VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is mindful of Eastern Catholics living outside of their motherlands, and is asking the new patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians to help them protect their spiritual heritage.
The Pope said this today when he addressed His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, elected Tuesday at a synod in Rome. The new patriarch was born in Syria in 1944, but since 1986, has served at the eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance in Newark, New Jersey.
The Holy Father urged the patriarch and Syriac Catholics to be beacons of peace in the Middle East, “where the Syrian Church has an appreciated historical presence.”
“My desire is that in the East, from where the proclamation of the Gospel came, the Christian communities continue living and giving testimony of their faith, as they have done throughout the centuries,” he added.
The Pontiff also urged the patriarch to take up the call to evangelize, “without losing your proper identity and bringing the mark of Eastern spirituality,” so that “using the words of the East and the West, the Church speaks effectively of Christ to contemporary man.”
“In this way, Christians will face the most urgent challenges of humanity,” he continued, “building up peace and universal solidarity, and they will give testimony of the ‘great hope’ of which they are tireless messengers.”
Recalling Syriac Christians living in other lands, Benedict XVI urged the patriarch to give them pastoral attention so that they can “fruitfully remain connected to their religious roots.”
“Thus, the ties will be even stronger with the motherland, which so many Eastern [Christians] have had to leave in search of better conditions of life,” he said.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, presided over the synod that elected the new patriarch.
The new patriarch followed Syriac tradition in taking the name Ignace, in honor of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
The Pope immediately conceded him ecclesiastical communion in a letter dated Thursday.
The Syriac Catholic Church separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but returned to full communion more than a millennium later.
Its see is in Beirut, Lebanon, and in its liturgy, it still uses Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ.