Peace is possible and urgent in the Middle East, where wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for “too long,” said the Pope at the concluding Mass of the Vatican’s synod on the Middle East. He invited prayers for the region and assured its Christian inhabitants that they are “never alone.”
The synod, two weeks of discussions on the state of Christians and the Church in the Middle East, concluded on Sunday with a Eucharistic celebration that showed the “unity in diversity” of the Catholic Church. Joining Pope Benedict XVI in the celebration of the Mass were 177 bishops from all over the Middle East and neighboring nations who had taken part in the summit.
The meetings brought many challenges, hopes and concerns to light while maintaining a focus on the synod’s theme: “Communion and Witness: now those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
Among the matters receiving the most attention during the sessions were communion among the variety of Eastern Catholic traditions; problematic emigration from the Middle East; and inter-religious relations and dialogue. The topics of violence, peace, and religious freedom were also prominent.
During the homily at the synod’s closing Mass, Pope Benedict called the encounter a “truly extraordinary experience,” not just for participants, “but for the good of the Church.” He told the many Synod Fathers that they now return home from this “powerful moment of ecclesial communion” to their missions, knowing that they are united and remain in God’s love.
He hoped that the positive experience of being “united, heart and soul, in faith, in hope and in charity,” would be repeated in Middle Eastern communities. Guided by prayer and by living true unity, he said, Catholics in the region will also be able to pursue dialogue with other Christians more readily.
While Christians in the region are few, the Pope observed, “they are the bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man … and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate and violence.” He prayed that initiatives for peace might arise from all levels of society.
“Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East,” he emphasized. “Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts.
“We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent,” he said.
It is also the “indispensable condition for a life of dignity for human beings and society” and “the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East,” he added.
Referring to Psalm 122’s call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, he said “we pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for peace in the Middle East, undertaking to try to ensure that this gift of God to men of goodwill should spread through the whole world.”
Christians can also contribute to the promotion of “authentic freedom of religion and conscience” in the region, he said, proposing this as a topic of Christian-Muslim dialogue.
Turning to Christians in the Middle East, headed: “may the experience of these days assure you that you are never alone, that you are always accompanied by the Holy See and the whole Church, which, having been born in Jerusalem, spread through the Middle East and then the rest of the world.”
He also announced during the homily that the next assembly of bishops would take place in 2012 to examine “new evangelization.”