VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops will see for the first time almost all the ordinaries of the region gathered around the Bishop of Rome.
This is one of the historical elements of the assembly presented at a press conference today by the secretary-general of the synod, Archbishop Nikola Eterović.
Another novelty is that this will be the briefest synod, lasting only 14 days. (It began Sunday and ends Oct. 24). The brevity is due to three principal motives: the smaller number of participants, a simplification of the methodology, and concern for the Catholics of the Middle East (minorities in most of the region) who will be without their pastors.
There are 185 synod fathers, 159 of whom are taking part ex officio. Among them are 101 ordained in the ecclesiastical circumscriptions of the Middle East and 23 in the diaspora, who lead the faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches who have emigrated from the Middle East to other countries.
There are also 19 bishops of neighboring North and East African nations and European and American countries with Christian communities from the Middle East.
Fourteen leaders of dicasteries of the Roman Curia are participating.
The synod fathers include nine patriarchs, 19 cardinals, 65 archbishops, 10 titular archbishops, 53 bishops, 21 auxiliary bishops and 87 religious.
There are nine heads of synods of bishops of the Catholic Eastern Churches sui iuris, and five representatives of international meetings of episcopal conferences.
There are six presidents of episcopal conferences, one coadjutor archbishop, and four retired archbishops, two of whom are cardinals. Also present is the retied Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the patriarchal vicar.
Thirty-six experts and 34 auditors, women and men, are participating.
Counting the members of the general secretariat, the translators and assistants, as well as those working in the technical services, close to 330 individuals are participating in the assembly.
There are also representatives from six other Easter Catholic Churches: the Ethiopian, the Greek, the Romanian, the Syro-Malabar, the Syro-Malankara and the Ukrainian.
Of the 185 synod fathers, the majority — 140 — belong to Eastern Catholic traditions; there are 45 bishops of Latin traditions, 14 of whom are from the Middle East.
In an atmosphere of prayer, reflection and dialogue, the synod should “serve to further the bonds of communion within each of these Churches,” said Archbishop Eterović. “Obviously the bonds of communion should also be reinforced between the particular Churches of different traditions.”
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