionary needs mandate us to put together a pastoral master-plan to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in order to ensure the Church of tomorrow.

We are now at a turning point in our history: The God who has given us the faith in our Eastern lands 2000 years ago, calls us today to persevere with courage, strength and steadfastness in bearing the message of Christ and witnessing to his Gospel, the Gospel of love and peace.

Unity

We are asked by Christ to accept our faith and to apply it to all situations in our lives. What he asks from our Churches is to strengthen the communion within every Church sui iuris and that of the Catholic Churches of various traditions, and to exert every effort in prayer and charitable acts in order to attain the full unity of all Christians so as to fulfil the prayer of Christ: “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).

Palestine/Israel, Iraq


We have evaluated the social situation and the public security in all our countries in the Middle East. We have taken account of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the whole region, especially on the Palestinians who are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees. We have reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live. We have meditated on the situation of the holy city of Jerusalem. We are anxious about the unilateral initiatives that threaten its composition and risk to change its demographic balance. With all this in mind, we see that a just and lasting peace is the only salvation for everyone and for the good of the region and its peoples.

We have reflected in our meetings and in our prayers the keen sufferings of the Iraqi people. We have recalled the Christians assassinated in Iraq, the continued suffering of the Church in Iraq and her sons who have been displaced and dispersed throughout the world, bringing with them the concerns for their land and their fatherland. The synod fathers have expressed their solidarity with the people and the Churches in Iraq and have expressed their desire that the emigrants, forced to leave their country, might find in the welcoming countries the necessary support to be able to return to their homeland and live in security.


We have extensively treated relations between Christians and Muslims. All of us share a common citizenship in our countries. Here we want to affirm, according to our Christian vision, a fundamental principle which ought to govern our relations, namely, God wants us to be Christians in and for our Middle Eastern societies. This is God’s plan for us. This is our mission and vocation - to live as Christians and Muslims together. Our actions in this area will be guided by the commandment of love and by the power of the Spirit within us.

The second principle which governs our relations is the fact that we are an integral part of our societies. Our mission, based on our faith and our duty to our home countries, obliges us to contribute to the construction of our countries as fellow-citizens, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.


Emigration

Emigration has become a generalised phenomenon by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. All emigrate for reasons arising from political and economic instability. However, Christians also emigrate from a sense of insecurity, in varying degrees, in many Middle Eastern countries. May Christians have trust in the future and continue to live in their dear countries.

We send our greetings to you, members of our Churches in the various countries of the Diaspora. We ask you to keep alive in your hearts and concerns the memory of your countries and your Churches. You can contribute to their development and their growth by your prayers, your thoughts, your visits and by various other means, despite the fact that you are far from the Middle East.

Look at your goods and your properties in your home country; do not abandon and sell them too quickly. Keep them as your patrimony and as a piece of the homeland to which you remain attached, a homeland which you love and support. The land is part of a person's identity and his mission. It is a vital aspect of the lives of those who remain there and for those who one day will return there. The land is a public good, a good of the community and a common patrimony. It should not be reduced to a question of individual interests on the part of those who own it and who alone decide, according to their desires, to keep or abandon it.


Dialogue with Jews

The same Scriptures unite us; the Old Testament, the Word of God is for both you and us. We believe all that God revealed there, since he called Abraham, our common father in the faith, Father of Jews, of Christians and of Muslims. We believe in the promises of God and his covenant given to Abraham and to you. We believe that the Word of God is eternal.

The Second Vatican Council published the document Nostra aetate which treats interreligious dialogue with Judaism, Islam and the other religions. Other documents have subsequently clarified and developed the relationship with Judaism. On-going dialogue is taking place between the Church and the representatives of Judaism. We hope that this dialogue can bring us to work together to press those in authority to put and end to the political conflict which results in separating us and disrupting everyday life in our countries.

It is time for us to commit ourselves together to a sincere, just and permanent peace. Both Christians and Jews are called to this task by the Word of God. In his Word, we are invited us to listen to the voice of God “who speaks of peace”: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his holy ones” (Ps 85:9). Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable. On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God’s commandments, namely, according to God's bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.


Dialogue with Muslims

We are united by the faith in one God and by the commandment that says: do good and avoid evil. The words of the Second Vatican Council on the relations with other religions offer the basis for the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslims: “The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men” (Nostra aetate 3).

We say to our Muslim fellow-citizens: we are brothers and sisters; God wishes us to be together, united by one faith in God and by the dual commandment of love of God and neighbour. Together we will construct our civil societies on the basis of citizenship, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Together we will work for the promotion of justice, peace, the rights of persons and the values of life and of the family. The construction of our countries is our common responsibility. We wish to offer to the East and to the West a model of coexistence between different religions and of positive collaboration between different civilisations for the good of our countries and that of all humanity.

Since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century and to the present, we have lived together and we have collaborated in the creation of our common civilisation. As in the past and still existent today, some imbalances are present in our relations. Through dialogue we must avoid all imbalances and misunderstandings. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that our dialogue must not be a passing reality. It is rather a vital necessity on which our future depends (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Representatives from the Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Our duty then is to educate believers concerning interreligious dialogue, the acceptance of pluralism and mutual esteem.


Participation in public life


Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties towards their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.

Appeal to the world

The citizens of the countries of the Middle East call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations conscientiously to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the Security Council’s resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.

The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security. The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders. The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State solution might become a reality and not a dream only.

Iraq will be able to put an end to the consequences of its deadly war and re-establish a secure way of life which will protect all its citizens with all their social structures, both religious and national.

Lebanon will be able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and carry on in its vocation to be the model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, of dialogue between different cultures and religions, and of the promotion of basic public freedoms.

We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world.


Conclusion

This Divine Life which has appeared to the apostles over 2000 years ago in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and to which the Church has witnessed throughout the course of her history will always remain the life of our Churches in the Middle East and the object of our witness, sustained by the promise of the Lord:“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the time” (Mt 28:20). Together we proceed on our journey with hope,“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rm 5:5).

We confess that, until now, we have not done what is possible to better live communion in our communities. We have not done enough to better live communion among our communities. We have not done everything possible to confirm you in your faith and to give you the spiritual nourishment you need in your difficulties. The Lord invites us to a conversion as individuals and communities.

Today we return to you full of hope, strength and resolution, bearing with us the message of the Synod and its recommendations in order to study them together and to put them into practice in our Churches, each one according to the Church’s states of life. We hope also that this new effort might be ecumenical.

We make a humble and sincere appeal to you, that together we might embark on the road of conversion, allowing ourselves to be renewed through the grace of the Holy Spirit and again draw close to God.

To the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, under whose protection we have accomplished our Synodal task, we entrust our journey towards new, Christian horizons in the faith of Christ and through the power of his word: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).

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