Benedict XVI's Address to Envoy From Syria

«An Example of Harmonious Relations Between Christians and Muslims»

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 ( Here is the message Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to Hussan Edin Aala, the new ambassador of Syria to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence. 

The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldava, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

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Mr. Ambassador

I am pleased to receive you this morning at the moment of the presentation of your letters, which accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Syria to the Holy See. You have transmitted to me the greetings of His Excellency the president of the republic, and I would be grateful if you thanked him. Through you, I would also like to greet the whole Syrian nation, wishing it peace and fraternity.

As you have stressed, Mr. Ambassador, Syria has been a very significant place for Christians since the origins of the Church. Since his meeting with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul would become the Apostle to the Gentiles, becoming the first of numerous great saints who have marked the religious history of your country. Numerous are the archaeological testimonies of churches, of monasteries, and of mosaics of the first centuries of the Christian era, which refer us to the origins of the Church. Syria has traditionally been an example of tolerance, concord, and harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims and today the ecumenical and interreligious relations are good. I very much hope that this coexistence between all the cultural and religious components of the nation will continue and develop for the greater good of all, thus reinforcing a unity founded on justice and solidarity.

However, such unity can only be built in a lasting way through the recognition of the centrality and dignity of the human person. «As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others» (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2007, No. 2). Hence, the path toward unity and stability in every nation passes through the recognition of the inalienable dignity of every human person. Therefore, the latter must be at the center of institutions, of laws, and of societies’ action. Consequently, it is of essential importance to foster the common good, putting aside personal or party interests. Moreover, the path of listening, of dialogue and of collaboration must be recognized as a means by which the different components of society can compare their points of view and achieve a consensus on the truth relative to the particular values and ends. This will bring great benefits for individuals and communities (cf. Address to the United Nations, April 18, 2008).

In this perspective, the events of the past months in some nearby Mediterranean countries, Syria among them, demonstrate the desire for a better future in the areas of political, economic, and social life. Nevertheless, it is greatly desirable that this evolution not take place in a climate of intolerance, discrimination, or conflict and, sill less, of violence, but rather in a climate of absolute respect for the truth, for co-existence, for the legitimate rights of the person and the collective, and of reconciliation. These are the principles that should guide the authorities, keeping always in mind the aspiration of civil society and international directives.

Mr. Ambassador, I wish to stress here the positive role of Christians in your country, who as citizens are involved in the construction of a society where everyone finds his place. I cannot fail to mention the service carried out by the Catholic Church in the social and educational realm, which is appreciated by all. Allow me to greet very particularly the faithful of the Catholic communities, with their bishops, and to encourage them to develop bonds of fraternity with everyone. Daily contact with their Muslim countrymen highlights the importance of interreligious dialogue and the possibility of working together in many ways for the common good. May the impulse given by the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops bring abundant fruit to your country, for the benefit of the whole population and for authentic reconciliation among peoples!

To advance peace in the region, a comprehensive solution must be found. It must not damage the interests of the parties involved, and it must be the fruit of a compromise and not of a unilateral decision imposed by force. This [force] does not resolve anything, nor do partial or unilateral solutions, which are insufficient. Conscious of the population’s suffering, one must proceed with a comprehensive approach that deliberately excludes no one from seeking a negotiated solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations and interests of the various peoples involved. Moreover, the situation that the Middle East has been facing for so many years has led you to receive a great number of refugees, primarily from Iraq, and among them many Christians. I heartily thank the Syrian people for their generosity.

At the moment that you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I address to you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the success of your mission. Be sure that you will always find among my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. Upon Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the inhabitants of Syria, I invoke from my heart an abundance of divine blessings.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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