Benedict XVI Notes Peace as Primary Reason for Convocation
During a meeting with the Eastern patriarchs and major archbishops held Saturday at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI announced that preparations have already begun to hold a special Middle East synod in October 2001.
The theme for the special assembly of bishops, which will be held in the Vatican, will be “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness: ‘The Multitude of Those Who Became Believers Were of One Heart and One Soul’ (Acts 4:32).”
Benedict XVI pointed to peace as a reason for the synod: “In speaking of peace, our thoughts turn, in the first place, to the regions of the Middle East.”
Already on Monday, the pre-synodal council will gather in the office of the secretary-general of the synod of bishops in the Palazzo del Bramante on the Via della Conciliazione to launch the preparations for the meeting, according to Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the synod of bishops.
“[There will be] two days of work, Monday and Tuesday, September 21-22, to put together the organizational body that will have to start moving at full speed immediately since time is short,” the prelate told L’Osservatore Romano.
Cardinals Ivan Dias, Walter Kasper, Jean-Louis Tauran and Leonardo Sandri, together with the patriarchs Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Emmanuel III Delly, Antonios Naguib, Gregorios III Laham, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni and Fouad Twal will take part in the meeting. Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan has designated Monsignor Jules Mikhael Al-Jamil as his representative.
Archbishop Ramzi Garmou, president of the Iranian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Luigi Padovese, president of the Turkish Bishops’ Conference and some experts will also be present, Archbishop Eterovic said.
The prelate noted, however, that “the list is not yet complete, given the little time there is.”
Not a surprise
The announcement of the synod for the Middle East, the secretary-general explained, “is not itself a surprise. For years the pastors of that region have reflected on the opportunity to convoke. It was an idea that was constantly circulating. But the decisive acceleration came from Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land last May.”
“The synod’s theme,” the archbishop said, “was personally chosen by Benedict XVI after listening to suggestions gathered by the secretary general who consulted with the bishops. The Pope’s instruction is to reflect above all on the communion and witness that the Church is called to give especially in the Middle Eastern context.
“And the quote from the Acts of the Apostles — ‘The multitude of those who became believers were of one heart and one soul’ (4:32) — reminds us that that region is particularly dear to all Christians because the Lord Jesus was born, died and rose from the dead there. The Church was born there and, despite the vicissitudes of history, it is still present, with difficulties but with hope too.”
Archbishop Eterovic said that the Pope has also offered indications regarding “the prospects for dialogue for peaceful coexistence in that tormented region, taking the situations in the individual countries into account.”
Regarding participants in the synod, the archbishop said it is “still to early to think about the list and number of participants, the criteria must be established. Of course, if the pastors of the Middle East are the primary protagonists, the universal dimension of the Church will be felt.”
“A particularly important question,” he noted, “will regard the involvement of Jews and Muslims. We do not yet know the modality, but it is obvious that one must take the whole complex reality of the Middle East into account. The synod is not ‘against’ someone but it is a space of open dialogue that points to communion and peace in justice and truth. We will surely find the way to listen to the voices of the Jewish world and the Muslim world.”