"The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (-John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

"Where the bishop is, there let the people gather; just as where ever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". -St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 AD)a martyr later thrown to the lions, wrote to a church in Asia Minor. Antioch was also where the term "Christian" was first used.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." -CCC 811

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

FINAL MESSAGE OF SYNOD FOR MIDDLE EAST

VATICAN CITY, 23 OCT 2010 (VIS) - During yesterday's Thirteenth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, the Synod Father's approved their Final Message.

Extracts from the English-language version of the Message are given below:

I. THE CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE EAST: COMMUNION AND WITNESS THROUGHOUT HISTORY. THE JOURNEY OF FAITH IN THE MIDDLE EAST

"The first Christian community was born in the Middle East. From there, the Apostles after Pentecost went out to evangelise the whole world. ... We are now at a turning point in our history: The God Who gave 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".

"Today we face many challenges. ... What Christ asks from our Churches is to strengthen communion within every 'sui iuris' Church, and between the Catholic Churches of different traditions, and to exert every effort in prayer and charitable acts in order to attain the full unity of all Christians".

"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 changing 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.

"In our meetings and our prayers we reflected on the keen sufferings of the Iraqi people. We recalled the Christians killed in Iraq, the continued suffering of the Church in Iraq, and her children who have been displaced and dispersed throughout the world, taking their concerns for their country and their homeland with them.

"The Synod Fathers expressed their solidarity with the people and the Churches in Iraq expressing the hope that the emigrants, forced to leave their own country, might find in their host countries the support necessary to be able to return to their homeland and live in security".

"Our mission, based on our faith and our duty towards our homeland, obliges us to contribute to the construction of our countries together with all citizens, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike".

II. COMMUNION AND WITNESS WITHIN THE CATHOLIC CHURCHES OF THE MIDDLE EAST. TO THE FAITHFUL OF OUR CHURCHES

"We wish to greet you, Christians of the Middle East, and thank you for all you have achieved in your families and societies, in your Churches and nations. We commend you for your perseverance in times of adversity, suffering and anguish".

"Those of you who suffer in body, in soul and spirit, the oppressed, those forced from your homes, the persecuted, prisoners and detainees, we carry you all in our prayers. Unite your sufferings to those of Christ the Redeemer and seek patience and strength in His cross. By the merit of your sufferings, you gain God's merciful love".

"We now wish to address the women of our Churches. To you we express our appreciation for what you are in the various states of your life: girls, mothers, educators, consecrated women and those engaged in public life. We honour you because you harbour human life within you from its very beginnings. ... God has given you particular sensibility for everything pertaining to education, humanitarian work and apostolic life. We give thanks to God for your activities and we hope that you will be able to exercise greater responsibility in public life".

"Young women and men, ... plan your life under the loving gaze of Christ. Be responsible citizens and sincere believers. The Church joins you in your desire to find work commensurate with your talents. ... Overcome the temptation of materialism and consumerism. Be strong in your Christian values".

"We appreciate the role of the communications media, both printed and audio-visual. ... With regard to the Middle East, 'Tele Lumiere-Noursat' merits a special mention. We hope it will be able to continue its service of providing information and education in the faith, working for Christian unity, consolidating the Christian presence in the Middle East, strengthening inter-religious dialogue and the communion of all peoples of Middle Eastern origin all over the world".

"To our faithful in the diaspora, ... you the children of our Churches and our countries who have been forced to emigrate, we accompany you with our prayers. ... Look to the future with confidence and joy. Hold fast to your spiritual values, to your cultural traditions and to your national heritage, in order to give your host countries the best of yourselves and the best of what you have. We thank the Churches of the countries of the diaspora which have received our faithful and unceasingly collaborate with us to ensure they receive the necessary pastoral care".

"We send our greetings to all immigrants of various nationalities, who have come to our countries seeking employment. ... We ask our Churches to pay special attention to these brothers and sisters and their difficulties, whatever their religion, especially when their rights and dignity are subject to abuse. ... This is why we call upon the governments of host countries to respect and defend their rights".

III. COMMUNION AND WITNESS TOGETHER WITH THE ORTHODOX AND PROTESTANT COMMUNITIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

"We share the same journey. Our challenges are the same and our future is the same. We wish to bear witness together as disciples of Christ. Only through our unity can we accomplish the mission that God has entrusted to us, despite the differences among our Churches. ... We acknowledge and encourage all initiatives for ecumenical dialogue in each of our countries".

IV. CO-OPERATION AND DIALOGUE WITH OUR JEWISH FELLOW-CITIZENS

"The same Sacred Scriptures unite us: the Old Testament, which is the Word of God for both you and us. ... Vatican Council II published the document 'Nostra aetate' which concerns inter-religious dialogue with Judaism, Islam and the other religions. ... Ongoing dialogue is taking place between the Church and representatives of Judaism. We hope that this dialogue can bring us to work together to press those in authority to put an end to the political conflict which continues to divide us and to disrupt daily life in our countries".

V. CO-OPERATION AND DIALOGUE WITH OUR MUSLIM FELLOW-CITIZENS

"We are united by faith in the one God and by the commandment that says: do good and avoid evil. ... 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 shared responsibility. ... Our duty, then, is to educate believers in inter-religious dialogue, in the acceptance of pluralism and mutual esteem".

VI. OUR PARTICIPATION IN PUBLIC LIFE: AN APPEAL TO THE GOVERNMENTS AND TO THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN OUR COUNTRIES

"We address you concerning the importance of equality among all citizens. Christians are original and authentic citizens, loyal to their homeland and to their national duties and obligations. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, freedom of education and teaching, and access to the communications media. We appeal to you to redouble your efforts to establish a just and lasting peace throughout the region and to stop the arms race. This will lead to security and economic prosperity and stop the haemorrhage of emigration which empties our countries of its living resources".

VII. APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

"The citizens of the countries of the Middle East call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations, to work conscientiously to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, by applying Security Council resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of various 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 internationally recognised borders. The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious heritage of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State-solution will become a reality and not just a dream.

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

"Lebanon will be able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and continue its vocation as a model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, through dialogue between different cultures and religions, and 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 religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world".

CONCLUSION: CONTINUE TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE DIVINE LIFE THAT WAS SHOWN TO US IN THE PERSON OF JESUS

"Brothers and sisters, in closing, we say with St. John the Apostle: ... 'This life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us - we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us'. ... This Divine Life ... 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: 'Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'. Together we proceed on our journey with hope".

"We confess that thus far we have not done everything in our power to experience better communion in 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 conversion as individuals and communities. Today we return to you full of hope, strength and resolution, bringing the message of the Synod and its recommendations, that we might study them together and put them into practice in our Churches, each according to its state. We hope also that this new effort may be an ecumenical effort".

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