Introduction to Synod of Bishops for the Mideast

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Explains Background

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By Gabriela Maria Mihlig

ROME, OCT. 10, 2010 ( Here is a publication from the Rome correspondent of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem, as an introduction to the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which began today in Rome and runs through Oct. 24.

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The apostolic journey of Pope Benedict XVI to Cyprus in June 2010 is to be seen in continuation of his pilgrimage to Holy Land in May 2009, not only as a pilgrimage, but also especially as an apostolic visit due to the consignment of the Instrumentum Laboris to the Patriarchs of the Middle East to be used for the preparation of the forthcoming Synod, the Special Assembly for the Middle East held in Rome from October 10-24, 2010.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which was created in the year 1099, had its location in Acre, Cyprus and in Rome, before the year 1847 when His Holiness Pope Pius IX restored it in the Old City of Jerusalem, where it is located until today. Nowadays, approximately 70.000 faithful Catholics-Latin rite are living in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Cyprus.

One can say that in these countries there is an extraordinarily beautiful and interesting «mosaic of cultures, languages and traditions» existing, which is, unfortunately, always jeopardized by the dramatic tensions and violence arising out of fundamentalism and the conflicts between Jews and Palestinians fighting for their own territories. Concerning this dispute the Instrumentum Laboris is pointing out very clearly the danger of daily Christian life which is depressed by this political conflict (cf. no. 32).

Nevertheless, this mosaic of tradition is a great treasure for the Holy Land and the Catholic Church, because it is showing its long lasting way of life as the land in which God called the patriarchs and prophets to guide his people according to the «ten commandments,» given by the Lord to Moses on Mount Sinai, and finally to bring all people back to God, its Creator, to achieve salvation.

Pope Benedict XVI pointed out — especially many times during his visits to Holy Land and to Cyprus — that the charisma of the faithful Christians is strongly needed in order to build bridges within the Christian communities among themselves and also to those who are non-Christians in keeping dialog and common search of truth and love. Bridges of faith and mutual understanding are highly important nowadays to overcome the danger of further conflicts. The permanent prayer to our Lord is necessary to ask for grace and peace in the land where He was born, He lived, suffered, died and has risen from death! This fact is mentioned in Instrumentum Laboris, no. 14, wherein, especially, the important role of the Church of Jerusalem, whom Patriarch Twal presides in his task as Patriarch, is explained: «All particular Churches throughout the world (…) trace their roots to the Church of Jerusalem. (…) Divine Providence wished to reveal the plan of salvation in this part of Asia. God guided the patriarchs (cf. Gen 12) and called Moses to lead his people to freedom (cf. Ex 3:10). (…) In the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), he sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ the Saviour, who took flesh as an Asian.»

During the Papal Mass on the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29th, 2008 the Holy Father gave to Archbishop Twal the pallium, which represents the image of the «Good Shepherd» carrying a sheep back to the fold (cf. John 10:11). Since that day he is the successor of Patriarch Emeritus, Michel Sabbah, of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. The Archdiocese of Jerusalem has the jurisdiction for all Catholics of the Latin Rite in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and also Cyprus. Therefore, Patriarch Twal was glad to have received Pope Benedict XVI also in this year at the island of Cyprus, because the Latin Church in Cyprus belongs to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

This year the Papal Visit was organised by the Catholic Church in Cyprus, particularly by Archbishop Joseph Soueif and the Patriarchal Vicar, Reverend Father Umberto Barato, OFM, under the assistance of the Cypriot Government and the United Nations Forces concerning the required special safety measure.

The Maronites of Cyprus are living in their own communities with their own churches, according to the Ecclesiastic jurisdiction stipulated in the CCEO, in both parts of the island, in the north and in the south. His Holiness visited their school and the Cathedral of the Maronite Community in the southern part of Cyprus.

Many Knights of Holy Sepulchre came to accompany also during this Papal visit the Holy Father. The Patriarch was pleased to have met and have talked with many Knights coming from Canada, United States, Scotland, and other European countries. Unfortunately, he did not have so much time for them as he had last year during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in May last year.

Pope Benedict XVI the Vicarius Iesu Christi and Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Universalis came in 2009 to the Holy Land in order to undertake a pilgrimage to the holy places of our Lord Jesus Christ and to be a peacemaker in a period of time wherein one can find many struggles due to the «nearly never lasting conflict» in the Near and Middle East countries. Now the Apostolic Visit to Cyprus showed us his efforts to achieve communion between the Christian communities, especially with the Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus, with reference to the Ecumenical Celebration which took place on June 4th outside of the Church of Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa in Pafos together with His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomus II and in presence of all the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East. The union between Catholic Church and Orthodox Church is one of the main items of the Instrumentum Laboris. The Introduction, no. 3, shows the two objectives of the Synod, which are: «a) to confirm and strengthen the members of the Catholic Church in their Christian identity, through the Word of God and the sacraments; and b) to foster ecclesial communion among the Churches sui iuris, so that they can bear witness to the Christian life in an authentic, joyous and winsome manner. (…) Ecumenism is a part of Christian witness everywhere, but primarily in the countries of the Middle East.»

In this conversation the Patriarch draw the attention to one of the main issues of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, the celebration of the Sunday Mass in the stadion in Nikosia in presence of all Patriarchs. On this occasion the Pope forwarded to them the Instrumentum Laboris. The Patriarch explained that with this document all members of the Special Assembly had to prepare their interventions for the forthcoming Synod in order to achieve a common view of the most important issues and intentions of this Synod.

Communion and witness – the issue of the Synod: The Patriarch noted the importance of the Ecclesial communion between the Christian communities, especially in Holy Land, which participate in the Corpus Christi Mysticum substantially and this is to be understood as the Mystical and Living Body of Christ. Union in Christ enables Christians to give witness of truth and love, which have their origin in God, in the Holy Trinity. The Instrumentum Laboris, no. 54, is outlining that «the divine life within the mystery of the Holy Trinity is the foundation and model for Christian communion» and that «the relations between the divine persons are relations of love.»

Furthermore, Patriarch Twal stressed out the many occasions he had within these days in Cyprus to inform Pope Benedict about the problems in Holy Land nowadays and that the Pope called again, as he did last year during his pilgrimage to Holy Land, to the world for more peace and justice and for avoiding violence.

Concerning the murdered Apostolic Vicar of Turkey, His Excellency Monsignore Luigi Padovese, the Patriarch regretted this crime deeply and pointed out the fact that this happened one day before the Apostolic visit of the Pope to Cyprus there was some dark shad
ow on the visit, because he was supposed to come and to participate in the holy Mass and in all ceremonies as member of the Middle East Synod, as he was present with all members in the preparation phase before. Mons. Padovese was always a quiet participant, the Patriarch explained, and a well-known specialist of the theology of St. Paul. He edited in the «Pauline year 2008» three big volumes about him, Paolo di Tarso, Archeologia-Storia-Ricezione. The Patriarch remarked that Holy Father carried during these days in Cyprus much suffering and pain in his soul concerning this crime. All members prayed for Monsignore Padovese and remembered him in all celebrations of holy Mass.

With regard to the apostolicity and missionary vocation of the Church, belonging to the Nota Ecclesiae, His Beatitude emphasized the importance of the continuous annunciation for giving witness of the Faith of Catholic Church, as written in Instrumentum Laboris, no. 19. and 20: «Our Churches are apostolic in origin and our countries have been the cradle of Christianity. These lands have been blessed by the presence of Christ himself and the first generations of Christians. It would indeed be a loss for the universal Church, if Christianity were to disappear or be diminished in the very place where it was born. Consequently, we bear a grave responsibility not only to maintain the Christian faith in these holy lands but, still more, to maintain the spirit of the Gospel in relations with both Christians and non-Christians, not to mention to keep alive the memory of these Christian beginnings. In being apostolic, our Churches have a special mission to bring the Gospel to the whole world.»

His Beatitude is looking forward to this important event of the Church, which will be officially opened on the occasion of the Papal Mass held on Sunday, October 10th, 2010 in St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of all members of the Synod, with his following words: «We know how St. Paul suffered for announcing the Gospel and we understand we have to bear our cross for mission in Holy Land and have to follow his example hereto. We join our voice to the words of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for a call for more prayer and advocacy, for more justice in the Holy Land!»

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