Iraqi archbishop hopes Middle East synod will be ‘new Pentecost’

pplouissako2809092.jpgKirkuk, Iraq, Sep 29, 2009 / 03:18 am (CNA).- In advance of next year’s special synod for the Middle East, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako has said the event could be “a new Pentecost.” He also said the Eastern Churches must use the event to rediscover their identity and mission and to evangelize both Christians and Muslims.

The synod, which is themed “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and testimony,” will take place from October 10 to 24, 2010.

In a Sunday commentary on Energy Publisher, Archbishop Sako expressed his gratitude towards Pope Benedict for convening the synod, adding that the Eastern Churches must “contribute fully” and play a leading role.

The Churches must put their commitment and testimony into action, he added, reporting that the majority of the churches have not yet followed the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council.

The Eastern Churches should be open to “the Spirit of Renewal” and should “leave the past behind, from a very rigid history, hard to practice today, in these times, and prepare for the future.”

Liturgical reform was among the main problems confronting the Eastern Churches, Archbishop Sako commented.

“The Eastern Churches are churches and not ethnic groups; their mission is open to everyone and not only to those who practice their faith,” he explained. “As Saint John Chrysostom says, liturgy is for man.”

The Churches must make a “serious liturgical reform” appropriate to the context in which the faithful live. Otherwise, they risk losing many to “various religious sects.”

He encouraged more importance to be given to Sacred Scripture, reporting that in some churches the Eucharist and the Bible are still separated onto two tables.

Structural reforms are also necessary, he added, saying that some dioceses and territories’ structures go back to medieval times and there are some small dioceses with “only a priest or two.”

The Middle East Christians living in the Diaspora are also a concern and must not “close themselves within their communities, Archbishop Sako’s essay continued. Deeming migration of the faithful out of Iraq, the Holy Land and Lebanon to be “human bleeding,” he said it is not only the fault of others but the fault of Christians themselves.

“The Eastern Church must have a clear vision with concrete plans to stem this exodus,” he exhorted, suggesting that a “new evangelization” of Eastern Christians may be necessary.

The archbishop stressed unity with sister Churches and noted the urgency of presenting a “common testimony.”

“Today practically very few things are being done with other Christians. Every church works only for its faithful,” he lamented.

He closed his essay by saying that Christians must expand their “missionary dimension” in Muslim lands. A Middle East without Christians would not be the same, and dialogue with the Jews helps makes distinctions between Judaism and Zionism, he explained.

He also decried how religion has become an expression of “political identity,” especially after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“To bear witness to the steadfast love of God for mankind and His omnipotence is the task that in a renewed manner we choose to undertake,” Archbishop Sako affirmed. “We want to believe in hope, despite disillusionments and many difficulties.”