Most Holy Father,

Your Eminences, Beatitudes and Excellencies,Fraternal Delegates of the Sister Churches and Ecclesial Communities,
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Auditors, Experts, Invited Guests and Assistants,



“You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). On the day of Pentecost, the Apostles received the promised Holy Spirit and obeyed the mission that Christ entrusted to them. They traveled throughout the world, preaching Christ and the Gospel and bearing witness to him even offering the supreme witness of martyrdom. Each synod assembly is a renewal and a continuation of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is also at work today, with us and in us, as he always will be with his Church.
As a happy and providential happening, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops began its work on 11 October 2010, the 48th anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (11 October 1962) by the Blessed Pope John XXIII, whose feast is celebrated the same day. This year is also the 45th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops by Pope Paul VI on 15 September 1965.
In this Synod dedicated to “Communion and Witness”, there were cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, consecrated men and women, lay persons, invited brothers and sisters, united around the Holy Father and guided by the Holy Spirit in a ‘Communion’ for all to see, not in theory but in fact.
We would like to renew our gratitude to the Holy Father, who took the initiative of convoking this historical Assembly. We are experiencing its fraternal, warm and optimistic atmosphere, leading us to hope for many beneficial fruits for the future of our Churches and their mission. We would like this Synod to be of value for all Churches, in both the East and West, leading them all to a living, practical communion. We also thank the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for its preparatory work and guidance.
This Synod is essentially dedicated to the Churches of the Middle East, as its title indicates. But the Holy Father wished to add the Churches of North Eastern Africa, the Gulf, Turkey and Iran, which are closely related to our Churches. Just as he wished the participation of the heads of dicasteries of the Holy See, the representatives of our Churches of the Diaspora, the Union of Superiors General and the Catholic episcopal conferences, as well as the assistants to the Special Secretary, the auditors, the fraternal delegates of the Sister-Churches and ecclesial communities, and those specially invited guests from Islam and Judaism. This makes the Synod a good example of ecclesial communion, universal participation, and an ecumenical and inter-religious encounter.

A. The goal of the Synod

“Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7). I feel that it would be useful to recall once again the twofold aim of the Synod:

1) to confirm and strengthen the Church’s members in their Christian identity, through the Word of God and the sacraments; and

2) to foster ecclesial communion between the Catholic Churches sui iuris, so that they may offer an authentic and effective witness. Essential elements in this witness in our lives are ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and the missionary effort.
We would like to give our Christian people reasons for their presence in our countries and confirm them in their mission of being, and continuing to be, authentic witnesses of the Risen Christ, in every aspect of their lives. Amidst oftentimes very difficult yet promising circumstances in life, they are a visible icon of Christ, the “flesh and blood” incarnation of his Church and the present-day instrument of the Holy Spirit’s activity.

B. A reflection guided by Holy Scripture

The synod fathers illustrated this point well. Our region remains faithful to the revealed Word of God, written by the men of our lands, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The people and our lands incarnate the history of God’s love for humanity, becoming a message of love for all people. The Word of God will always be the source of inspiration of our communion, our fidelity, our love, our spirit of mission and our witness. We must become people of the Bible, animated by the spirit of the Gospel which transforms us into living Gospels, sown like seeds and leaven where we live, to cultivate there a Gospel culture and not be conformed to the materialistic, egotistical and relativist culture of society. The Word of God remains the spiritual source and the theological treasure of our living liturgies.
We were reminded that our faithful have a great thirst for the Word of God. If we are not able to give them to drink, they will go to drink elsewhere. This is why we need many academically trained persons in biblical matters, but especially those who are pastorally and spiritually specialized in Holy Scripture. “Priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all… In order that it might more effectively move men’s minds, the word of God ought not to be explained in a general and abstract way, but rather by applying the lasting truth of the Gospel to the particular circumstances of life” (Presbyterorum ordinis, 4). Therefore, they should help the faithful to see Jesus Christ the fulfilment of the Scriptures and to allow the Word of God to shed light on the happenings of their own history (cf. Ps 118:105).
The concept of “revelation” needs to be more defined, because of its ambiguous character as a result of different trends in Islam. For us, revelation is the saving intervention of God in human history, through historical events experienced as God’s gratuitous acts of love to his faithful. It is the dialogue between God and humanity in history. The oral announcement of these interventions is part of this “revelation”, because it transmits faith from generation to generation. Holy Scripture is a synthesis of this revelation, but it remains a “dead letter” for readers if it is not received as the “transmission of faith” from their Church and their Christian community. Proclaiming, listening to, reading or meditating on the Bible is an encounter with the person of Christ himself. The Bible necessarily has a privileged place in the liturgy and the celebrations of the Word in small groups, as exemplified in the first Christian communities, for an existential understanding of the Word of God. Through celebration, the Word becomes life-giving and effective in the lives of those who listen, meditate, celebrate and find their way in life by its light.
The Word of God must be the foundation of all education and formation in our “households”, our Churches and our schools, especially in our minority status in societies with a non-Christian majority, where the culture and values of this majority prevail and permeate every area of public life and pose the risk of conditioning our thinking and behavior. The Word of God must evangelize our life, so that our life can evangelize society.



1. An Historical Sketch: Unity in Diversity

The light of Christ came from the East. Christ will always remain the true, invincible sun that will never be eclipsed. The face of Christ shines like the sun (Mt 17:2) and illuminates every aspect of human history.
The particular Churches find their origin in the Church of Jerusalem, born at Pentecost. From Jerusalem, from the East, our Churches and all the Churches of Christ were born. Christianity is rooted in the East, it grew there and spread from there to the West, and to the ends of the earth. St. Paul’s conversion occurred in Damascus, which he left as an Arab to become the “Apostle of the Nations”.
The Churches multiplied yet were united by the Word of God, the sacraments and the teaching of the Apostles. Unity is an essential component of the Christian and the Church of Christ: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
Unfortunately, following conflicts in the course of her history the Church has endured various divisions. To assist ecumenical dialogue, historical and theological studies need to focus more on these tragic periods and events.

2. Apostolic Communities in an Apostolic Land

“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15). These were Jesus’ words as he left his disciples. Jesus takes the initiative and places his trust in the apostles who did not believe those who had seen him risen, saying: “Go! Proclaim!” Jesus did not only command the apostles to proclaim the Gospel, but to proclaim it to the whole world. This is the Church’s mission. To be “Christian” is to be “missionary”. We cannot be Christian if we are not missionary. Proclamation is a duty of the Church and the Christian. Proclamation done in peace and respect is not proselytism.
The Apostles and the Church born in these lands were faithful to this commandment from the Master, taking the faith in Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, often at the cost of martyrdom. Their blood was the seed of many Churches. The first Churches are the fruit of the death and the resurrection of Christ. Our Churches were at the forefront of missionary activity. Apart from their roots and missionary histories, our Churches are open to oikouméné, “universality”, as the crossroads where East meets West.
Today, Jesus again asks us to continue the activity of the Apostles and our Churches of origin. Jesus never stops sending out his Church, sending us out “to all creation”. Therefore, we are sent on a mission in our world of schools, towns, work, countries and the entire planet. Jesus does not ask us to demonstrate the proof of things or to convince people through argument, he simply asks us to bear witness to our faith with joy and strength.
By her very nature, the Church is essentially missionary (Ad gentes, 20). The proclamation of the Gospel and the proclamation of Christ to all peoples is the supreme duty of our Churches and all Churches. Our Churches need to reawaken our missionary zeal and to renew in us the meaning, sense, ardor, enthusiasm and dynamism of our being missionary. Missionary activity must once again find a place in the life of our Eastern Churches. We must again renew our commitment to evangelisation, within as well as outside our countries. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). “Mission” and the “proclamation” must find their places in our Churches, according to the concrete possibilities in each country.
For this to happen, missionary formation is necessary for our faithful, especially those in leadership positions in the life of the Church. Moreover, a sense of mission must be closely bound to the vocation and ministry of the priest. We call for the establishment of an Institute for Missionary Formation, at least on the regional level. Above all, we must support the missions and missionaries through prayer.

3. The Role of Christians in Society, Although a Small Minority

Middle Eastern Christians are ‘indigenous citizens’. They are fully a part of the fabric of society and are identified with their respective countries. This conviction must be reinforced in the souls of the Pastors and the faithful, to help them live with serenity, strength and commitment in their homeland.
The synod fathers spoke a great deal about the favourable conditions for Christians in our countries. The socio-political context is an important factor in this area. “Positive laicity” was evoked as a favourable factor. But the term itself is not well accepted among us, because it is associated with atheism or secularism, which marginalises the religious dimension and an openness to God and the Absolute. We prefer the term “civic state”. However, migrants would find themselves faced with the term ‘laicity’. The term ‘citizenship’ is also problematic, inasmuch as its concept is narrower in the East than in the West.
The “civic state” designates a socio-political system based on respect for each person and individual freedom, equality and total citizenship, the recognition of the role of religion, even in public life, and moral values. This system recognizes and guarantees religious freedom, freedom of worship and freedom of conscience. It distinguishes between the civil and religious order, without either having dominance over the other, and respect for each one’s autonomy. Religion must not be politicised nor the State take precedence over religion.
A qualitative presence is required for the Church to have a real and effective impact on society. This requires a sound doctrinal, spiritual and social formation of Pastors and the faithful, especially youth. Our Churches must awaken a courageous commitment of the faithful to a visible and incisive presence in public life, administration, public works and multi-confessional democratic parties, making them ‘indispensable’ through their quality, effectiveness and capability in honestly serving the common good. The number of persons in the Church is not as important as their living their faith and effectively transmitting the message. In this regard, the family has an essential part in educating children in both this spirit and outlook.
It is also important to instill in people a spirit of ‘citizenship’ both in ways of thinking and the manner of living. Modern media (sms, website, internet, television, radio) have an important place in this field. They provide a powerful and valuable means for spreading the Christian message, for facing the challenges to the Christian message and for communicating with the faithful of the Diaspora. Key persons need formation to achieve these ends. Eastern Christians must commit themselves to working for the common good, in all its aspects, as they always have done.
Through the presentation of the Church’s social doctrine, which at times has been lacking, our communities provide a sound contribution in the construction of society. The promotion of the family and the defence of life should have a primary place in our Church’s teaching and mission. Education is the privileged area for activity and major investment. Where possible, our schools should better help the needy. Though the sacrifices are many, these schools, are, in a certain way, the core of our presence in cities, inasmuch as they are the privileged places – sometimes the only ones – which ensure a positive, constructive, ecumenical and inter-religious manner of living together. They promote and reinforce the Gospel and human values of human rights, non-violence, dialogue, openness, harmony and peace. In some countries, they are the only places of Christian formation. They must be maintained at all costs. We express our gratitude to those who provide assistance to achieve these goals. Through their social, healthcare and charitable activities, available to all members of society, our Churches visibly collaborate for the common good.
To ensure her evangelical credibility, the Church must find the means to guarantee transparency in the management of money, by clearly distinguishing between what belongs to the Church and what belongs personally to those in service of the Church. In this regard, appropriate structures are needed.


1. The Political Conflicts in the Region

The socio – political situations of our countries have a direct impact on Christians, who feel more strongly their negative consequences. While condemning the violence whatever its origin and calling for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we express our solidarity with the Palestinian people, whose current situation encourages fundamentalism. We also call upon the political world to pay sufficient attention to the tragic situation of Christians in Iraq who are the main victim of the war and its effects.
According to the possibilities in each country, Christians must promote democracy, justice and peace, and positive secularism, with the distinction between religion and state, and respect for every religion. An attitude of positive engagement in society is a constructive response for society as well as for the Church.
The Churches in the West are asked not take the side of one party, forgetting the point of view and the conditions of the other.

2. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience

Human rights are the foundation which guarantees the good of the whole person, and the criteria of any political system. Religious freedom is an essential component of human rights. The lack of religious freedom is most often associated with deprivation of fundamental rights. Freedom of worship is an aspect of religious freedom. In most of our countries freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution. But even there, in some countries, certain acts or practices limit their application.
The other aspect of religious freedom is freedom of conscience, based on the free choice of the person. Freedom of conscience is confirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948, Article 18), and ratified by most of the countries of our region. Religious freedom is not a relativism that treats all faiths equally. Rather it is the result of the duty of every person to adhere to the truth by a firm choice of conscience, and with respect to the dignity of each person. With all people of good will, the Church seeks to promote pluralism in equality. Education in this sense is a valuable contribution to the cultural progress of the country, ensuring more justice and equality before the law.
Religious freedom includes also the right to confess one’s faith, which is a right and duty for every religion. This peaceful confession is very different from “proselytism” which the Church strongly condemns in all its forms. According to Wikipedia, “the term proselytism comes from the Latin word proselytus and the Greek προσήλυτος (prosêlutos), which means ‘new entrant (within a country)’. In the New Testament, this term is commonly used to designate a person who comes from paganism, to approach Jewish and then Christian monotheism (Mt 23:15, Jn 12:20, Acts 2:10, etc.). Proselytism, therefore designates the attitude of those who seek to create converts, new adherents to their faith. By extension, this means the zeal to indoctrinate people. The term now has a negative connotation in its use when referring to religious or political activities”. It should be noted that this meaning applies to these activities when they use fraudulent or dishonest means, or abuse their authority, their wealth or their power to attract new followers. The confession of faith that the Church proclaims is the contrary: it is the serene and peaceful proclamation and presentation of faith in Jesus Christ.

3. Christians and the Evolution of Contemporary Islam

Since the 1970s, we have been seeing in the region the rise of political Islam, which includes various religious currents. It affects the situation of Christians, especially in the Arab world. It wants to impose an Islamic way of life on all citizens, sometimes by violence. Therefore, it constitutes a real threat to all, and we must face these extremist currents together.

4. Emigration

One of the major challenges threatening the presence of Christians in some countries in the Middle East is emigration. This topic is a common concern in all Churches, and should be considered in an ecumenical partnership. The main causes of this troubling phenomenon are economic and political situations, the rise of fundamentalism, and the restriction of freedoms and equality, exacerbated strongly by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq. Youth, the educated and affluent people are more likely to leave, depriving the Church and the country of its most valuable resources. Emigration has become a general phenomenon that affects Christians and Muslims. It deprives our Churches and our countries of valuable and moderate elements. The motives that cause people, especially Christians, to leave the region would constitute a good subject of sincere and frank dialogue with Muslims.
Emigration is a natural right left to the free choice of individuals and families, especially those located in harsh conditions. But the Church has the duty to encourage her faithful to remain as witnesses, apostles and builders of peace and welfare of their countries. Pastors should help the faithful become more aware of their vocation, their mission and their historical role in their countries, as bearers of Christ’s message to their country, even amidst difficulties and persecution. Their absence would negatively affect the future. It is with deep faith that Christians find the motivation to live courageously and joyfully their Christianity in their country. It is important to avoid defeatist talk, or encourage emigration as a preferred option. On the other hand, we must foster the conditions that encourage the decision to stay. It is up to politicians to consolidate peace, democracy and development, to foster a climate of stability and confidence. Christians, along with all people of good will, are called to engage positively in achieving this goal. Greater awareness on the part of international bodies of the duty to contribute to the development of our countries would help a great deal in this regard.
Many speakers pointed out the very positive relationship between Eastern Catholic communities in the Diaspora and the local Latin Church of the host countries, including the United States, Oceania, Australia and many European countries. The Christians arriving from the Middle East appeal to the hospitality of their brothers and sisters in the West, and awaken their Christian consciences. Our Churches are very grateful to the Churches of the host countries for the valuable assistance they provide to our emigrant faithful. The synod fathers drew attention to the necessity and importance of communicating with the Christians of Europe the causes that make millions of Christians leave the Middle East. An Eastern Patriarchal Vicar could be appointed to coordinate the pastoral care for faithful of his Church in the Diaspora.
The host Churches should provide immigrants with their structures: parishes, schools, meeting centres, and others. This requires structures of reception, social and cultural tutoring and guidance. Most of the welcoming dioceses have special pastoral programmes for immigrants, with a special section for Eastern communities. With gratitude, we greatly appreciate their laudable concern and solicitude for solidarity. Western Christians are to express effectively their support for Christians in the Middle East, by helping and supporting their Eastern brothers.
The host Churches in their laws and sacramental practices are also invited to know and respect eastern theology, traditions and heritage. One of the roles of the host Churches is also to accompany migrants, overwhelmed by the painful memory of humiliating and offensive actions through a process of forgiveness. These Churches will act to ensure that their countries take appropriate measures to guarantee the respect, dignity and rights of the human person and of the family, which must remain united, and receive what is necessary to lead a dignified life, acceptable to God.
The Churches of North Africa want to collaborate with the Churches of the Middle East, and also seek the presence of Arab priests to strengthen their dialogue with Muslims. The Latin Catholic Church in the Maghreb is living in a pluralist and ecumenically satisfying context. Latin Churches in the Gulf have explained the complicated special situation in which they are located, and which makes them adopt structures and a pastoral style that appear restrictive. They confirm that they are doing everything possible to meet the vast needs of migrants, within the restrictive limits of civil and religious possibilities.
The synod fathers have emphasized the need and frequency of extending the jurisdiction of the Patriarchs to the faithful of their rite outside the territory of the Patriarchal Church sui iuris. They are eager to move from the territorial concept to the personal concept. Limiting the jurisdiction of the Patriarch to the faithful of his Church sui iuris is logical on the personal level and not a territorial one. How can one be “Father and Head” of a people without a head? This extension of jurisdiction arises in the context of an adaptation of pastoral service to the faithful in the eastern Diaspora. Communion is a personal relationship, animated by the Holy Spirit. This perspective is very important for ecumenical dialogue and the progress towards perfect unity.
Emigration is also a major support for the countries and the Churches. The Church of the original country must find ways to maintain close ties with her emigrated faithful and to ensure their spiritual assistance. It is indispensable to provide the faithful of the Eastern Churches, in Latin territories, with the Liturgy in their own rite. The selling of property in the homeland is highly regrettable. The retention or acquisition of land encourages return. The land affirms and reinforces identity and belonging, and this requires a rootedness in the land. Communities in the Diaspora have a role to encourage and consolidate the Christian presence in the East, to strengthen their witness and to support their cause for the common good of the country. Appropriate pastoral care should take care of internal emigration in each country.