ROME, FEB. 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal-designate Ignace Moussa I Daoud sees the big picture.
“At the beginning of this millennium,” the Syriac patriarch of Antioch said, “the Holy Father looks at the Oriental Churches and expects them to play an active role in the Church´s bet on the restoration of unity with the Oriental Churches, especially with those where there is a lack of close ties.”
The cardinal-designate last November was the first patriarch of an Oriental Catholic Church to be appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
He was born in Syria in 1930. In 1964, he obtained a degree in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University, prior to being elected bishop of Cairo and later of Homs, in Syria. On Wednesday he will be one of two new cardinals who will not receive the ritual vestments, “out of consideration for the Oriental Churches.”
–Q: Do we also do away with the title of respect, “Beatitude” or “Eminence”?
–Patriarch Daoud: In my case, the appointment as cardinal continues to be an honorary title. I have spoken with the Vatican State Secretariat and those responsible for protocol, and they have agreed with my interpretation.
Therefore, the Holy Father will not hand me the Cardinal´s hat tomorrow, but only the bull with the appointment, and I will be able to continue to dress in my patriarch´s tunic.
–Q: There is the precedent of the Maronite Patriarch-Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir.
–Patriarch Daoud: Patriarch Sfeir found another solution, by only wearing the cardinal´s attire every now and then. Mine, instead, is a return to the purest Oriental traditions. It is an option also shared by Stephanos Ghattas, the patriarch of Alexandria.
After hearing our reasons, the Roman Curia is convinced and has decided to give us a kind of precedence. Patriarch Ghattas will be called first, in alphabetical order and patriarchal age, to receive the bull, I will follow him, out of consideration for the Oriental Churches, as we have been told.
–Q: Would it be good to automatically include the Oriental patriarchs in the College of Cardinals?
–Patriarch Daoud: No, because it would be contrary to the historical evolution, which prefers that each patriarchal synod elect its patriarchs. I will form part of the College of Cardinals because of my position as prefect and my residence in Rome.
–Q: Yet the Pope is also Supreme Pontiff of the universal Church, in addition to being Patriarch of the West, and he can be a native of the West or East.
–Patriarch Daoud: That´s true. We have also had patriarchs of Syrian and Greek culture, in the history of our Antioch Patriarchate, but all [have been] titulars of an Episcopal See within the patriarchate. The Oriental patriarchs must continue to be heads of local Churches and not become members of the clergy of Rome.
–Q: Do the Orthodox also think this way?
–Patriarch Daoud: Indeed, Orthodox Patriarchs claim an apostolic patrimony but, for us Catholics, there is also the primacy of the Pope, in his capacity as Peter´s successor. Christ´s election of Peter to shepherd the flock is not, let´s say, personalized, but extends to all his successors. In any case, I believe this disagreement with the Orthodox will disappear little by little.
–Q: How did you see your appointment as prefect?
–Patriarch Daoud: The fact that I was chosen could be due to several elements, among them that I represent an Oriental Church, the Syrian, which speaks Arabic and lives in an atmosphere that might help me to foster the dialogue between Islam and Christianity.
However, I must admit that it surprised me because I was not ready for this “move.” My patriarchal life had begun just over two years ago, and I was beginning to know the environment and to have more understanding of, and confidence in, my mission.
Therefore, I accepted the appointment for the good of the universal Church, especially the Oriental Churches. I accepted and, therefore, will go all the way.
–Q: The Pope will visit Syria in May. As a Syrian, what do you think of this?
–Patriarch Daoud: The idea gives me great joy. The Pope´s first and last wish is to follow in Paul´s footsteps, from Damascus, where the apostle was converted, to Antioch, and from Asia Minor to Malta and Greece.
I hope that this trip will stimulate scholars to rediscover the patrimony of the Syrian Churches. The experts have opened all the cultural treasures of the Greeks and Latins, but our patrimony of spirituality, traditions and culture remains to be discovered.