Widespread Survey Prepares Mideast Synod
The Church is giving a voice to residents of the Holy Land on questions ranging from peace in the region to hope for the future.
These questions are part of a survey that will be used to prepare the working document for the first synod of bishops on the Middle East. The synod will be held at the Vatican in October.
The synod’s general secretariat has sent to all the dioceses of the area the “Lineamenta” (guidelines), written by the members of the pre-synodal council (eight patriarchs, four members of the Roman Curia, as well as the presidents of the episcopal conferences of Turkey and Iran).
The guidelines specify the topics to be discussed in the episcopal summit, which will be presided over by Benedict XVI.
Along with topics focused on “The Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. ‘Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul’ (Acts 4:32),” as is customary, a survey proposes concrete questions.
The responses to this survey will be used to prepare the “Instrumentum laboris” (working document) for the synod’s agenda.
The questions, sent in four languages (Arabic, French, English and Italian) are open-ended, leaving respondents free to suggest their own answers.
For example, the chapter dedicated to “The Church in the Middle East,” which exists in an environment of Muslim majority, asks: “How can respect for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience be increased?”
The document takes up one of the most serious challenges affecting Catholics with this question: “What can be done to stop or slow the emigration of Christians from the Middle East?”
After analyzing the difficult political reality in the Middle East, the document asks: “Do our Churches work to train Christian executives to contribute to the social and political life of our countries? What could they do?”
The chapter titled “Ecclesial Communion” also asks precise questions such as, for example: “Does the attitude of ‘Church people’ concerning money pose a problem for you”
The section dedicated to “Christian Witness” asks basic but decisive questions for the future of the Church in the Middle East, such as: “Does catechesis prepare the young to understand and live the faith?” “Do you think the liturgy needs to be reconsidered to some extent?”
In a synod on the Middle East, questions on relations with Islam and Judaism could not be lacking. The Lineamenta presents them in these terms. “How should we regard our relations with Judaism as a religion? How can peace and the end of political conflict be promoted?” “In what areas can we collaborate with Muslims?”
The document’s conclusion expresses the fears of many Catholics of the region: “Why are we afraid of the future?”
In fact it recognizes that among the Christian minority “our attitudes go from fear to discouragement, even among some pastors.”
However, the synod seeks to give hope to the disciples of Christ in this land, so it asks them: “How do we incarnate our faith in politics and society?” “Do we believe we have a specific vocation in the Middle East?”
Although the first and authoritative recipients of the Lineamenta are the bishops and their episcopal conferences, they have full liberty to extend the base of their consultation.
After gathering and summarizing suggestions, reactions and answers to the various aspects of the theme of the Lineamenta, the bishops will prepare a report to send to the synod’s general secretariat so that the working document can be written.