Benedict XVI Calls Synod for Syrian Church

Weeklong Meeting to Elect New Patriarch

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 15, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is calling a synod for one of the Eastern Catholic Churches so that a new patriarch can be elected.

In conformity with the Code of Canon Law for Eastern Churches, the Pope called a weeklong synod for the Syrian Catholic Church to take place in Rome starting this Saturday, the Vatican reported today. The Church’s see is located in Lebanon.

In February of last year, the Holy Father had accepted the resignation of Archbishop Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, on the occasion of the latter’s resignation from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians and of All the East.

“The synod will begin with two days of prayer and reflection and will be presided over by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches,” the communiqué informed.

When the previous patriarch resigned, the Pope entrusted the interim government of the Syrian Catholic Church to an episcopal committee composed of three members: Archbishop Theophile Georges Kassab of Homs, Hama and Nabk of the Syrians, who also administered the patriarchal eparchy; Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad of the Syrians; and Archbishop Gregorios Elias Tabe of Damascus of the Syrians.

The Eastern Catholic Churches are Churches originating in Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa, with their own legal and liturgical systems. They are identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Though there are more members of the Latin Church, the members of the Eastern Churches have the same dignity, rights and obligations as other Catholics.

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