Activities Planned Around Mideast Synod

Aim to Promote Awareness of Christians in That Region

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ROME, SEPT. 28, 2010 ( Various activities are under way leading up to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which will take place Oct. 10-24 in Rome.

These activities include a multimedia exhibition with images of the daily life of Christians in the Holy Land, Iran and the Arabian Peninsula and a crowded calendar of gatherings with bishops, religious, writers, journalists and other experts from that region.

These activities are part of an initiative, called «A Look at Christians of the Middle East,» which was presented Thursday in Rome at the headquarters of Italian Catholic Action. 

It is being promoted by the Custody of the Holy Land and by Edizioni Terra Santa, in collaboration with Italian Catholic Action and the International Forum of Catholic Action, the Italian Catholic Press Union, Lazio, Pax Christi Italy, the Conference of Italian Missionary Institutes, and the John Paul II Foundation.

Father Giuseppe Ferrari, Italian delegate of the Holy Land Custodia, said in a press conference, «The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East represents the occasion of a special trip to the origins of Christian history, in a complex and extremely varied region.»

He noted that «the Middle East is a sort of ‘concentration’ of problems of the universal Church.»

«There are on the table ecclesiological questions» such as «jurisdiction between patriarchies, Churches and different rites,» the priest said, interreligious questions, such as relations with confessions descended from Abraham, and sociopolitical questions stemming from the conflicts and the rights of minorities.

For this reason, Father Ferrari explained, this synod «will be an important occasion for mutual updating, meeting and reflection on the challenges and hopes that touch those Churches and the Christian communities that live there.»

One heart, one soul

Chiara Finocchietti, director of the youth sector in the International Forum of Catholic Action, said, «By promoting this initiative, Catholic Action makes its own the motto of the synod: to be committed to the Christians of the Holy Land and of the Middle East, together with many realities that work there, ‘with only one heart and one soul.'»

She affirmed that «Catholic Action has friendship with the Holy Land inscribed in its DNA, a bond made concrete in spiritual communion, in prayer and in friendship, but more specifically, in fostering occasions and possibilities of encounter with the Church of the Holy Land.»

Giuseppe Caffulli, director of Edizioni Terra Santa, stated, «In an era that has given us the impression, through global communication, that we know everything, the synod will offer Christians of the West the possibility of coming into contact with the experience of the unknown plurality and the richness, largely ignored, of the Eastern tradition.»

He added, «The editions of the Custody of the Holy Land have attempted to do this, in fact, with the photographic exhibition and the two weeks of meetings that are presented today: to offer all believers who so wish the occasion to reinforce ties with the often forgotten believers of the Land of the Holy One.»

Taking part in the initiative among others are: Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land; Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the synod of bishops; Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem; Archbishop Cyril Vasil, secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; and Archbishop Michel Sabbah, retired Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.

Two conferences will be dedicated to Jordan and Iraq, while the rest will study the educational and aid activities carried out by Christian institutions of the Middle East, knowledge of the initiatives of economic solidarity, and the importance of pilgrimages to support the local Christian communities.

Two of the meetings will also be dedicated to the memory of Bishop Luigi Padovese, vicar apostolic of Anatolia, Turkey, killed last June, and Father Michele Piccirillo, recently deceased Franciscan archaeologist, to whom are owed many valuable discoveries in the Holy Land.

[With the contribution of Chiara Santomiero]
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