Cardinal Highlights Importance of Melkite Church

Calls for Defense of Marriage in Argentina

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CORDOBA, Argentina, SEPT. 2, 2010 ( Cardinal Leonardo Sandri is calling for a rediscovery of the contributions offered by the Melkite Church, particularly leading up to the October synod of bishops for the Middle East.

The prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches said this Tuesday in an address to bishops of the Melkite Church who are working in Argentina.

The cardinal was present at a Eucharistic celebration held in Cordoba, along with Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church; Melkite Bishop Abdo Arbach, head of the apostolic exarch in Argentina; and Archbishop Carlos José Ñáñez of Cordoba. 

The Greek Melkite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite (in its Greek variant), that is, a particular Church of the Catholic Church, which enjoys autonomy and is in full communion with the Pope. 

The Melkite Church originates in the Middle East, but today its members, which number 1.5 million, have been dispersed on other continents. Originally, its members were Arab-speaking. The See of the Patriarch is in Damascus. 

Cardinal Sandri noted that «important contributions have already been made by the Melkite Church in the preparatory phase of the synod and they have been included in the instrumentum laboris (working document).»

He continued: «The topic, which is the real objective of the synod, must be kept constantly in mind: ‘Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.’ 

«This is of course the commitment of every Christian community, in every place and every time of Christian history. However, it can never be taken for granted. Rather, it must represent a stimulus that we cannot ignore.»

The cardinal insisted that communion is indispensable to sustain the evangelical mission. He affirmed that the episcopal synods must always try to be «only one heart and one soul,» so that each of the communities will be so around their bishop and their parishes and their priests. 


The prelate added: «It is a very delicate responsibility that I entrust to you in a spirit of episcopal fraternity and collegiality. 

«We bishops before our faithful, through the adherence to Christ that we are requested to renew day after day, cannot exempt ourselves from this mandate: the mandate to the Church of internal communion, so that she will always grow more decidedly.»

The cardinal pointed out that unity always begins with Christ, but «it calls for our personal conversion.»

He explained that «conversion to communion is a daily cross that must be carried so that the Church will be yeast of unity for the whole human race.»

After recalling that the Oct. 10 opening of the synod is just over a month from now, Cardinal Sandri pointed out that Melkite Catholics «are very rooted in the Eastern world but also traditionally united to the See of Peter, of which they acknowledge the responsibility proper to it: that of communion.»

He then invited the bishops to keep alive the physiognomy of the Church in the diaspora, so that the faithful will not forget their spiritual roots. 

«I think of the spiritual efforts that were asked of them to keep the second and third Melkite generation in America in the authentic Eastern identity,» the prelate affirmed, «especially in the realm of the liturgy, but not because of that failing to adopt, at the same time, the necessary openness to the new ecclesial and social context.»

Because of this, he stressed the urgency of «the renewal of family, youth and vocational ministry, also in the heart of your Church.» 


There are sectors «that must be addressed jointly, also with an incisive and complete catechesis attentive to the real situation of the faithful,» specified the cardinal.

This commitment to a more effective catechesis is urgent above all «to address the grave problem of sects and of some forms of religiosity,» he said.

Cardinal Sandri added that it must be joined with the appropriate formation of priests, «as educators of the People of God, so that they will have adequate doctrinal knowledge and be sustained by a solid spirituality and good human maturity.»

«Vocational discernment, the formation of candidates to Holy Orders, and the permanent formation of presbyters, are an undeniable priority,» he said.

The cardinal highlighted the fraternity with which the people and the Church in Argentina received the Melkite Catholics in the country. 

«The solidarity demonstrated by the faithful is indispensable to build a future of hope for those who abandoned their homeland in search of security and material and spiritual dignity,» he said.

The prelate continued, «The challenges of our time need the solidarity of all the components of the Catholic community and that of other Christians, as well as of other religions, to influence the social fabric, which experiences such evident changes in the Argentine homeland itself.»

«I do not want to go more deeply into this particularly delicate realm,» he admitted, «but I cannot fail to ask the Melkite Church and Eastern Catholics, so convinced of the supreme good constituted by the family — first cell of society and of the Church — to continue giving an effective contribution so that it will be respected and so that the union of man and woman, with the sacred bond of sacramental marriage, is defended, especially when it is gravely wounded.»

Cardinal Sandri concluded by reminding the Melkite Catholics of their vocation to be a bridge of communion between East and West. 

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