The Chaldean cardinal at the briefing in the Vatican Press Office: from the West, so far little help for the millions of refugees. Bishop Spengler’s denunciation: drugs kill in Brazil like war. The Synod Fathers on pilgrimage on 25 October along the Via Francigena.
One synod father compares the Middle East’s “emptying” of its Christians to “a mortal sin”. Another denounces instead the scourge of drugs in Brazil and in all Latin America that reaps more victims than war and strikes one family out of three. The universal gaze of the Synod is reflected in today’s briefing in the Vatican Press Office, where Iraqi Cardinal Raphael Louis Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldees, and Archbishop Jaime Spengler of the Brazilian diocese of Porto Alegre share with journalists the concerns – already expressed in the courtroom – about the “evil” that overwhelms the young people of their lands.
With them are also Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Department for the Service of Integral Human Development, the editor-in-chief of the Spanish magazine Fe y alegría, Sister María Luisa Berzosa González, and, as always, the Prefect of the Department for Communication, Paolo Ruffini, who announced the news of a pilgrimage of the Synod Fathers for the last 6 kilometers of the Via Francigena. An initiative proposed during the work of the Synod to be held Thursday, October 25, from 8:30 to 11; the route will begin from the Park of Monte Mario and will end in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the tomb of the apostle where Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization that organizes the pilgrimage, will celebrate a mass. The synod fathers are currently registering, Ruffini explained, and the details are still being defined. For now, the Prefect of Vatican Insider reported, the participation of the Pope is not expected.
Taking the floor, Sako – at his fourth synodal assembly – defined the meeting in the Vatican room “a micro ecclesia from all over the world”, which despite its diversity – “The Middle East is not America, America is not Africa, Africa is not Europe” – is proving to be cohesive in “reasoning and analyzing the challenges of young people and their problems”. In particular the Patriarch, created cardinal by Francis last June, wanted to turn the spotlight on the tragedy of Iraqi refugees, about 4 million in total (120,000 Christians) fleeing in recent years from the violence of Isis and now living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and neighboring countries because still unable to return to their homes.
“Many are young” and too little was said of them during the Synod plenary sessions but much more in the smaller circles, the Patriarch said, complaining of the “emptying” of his land that he called “a mortal sin”. “If we Christians of the East leave, we lose an identity and a very rich heritage”, for this reason Sako says he applauds Viktor Orbán’s Hungary “who, if I have not misunderstood, instead of receiving refugees has donated five million to rebuild houses and schools”.
To those who pointed out that funds – resulting from many campaigns “for persecuted Christians” – have also been directed from the United States for the same objectives, Sako replied laconically that: “We have not seen anything so far. There are promises, but in reality, so far there is nothing. Instead, we must help these people to return to their homes, encourage Christians to stay there, help them get a job, repair their houses, give them hope”.
“We don’t understand why the situation has worsened”, added the Chaldean primate. And the questions still remain unanswered: “Why kill people? Who is behind Isis? Why have more than three million Iraqis had to leave their homes? Who will rebuild them? Iraq has no money…”.
Cardinal Turkson spoke on the matter and explained how his office is coordinating various aid from organizations of American Churches. “Contributions also come from individual citizens or members of the Churches, announcements are made at government level but nothing happens”. A project for the reconstruction of refugee homes is currently being defined: “But should these homes be built where the refugees are now or, in their places of origin? We need to get an overview of the current situation” Turkson stressed. “How can we be sure that they want to return?
A different scenario, yet Monsignor Spengler’s apprehension for Brazil is the same. He denounced above all the damage caused by drugs that “is part of the lives of so many young people and families”, so much so that “statistics say that people die more in Brazil than in the war in Syria”.
This phrase was greeted with a grimace by Patriarch Sako who, when asked about his facial expression, made it clear that there can be no comparison between this Latin American social phenomenon and what is a humanitarian tragedy in the Middle East: “There, young people are free, while in Syria, innocents are often killed”.
It’s true, “they’re different realities,” Spengler pointed out, but they both share the same “cruelty”. In Brazil “the victims are young, the big drug dealers are sowers of death, there are sectors of society and of the political world that want the legalization of certain types of drugs, thus promoting addiction, however the State has not committed itself to treat these people. They are remnants, the crucifixes of today that society struggles to look at. And many families are living this difficult reality… Every weekend, carnages take place on the outskirts of big cities”. Not to mention the young people themselves “who suffer and feel how difficult it is to make the road or the way back”. Throughout South America, the bishop added, “the Church does an extraordinary job in this area of life trying to help young people and creating spaces where they can perhaps reintegrate into society”.
Monsignor Spengler also identified two other challenges that young people from all continents have in common: the so-called “change of epoch”, “a time of extraordinary achievements in the field of science and technology” that however is not known “how much good it can create and for how many people”, then the “globalization” that “produces changes” which however give priority to “productivity, consumption and profit”. “How can we pastors respond to the needs of the young people who live this reality on a daily basis?”, was the bishop’s question.
For Turkson, we need to write a “manual of life”, like an instruction booklet for household appliances, to help young people orient themselves and mature. For Sako one should “seek an understandable language to speak” with the new generations: “We are accustomed as Church to a traditional language that does not speak, however, we must find a new vocabulary”. Above all, we must do so today, at a time when “the Church has left the Palace, is in solidarity with the world and with young people”, Sako said, without hiding a slight criticism of the scarce presence of young people at the Synod dedicated precisely to them: “I hoped there would be more young people, 34 is a little bit little, while we are about 260 fathers…”.
In her brief speech, Sister Marie-Louise explained – almost in response to the controversies that have been circulating since yesterday about the marginal role of women at the Synod – that she felt “very involved” in the discussions. “I want to defend the Church from within and not be a spectator. Of course, women should be more present, though women in the Church do not have the door wide open, if there is a crack, we immediately slip in”.
Ruffini, finally, reported that 1,509 postcards of young French people from the eight dioceses of Ile-de-France who participated in a pre-synodal meeting in Lourdes had been handed over to Pope Francis. Responding to another question, he confirmed that the final document will be voted point by point, not en bloc, and with a two-thirds majority, as already provided for in the regulations
By: SALVATORE CERNUZIO