Ecumenism, Collaboration Key for Middle East

VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2010 ( The pre-synodal council for the Special Assembly for the Middle East is underlining the urgency of a convinced ecumenical commitment and respectful collaboration with Jews and Muslims.

The third meeting of the council for the Middle East of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops was held April 23-24 in Rome, the Vatican press office reported today.

It noted that “the objective of the Special Assembly for the Middle East is twofold: to confirm and reinforce Christians in their identity through the Word of God and the sacraments, and to revive ecclesial communion between the particular Churches, so that they can offer a genuine Christian witness, in contact with the other Churches and ecclesial communities.”

Quoting St. John’s Gospel, the communiqué added: “Hence the urgency of a convinced ecumenical commitment, ‘that all may be one, so that the world will believe.'”

It pointed out that, “despite the difficulties of the present moment,” the Church in the Middle East, “trusting in Divine Providence, remains confident in a future of peace, of justice and respectful collaboration with those belonging to Judaism and Islam, for the good of all the inhabitants of the region.”

In this preparatory meeting of the synod for the Middle East, which will be held October 10-24 in the Vatican, participants continued to fix the foundations for the reflection that will take place on different questions, among them the Christian witness in Muslim-majority societies.

In this sense, the communiqué explained that “the future synod will also be a precious occasion to examine thoroughly the religious and social situation, to give Christians a clear vision of the meaning of their being active witnesses of Christ, in the context of societies of Muslim majority.”

It added, “An attempt will be made, therefore, to proceed to a reflection on the present situation, not easy given the conflicts and instability which cause the exodus of the population, including not a few Christians.”


The members of the pre-synodal council highlighted the “joy and gratitude” with which they received the invitation to participate in the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by Benedict XVI in Nicosia, during his June 4-6 trip to Cyprus.

During the celebration of that Mass, the Pope will distribute the Instrumentum laboris of the synod to the pastors of the Mideast Churches.

The communiqué explained that the two-day meeting was attended by all the members of the pre-synodal council for the Special Assembly for the Middle East except for Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Chaldean patriarch of Babylon, Iraq.

The secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, opened the meeting. Other members of the council gave addresses on the ecclesial situation in the socio-political context of the regions of the Middle East.

As well, the council worked on an outline of the Instrumentum laboris, the assembly’s working document.

The members worked to integrate the various contributions of the Eastern Churches, the episcopal conferences, the Vatican dicasteries and several religious institutions into an “organic scheme.”

“Once written in its definitive form,” the scheme “will serve the Synodal Fathers as a study document and order of the day for the debate in the Synod Hall,” explained the communiqué.

Thirteen ecclesiastical authorities form part of the pre-synodal council. These include: Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Lebanon; Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The council also includes: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; Patriarch Antonios Naguib, patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt; Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan, patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon; Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church; Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Catholic patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, Lebanon; Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem; Archbishop Ramzi Garmou, archbishop of Teheran of the Chaldeans and president of the Iranian episcopal conference; Bishop Luigi Padovese, president of the Turkish episcopal conference and apostolic vicar of Anatolia; and Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly.

The synod’s theme is “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).”