By Carmen Elena Villa
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On the list of 24 men who will be made cardinals next month, one is an Egyptian was already in Rome when today’s announcement was made: His Beatitude Antonios Naguib.
Patriarch Naguib is one of the synod fathers discussing the Middle East at the synodal assembly under way in the Vatican through Sunday.
He is the patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts in Egypt, a service he has carried out since 2006. He is also the president of that episcopal conference.
On Tuesday, the patriarch spoke at a press conference after the morning’s interventions at the synod.
Patriarch Naguib warned of the danger of Islamophobia, when Islamism is equated with terrorism: “How many Muslims are there in the world?” he asked, to which he himself responded: 1.2 billion.
“If we said that 10% are terrorists, we would have 120 million” and “if there were 120 million terrorists in the world there would be no form of life.”
“Here is the message,” he said. “We know that the issue can be resolved, that it is possible to find bridges, gather ideas, help to mature, to combat. This is something feasible.”
The Middle East, the 75-year-old patriarch added, has suffered “black days, when Christians were persecuted and they sought refuge in nearby Muslim countries,” as both creeds have lived together for 14 centuries. “We live well, we are close to Muslims.”
The future cardinal pointed to an example from his community: “A Muslim woman who goes shopping, goes by her Christian neighbor and knocks on the door to say, ‘Please, can you look after the children until I get back?'”
“Is there a more powerful dialogue than this?” the Egyptian patriarch asked the journalists. “I don’t say there aren’t difficulties, but I say that we must face the problems with rationality and understand the situation to be able to find the most appropriate solutions.”
Hopes for change
Patriarch Naguib opined that the faithful might not feel directly that the synod resolves their problems.
“This is our task,” he said and the fruits ultimately depend on the Holy Spirit as well as the “courage of the bishops, their work and the ability to communicate the message that comes from the Holy Father.”
Responding to a question about trafficking in weapons, the patriarch asserted, “If every month the world saved what is spent in one day on weapons, it would be able to combat poverty throughout the world.”
“With economic stability, the sense of anger would diminish, of wanting to seek revenge on the world for no reason,” he added.
In any case, the patriarch said he doubted the synod would address this point: “The Church doesn’t have a political role. Hers is, rather, a pastoral role.”
Another journalist asked about married priests, since the Eastern Code of Canon Law allows men who have married to be ordained.
The patriarch affirmed his respect for the practice of the Latin Church and asserted that admitting married priests in the rite “will not resolve the problem of vocations and will not resolve the good or bad behavior of a priest.” What is important, he added, is to bear the discipline with the coherence and fidelity with which one lives one’s own vocation.
Finally, referring again to the situation of the Church in the Middle East, the Coptic Patriarch pointed out the importance of the value of prayer for the Church, which “helps us to carry forward our mission in the land in which the Lord has wished to place us.”