altHARISSA – The Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East (CPCO) participated in their second Congress from December 3-5, 2012 in Lebanon, to study together the content of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Middle East and the manner of receiving it in their dioceses. The future of Christians in the Arab world was the focus of the debates and the Palestinian question was judged the source of Middle-Eastern conflicts.

Not less than 120 Bishops of the Middle Easter gathered in Harissa, Lebanon, for the Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East. The meeting was organized by the CPCO (Council of Oriental Catholic Patriarchs) and by APECL (the Assembly of Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon). For His Excellency, Bishop Marcuzzo, Episcopal Vicar for Israel “the Congress presented the opportunity to make an examination of conscience on the recent past years, especially since the First Congress, held in 1999, and therefore to ascertain what has been done and what has not been put into practice. This Congress has especially helped us to highlight, in the spirit of the Special Synod of Bishops of 2010 and of the Apostolic Exhortation “The Church in the Middle East”, some priorities, absolutely unavoidable, that each Church must strongly commit to live: the Bible, formation, the work of communion on all levels, the means of social communication, the incarnation of our presence in our culture and our challenges in the Middle East”.

In this perspective, two documents were officially approved by the Bishops concerning political and social questions and, naturally, also the humanitarian question in the present context of the Arab Spring.
first document – a communiqué – assembles some concrete recommendations in order to put into practice in every dimensions of individual and community life the teachings contained in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente the Church in the Middle East that Benedict XVI delivered to the Bishops of the region and to their Churches during his apostolic visit to Lebanon, last September.

Muslims invited to guarantee the freedom of Eastern Christians

The second document – an appeal – signed by the participants at the Assembly is according to His Excellency, Bishop Marcuzzo “a real cry of sorrow and alarm” directed to the international community and to all men of good will and touches upon three fundamental points:
– the first point highlights the urgency of finding a “just and peaceful solution to the Palestinian question” considered the source of all conflicts of the region;
– the second points consists in a vibrant appeal to do everything possible to bring an end to the conflicts and violence that trouble the life of the regions, implementing some ways of reconciliation and peace that guarantee freedom to all and protection of their human dignity. The appeal clearly makes reference to the Syrian chaos;
– the third point places emphasis on the condition of Christians of the Middle East. The leaders of the Churches are called to intensify their communion and a full collaboration to promote the perseverance and continuity of the native, active and effective presence of Christians at the heart of Arab society. The appeal, on this point, is also directed to Muslims, calling them to guarantee the full rights of their Christian compatriots, recognizing a common and shared citizenship. The condition of Christians of the region was tackled.

His Excellency, Bishop Marcuzzo, affirmed that, from a practical point of view, now that the Congress is over “It is the turn of the individual dioceses. The Congress decided to reinforce the structures of communion of it Secretariat by better responding to all the needs of cooperation that arise at the Middle Eastern level. The Patriarchates and dioceses are committed to doing the same at the level of each country,” The situations are surely different from one country to another, from one diocese to another, as the interventions of  H.E. Bishop Marcuzzo on the situation of the Church in Israel attest or that of H. E. Archbishop Lahham on the situation of the Church in Jordan

Christophe Lafontaine