Pope: Synod to reinforce solidarity among Christians of the Middle East
Benedict XVI delivers the Instrumentum Laboris to the synodal assembly. Memory of Msgr. Padovese. The international community must work to end conflicts in the region, rather than "lead to an increased shedding of blood." For Christians, artisans of reconciliation, both recognized the freedom of religion.
Nicosia (AsiaNews) - The Synod on the Middle East "will try to deepen" bonds between the ancient churches of the region, to express the solidarity of Christians around the world for those brothers who in those countries "suffer great trials due to the present situation "to give support to the witness that they offer, to assert the right to freedom of religion and" direct the attention of the international community to the condition of those Christians in the Middle East who suffer because of their faith, so that we can find just and lasting solutions to the conflicts that cause so much suffering".
At the end of the Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI in Nicosia's Eleftheria Sport Centre pictured), the only public Mass of his visit to Cyprus which ends today, the Pope handing the Instrumentum laboris to each member of the Special Council of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. He expressed in these terms his hopes for the October Synod, which will gather to Rome representatives of all the Catholic Churches of the region. The also Pope renewed his call "for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed".
The synod will feel the absence of one bishop: Mgr. Luigi Padovese, recommended to the "Lord of peace" during the prayers of the faithful. The secretary general of the Synod, Archbishop. Nikola Eterović stressed this before the synod document was delivered, the Pope recalled that " as President of the Turkish Catholic Bishops, contributed to the preparation of the Instrumentum Laboris that I am consigning to you today. News of his unforeseen and tragic death on Thursday surprised and shocked all of us. I entrust his soul to the mercy of almighty God, mindful of how committed he was, especially as a bishop, to interreligious and cultural understanding, and to dialogue between the Churches. His death is a sobering reminder of the vocation that all Christians share, to be courageous witnesses in every circumstance to what is good, noble and just". And again at the Angelus when he prayed that Christians will be "witnesses" of Christ.
The Synod, therefore, Benedict XVI says, " will attempt to deepen the bonds of communion between the members of your local Churches, and the communion of these churches with each other and with the universal Church. The Assembly also aims to encourage you in the witness of your faith in Christ in those countries where the faith was born and from where it spread. It is also known that some of you have endured great hardships due to the current situation in the region. The Special Assembly is an opportunity for Christians from the rest of the world to offer spiritual support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East. This is an opportunity to highlight the significant value of the Christian presence and witness in countries of the Bible, not only for the Christian community worldwide, but also for your neighbours and fellow citizens. You are help the common good in countless ways, for example through education, health care and social assistance, and you work to build society. You want to live in peace and harmony with your Jew and Muslim neighbours. Often, you act as peacemakers in the difficult process of reconciliation. You deserve recognition for the invaluable role you fill. This is my serious hope that your rights are increasingly respected, including the right to freedom of worship and religious freedom, and that you will never again suffer discrimination of any kind".
Attending the consignment of the document and to a certain sense introducing the Synod's work, are six thousand people at the Mass, a numerical representation of the small flock of Catholics living on the island. Among them, several immigrants from the Philippines and Sri Lanka, for whom the Pope had a "special greeting". It was also the occasion for another warm embrace with the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos, who wanted to be present today.
And 'Mass for Corpus Christi, a "reality" which is the source of the mystery of communion in the Church; "each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality and accept the 'companionship' of others who "break bread" with us. We must think not in terms of 'me' but 'we'. That's why every day we pray 'our' Father, 'our' daily bread. Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first prerequisite for entering the divine life to which we are called. We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us: fear and mistrust towards others, greed and selfishness, unwillingness to run the risk of vulnerability to which we expose ourselves when we are open to love".
"We are called - he concluded - to overcome our differences, to bring peace and reconciliation where there is conflict, to offer the world a message of hope. We are called to reach out to those in need, generously sharing our earthly goods with those less fortunate than ourselves. And we are called to proclaim unceasingly the death and resurrection of the Lord, until he comes. Through him, with him and in him, in the unity that is the Holy Spirit's gift to the Church, let us give honour and glory to God our heavenly Father in the company of all the angels and saints who sing his praises for ever ".
Pope: Christian unity in the Middle East, witnesses of the Gospel in difficult circumstances
Ecumenism and the Synod for the Middle East marks the first day of Benedict XVI's visit to Cyprus, a place of "crossroads of cultures and religions." The desire for full unity in the celebration with Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos.
The journey towards unity assumes a special meaning on this island which the Pope remembered, "was the first stage of the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul." "Close to this very place,- he added - they preached in the presence of the Roman pro-consul Sergius Paulus. Thus it was from this place that the Gospel message began to spread throughout the Empire, and the Church, grounded in the apostolic preaching, was able to take root throughout the then-known world. " "From here Christian roots of spread throughout Europe ", says his part, Archbishop Chrysostomos.
Currently, Chrysostomos, an important figure in Orthodoxy, is openly committed to the search for unity: he had previously met Benedict XVI at the Vatican, where he invited him to Cyprus and had harsh words against those extremist fringe Orthodox who did not want to see the pope in their lands.
"The Church in Cyprus - said Benedict XVI - can rightly be proud of her direct links to the preaching of Paul, Barnabas and Mark, and her communion in the apostolic faith, a communion which links her to all those Churches who preserve that same rule of faith. This is the communion, real yet imperfect, which already unites us, and which impels us to overcome our divisions and to strive for the restoration of that full visible unity which is the Lord's will for all his followers. "
"The Church's communion in the apostolic faith - he added - is both a gift and a summons to mission." "Like Paul and Barnabas, every Christian, by baptism, is set apart to bear prophetic witness to the Risen Lord and to his Gospel of reconciliation, mercy and peace". Difficult words on this island divided into two following the Turkish invasion in 1974. The President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, recalled this in his welcome speech, it was also recalled by Chrysostomos who evoked the destruction of churches, monuments, artworks and even Christian names in the occupied part of the island and who asked the Pope for help to end the division.
The Pope did not mention the issue, but we know that the Vatican declined the invitation to extend his visit to the other part of the island. Benedict XVI upon his arrival, spoke of Cyprus as a standing "at the crossroads of cultures and religions, of histories both proud and ancient but which still retain a strong and visible impact upon the life of your country. Having recently acceded to the European Union, the Republic of Cyprus is beginning to witness the benefit of closer economic and political ties with other European states. Membership has already given your country access to markets, technology and know-how. It is greatly to be hoped that membership will lead to prosperity at home and that other Europeans in their turn will be enriched by your spiritual and cultural heritage which reflects your historical role, standing between Europe, Asia and Africa."
"Cyprus - he added - is thus an appropriate place in which to launch our Church's reflection on the place of the centuries-old Catholic community in the Middle East, our solidarity with all the Christians of the region and our conviction that they have an irreplaceable role to play in peace and reconciliation among its peoples".
The Synod, the second central theme of the trip, in the words of the Pope on his arrival, "will address will examine many aspects of the Church's presence in the region and the challenges that Catholics face, sometimes in trying circumstances, in living out their communion within the Catholic Church and offering their witness in the service of society and the world.. " It he added during the ecumenical service, " will reflect on the vital role of Christians in the region, encourage them in their witness to the Gospel, and help foster greater dialogue and cooperation between Christians throughout the region. Significantly, the labours of the Synod will be enriched by the presence of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Christian communities in the region, as a sign of our common commitment to the service of God's word and our openness to the power of his reconciling grace.
Pope: Bishop Padovese, not a politically or religiously motivated murder
Speaking to reporters, Benedict XVI talks of the flotilla attacked by Israel and returns to say that violence is not a solution: instead "patience and courage" is required to start over. The next Synod for the Middle East is occasion to nurture dialogue between Christians and even Muslims.
Nicosia (AsiaNews) - The killing of Mgr. Luigi Padovese was not "a religious or political assassination" and "can not be attributed to Turkey and or the Turkish people, and should not obscure dialogue". These the sentiments expressed by Benedict XVI in a conversation with reporters aboard the plane that took him to Cyprus, on his 16th international journey.
The Pope also spoke of the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla, arguing that one should never lose hope in peace. In these episodes, he said, "there is always the danger that we will lose patience, say enough is enough and that no longer wish to seek peace." Instead, "every day we must imitate God in his patience, after all cases of violence, we must not lose patience and have the courage to start over." And this is the task of the Holy See: "create the disposition of heart to begin again, in the certainty that we can move forward, that violence is not the solution".
Finally, the next Synod for the Middle East, which he desires may be an opportunity for Christians to grow in their " common ability to dialogue" even "with their Muslim brothers." "All attempts for a more fruitful and fraternal coexistence are very important."