VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11 (Zenit.org).- Here is the greeting given today by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, at the first general congregation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, presided over by Benedict XVI.
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Most Holy Father,
We give thanks to God, together with Your Holiness, for the communion with the Successor of Peter, which makes us feel like the Church of Christ, eternally loved by him. Through his holy people, he loves humanity and wants to present himself, as the Lord of history, even today. We render thanks for this expression of episcopal collegiate fraternity for the benefit of the Church in the Middle East.
With You, Holy Father, we trust in the mercy of God and ask that His kingdom of truth, love and justice arrive to the East and the West soon.
Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35): this is the confirmation we receive these days, while we are always listening “to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:11) and to what Your Holiness confided to the Christians of the Middle East.
Now, here in Rome, we carry the East in our hearts, the precious treasures of its spiritual traditions: the glory and worth, as well as the trials of its past; the suffering and expectations for the present and the future. A “precious tie” unites all the eras of the Eastern Church: this is the Christian martyr.
Even today this demonstrates a faithfulness to the Gospel, which has written indelible pages of ecumenical brotherhood. While seeing some improvement in the situation, in some contexts the Catholics along with other Christians still endure hostility, persecution and the lack of respect for the fundamental right of religious freedom. Terrorism and other forms of violence do not even spare our Jewish and Muslim brothers. Humanly shameful events multiply and strike innocent victims. The loss of individuals and goods, and of reasonable perspectives, generates the reality of emigration, which is sad and unfortunately persists beyond some positive exceptions. Distress often flourishes giving rise to the crucial question of whether there ever can be days of peace and prosperity in the Middle East or if in the future the same survival of the “plebs sancta Dei” is not at risk.
You, Holy Father, have never lost hope. Rather, you instill it in the Churches of the East because they live the mystery evoked by the Prophet Ezekiel, the “glory of Yahweh” which “arrived at the Temple by the east gate” (Ez 43:4).
The East answers by persevering in communion and in witness; answering with the firm will to offer and receive the hope of the Cross.
During the Synodal supper “sub umbra Petri” the sons and daughters of the Eastern Churches wish to join with their pastors: they wish to be “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32) and make theirs the priestly prayer of Christ “ut unum sint” (Jn 17:21). The East confirms its mission before Your Holiness, the mission of cooperating in the unity of all Christians especially the Eastern ones according to the mandate of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II (cf. OE 24).
Today, October 11th, is the liturgical memorial to the blessed John XXIII. To the beloved Pontiff, “sincere friend of the East,” we entrust the prayer for the synodal work.
We see the same love in you, Holy Father. Therefore, I vouch for the faithfulness and complete adhesion to Your Person and to Your Magisterium by the faithful of the Middle East, while in the name of the Delegate Presidents, the General Relator, the General and Special Secretaries and all the participants I express our deepest gratitude to Your Holiness.
May the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God bear abundant fruit for this providential initiative for the good of the Church in the hope of peace for the Middle East and for the world.
Thank you, Holy Father.